Nelson does exceptionally well as a tourist town over the summer. We get thousands for the Abel Tasman alone and the Black Caps played here twice this season. It means big money for Sun City – but it won’t continue if we continue to get a reputation for mindless violence.
Retail group Uniquely Nelson is especially concerned by what they see as a spike in antisocial activity, in particular “drunkenness, violence, abuse, theft, rubbish and broken glass.” But as anyone who has lived in Nelson for any length of time knows, violence, abuse, theft rubbish and even broken glass are natural consequences of the first problem named – drunkenness.
Neither can we glibly blame everything on ‘North Islanders’ as if Nelsonians are not subject to the same loss of inhibition as everyone else on the planet who drinks booze. Drunk people in Nelson do the same things in Nelson that drunk people in any low-wage area get up to.
The problem with the drinking culture of Nelson is this – most of the intelligent people who have lived here for long enough have secured cannabis hookups and use that instead. Cannabis has driven out alcohol among the sort of consumer that is most sensitive to being turned away by dickheads, and this has left the drinking to the lowest common denominator.
Anyone new to Nelson looking for a good time will quickly encounter this lowest common denominator, and the results are usually as described in the examples given in the opening paragraph.
The sad thing is, there is plenty of opportunity for people to come here and have a good time. Being the oldest of Kiwis, we Nelsonians naturally represent what is the best of us, in particular a sunny nature, a social attitude and a genuine joy of life.
But we’d rather smoke weed at home than come into town to get our heads kicked in.
So the solution is obvious.
We ought to demolish the dive bars of Bridge Street and replace them with a handful of cannabis cafes, so that Nelsonians and our many visitors can relax in public without fear of being attacked by some drunken animal.
As it is, if I’m driving East on Bridge Street late on a weekend night and I see some young backpackers heading the other way for a night on the town, I feel sorry for them, knowing that they will not get to see the best of my city or of its people.
Cannabis cafes on Bridge Street would provide the revitalisation that Sun City needs. It would bring the young people back out of their homes and life back into the streets of the CBD. It would also create a festive atmosphere in the city centre to replace the fighting, vomiting and vandalism.
Not least, the local retailers of Nelson stand to make a packet from the idea. The wider Nelson region is already, along with Coromandel, the most popular destination in New Zealand for underground cannabis tourism owing to our widespread local embrace of the plant medicine. International visitors know that they can come to this region for some of the world’s best natural cannabis.
If Nelson could get it together to take advantage of the impending repeal of cannabis prohibition we could position ourselves first in the queue for the hordes of young tourists that would flock here to escape from the drunken shitheadery that plagues most other Kiwi towns and cities.
If we did it right, many of those tourists would be other Kiwis. These people should leave Nelson with a sense of being impressed by our forward-thinking, gregarious and positive attitude, not with relief at getting out before they were glassed by some pisshead.