by Chris Tobin
The Government’s ditching a plan last year that had been specifically targeting New Zealand’s methamphetamine trade for 10 years to reduce its supply, use, and harm, for a broader approach, has been questioned.
The Meth Action Plan 2020 was introduced in 2009 by the then National government and had been running each year until the Labour-led coalition government dropped it for a more broad-based approach.
New Zealand Police Association president Chris Cahill said at last week’s national association conference in Wellington there was a “serious lack” of resources to prevent the next generation ending up on meth and in gangs.
A total of $10million had been set aside each year from the proceeds of crime fund – money that was seized from criminal activity – to run the Meth Action Plan.
Among the plan’s strategies were:
To break drug supply chains ensuring police and customs had a strategic and targeted enforcement strategy, focused on the organised criminal groups who dominated the trade.
To provide better routes into treatment, expanding treatment capacity, including a dedicated gateway into treatment in the form of social detox beds.
When questioned in Parliament by Paula Bennett, the National Party drug reform spokeswoman, regarding the scrapping of the plan, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said the Government was seeking alternative measures, “including having the front-line police firepower to do the job, and 400 in particular, dedicated to that purpose”.
“We are setting out with the appropriate resources to get on top of this scourge in our country,” he said.
Mr Cahill told last week’s conference the illicit meth trade in New Zealand and Australia was now worth $11.1billion.
“High-level Mexican drug cartels are now targeting New Zealand because selling drugs here is so lucrative.
“When we look at our 2019 survey the most identified threats to law and order in New Zealand are meth use and organised crime.
“We know these two threats go hand in hand.”
Mr Cahill said police officers were calling for strategies to intervene in “the generational links to meth and gangs that fuelled metal health and family violence.”
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has made a landmark judgement in which meth dealers who can prove their own addiction caused their drug offending could have their sentences cut by 30%.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust has expressed concerns regarding this ruling.
The trust’s national spokeswoman Jess McVicar said the police, anti-drug advocates, rehabilitation centres and medical professionals were dealing daily with the consequences of New Zealand’s drug problem, mainly meth.
“We have seen heinous crimes that have stemmed from the use of meth and now those that cause this harm will be given the ability to cause even more.
“We believe this is a dangerous decision to allow the dealers free rein to continue to distribute this evil drug.”