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46th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Hon Jim Anderton
17 April 2003 Speech notes
New Zealand statement to the
46th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

15:30 Wednesday, 16 April 2003
46th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs
Vienna International Centre

Mr President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Having listened to the distinguished speakers who have preceded me, I wish to provide you with a quick overview of the New Zealand coalition government¡¦s commitment to reducing the harm associated with illicit drugs, the actions we are conducting to reduce drug and alcohol related harm in New Zealand and the approaches we believe are necessary to make New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, resilient to the problems caused by drugs and alcohol.

First, let me say one of the goals of the Government¡¦s National Drug Policy is to support international efforts to control the supply of, and reduce the demand for, both legal and illegal drugs. We therefore welcome the opportunity to play a role in this, the 46th Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting

At the 1998 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, the then New Zealand Associate Minister of Health discussed the development of New Zealand¡¦s National Drug Policy. This policy has since been further augmented with the development of the Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Action Plan. The over-arching harm minimization aim of the National Drug Policy has remained and is reflected in actions undertaken and policies developed.

New Zealand¡¦s National Drug Policy emphasizes the need for effective law enforcement to control the supply of drugs; credible, effective messages about drug-related harm to reduce the demand for drugs; and effective health, treatment and support services to limit problems associated with drug use.

New Zealand retains relatively low rates of HIV/AIDS amongst our injecting drug user population and we believe this partly reflects an effective needle and syringe exchange programme, in place since 1987. Our Community Action Programmes, developed in a number of communities that are at-risk from cannabis and alcohol related problems have also been highly effective and are being expanded over the next three years.

New Zealand's coalition Government has responded to the problem of illicit drugs and alcohol by convening a Ministerial Group on Drugs and Alcohol. It has developed an action plan that covers all the actions on Drugs and Alcohol that are being taken by various Government agencies. It is our intention to further develop the current cross-government approach to include a broad range of whole of government approaches to the challenges of drug and alcohol use in New Zealand society.

One of the initial initiatives of the Ministerial Group was the reclassification of methamphetamine to our highest risk class for an illicit drug, increasing police search powers and the penalties imposed on those importing, manufacturing, supplying and using that drug.

Other activities that we are involved in as a Government are:

„h An Effective Drug Education Programme,
„h The establishment and funding of Community Action Programmes, particularly in areas with low socio-economic status
„h The establishment of a pilot youth drug court to divert recidivist young offenders whose offending is assessed as related to substance misuse from the justice system into a treatment system and the establishment of a residential rehabilitation unit attached to the youth court
„h The development of a national electronic monitoring system to provide early warning on inappropriate prescribing levels of controlled drugs
„h Support for workplace testing for drug and alcohol use, particularly in safety critical industries, that are backed-up with education information and rehabilitation programmes for workers, particularly in safety critical industries
„h Ongoing operation of a specialised police unit to interdict and dismantle clandestine drug laboratories. This unit was responsible for the interdiction of 149 clandestine drug laboratories during 2002.

„h Priorities for Future Action ¡V The current New Zealand coalition Government has realised that the problems caused by drug and alcohol use are in themselves caused by other factors. These problems can often be related to lack of education opportunities, lack of employment opportunities, lack of community capital and cohesion, lack of support for families and individuals, especially youth and a lack of services to deal with problems early, when they arise, rather than when their impact, is felt most.

We are tackling the problems associated with drug and alcohol misuse from many directions at once, but at the same time from within a coherent whole-of-government framework. There is, of course, drug control itself, the provision of public, clinical and mental health services, health promoting publicity programmes and the most important of all ¡V the economic development of the regions of our country, which is creating more employment opportunities.

I want to dwell for a moment on this last point.

In the rural Tairawhiti region of New Zealand, the Government is implementing policies that are directed at enhancing economic development and these will result in a long-term improvement in the general social environment with a consequent improvement in the drug and alcohol situation. Much of this development relates to the rapidly expanding plantation forestry industry in the region.

Central Government action is facilitating the development of more effective drug and alcohol policies by the region¡¦s forestry workplaces. This will directly improve safety, improve the image of the industry among prospective workers (availability of skilled workers is a potential serious constraint to the expansion of the industry and developing additional processing capacity) and will also provide signals to the community that drug and alcohol use is not acceptable.

New Zealand is a society that prides itself on its democratic freedoms and liberal values.

We New Zealanders like to believe that we live in a country where our children ¡V no matter what their social or cultural background may be ¡V have every chance to develop their full potential as they grow into adults.

But we also know, however, that the tremendous harm being done to individuals from illicit drugs and the misuse of drugs and alcohol is one of the most serious threats to meaningful freedom and liberty facing us ¡V and we are working hard to defeat that threat.


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