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Jim Anderton: Public forum on ‘P’, alcohol & drugs

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister in charge of the National Drug Policy

& Progressive Party leader

Public forum on "P', alcohol and other drugs.

7.30PM Thursday, 17 June.

Bureta Park Motor Inn, Redwood Room

Vale Street, Otumoetai, Tauranga

SPEECH NOTES

- Paul Stanley from CAYAD

- Brian Pointon and Jenny Wolf from the District Health Board

- Senior Sergeant Murray Lewis.

- Simon Williamson Customs Department, Manager, Investigations - Drugs.

There is going to be a panel discussion shortly.

- I would like to introduce the issues for discussion by talking about why I take drug and alcohol issues seriously.

I've never liked drugs.

- As a politician, I've always wanted to create a New Zealand where all our young people can reach their full potential.

- We need to support them to be all they can be.

- I've always believed you can't make the most of yourself if you are wiped out on drugs or alcohol.

When I first became Minister for Economic Development, I never expected to have to deal with drugs as an economic development issue.

- But when there are forestry companies who can't find enough skilled staff while young people are getting stoned all day.

- And when there are entire towns reeling from the effects of drug use in the community: It's a regional development issue alright.

- That is why local government has an important part to play. Council officials are here listening tonight to ensure that what comes out of this forum can be linked into the community outcomes process they have in place for improving your community.

The most important reason I took on the job of chairing New Zealand's drug policy is that I am committed to unleashing the talent and creativity of New Zealanders.

- I want us to remove the barriers to our development, and the negative and debilitating effects that drugs and alcohol have in our community is one of the big barriers.

I believe Ministerial leadership is required in this area in much the same way as leadership was needed in the area of regional development.

- As Minister for Regional Development, I found I was able to help stakeholders come together and make a difference for the people of regional New Zealand.

- In the same way I hope to be able, in my role as Chair of the Ministerial committee on drug policy, to do the same in helping communities rid themselves of drug and alcohol abuse.

When I sit down with our Labour partners in the coalition government and sort out what the government can fund in the budget each year, drug and alcohol abuse prevention is at the top of my list along with economic, industry and regional development initiatives.

- There are many competing demands for the government to spend money¡K and drug and alcohol abuse prevention gets funding because it is a top priority for the Progressive Party.

This forum today came out of the priority work I've been giving drug and alcohol issues.

- This forum is a pilot.

- Its aim is to inform you about what the Labour Progressive Government is doing in the area of drug abuse.

- But it is also to do more than that.

- The aim is to encourage further involvement by the community in reducing drug and alcohol abuse.

- It's also to increase public knowledge about what can be done to help.

It's a call to communities to take action themselves.

Back in the late nineties, the previous government set up five "CAYADs' or Community Action Youth and Drugs Programmes.

- It was something positive.

- Because they were a good idea, and they work, I made it a priority to invest in establishing more of them.

- As a result, the Labour Progressive government has invested $2.55 million more for fifteen community action youth and drug programmes based on and in addition to the 5 that were started in the late 1990s.

The CAYAD programmes are designed to reduce the demand for drugs in our communities.

- They try to get everyone involved and make sure all those in the frontline are working together with a plan tailored to each community.

- Sites for the programmes are selected using a bunch of information-- Police apprehension statistics, information from treatment centres, school drug suspension numbers and information about youth unemployment.

Tauranga is one of the areas where a CAYAD has been set up.

- I should add there are other communities working on drug and alcohol issues without government funding.

Murupara is one example, where a community took action to make itself P-free - and deserves our respect for doing so. I visited them today and am impressed by what they are doing.

As the NZ Herald reported, "Murupara's anti-P campaign has been so successful that schoolchildren are said to have drug dealers running scared.'

- Young people who are approached by dealers are now saying to users, "we know you, we're going to tell'.

- Since its campaign started no P-related crime or methamphetamine lab has been found in the area.

- More than 25 people have approached counselling and health services for help.

Murupara achieved its success by taking community action itself.

- If this or for that matter any government is able to help other communities achieve the same results, then I believe we have a responsibility to be there.

The coalition government's response to the challenge of drugs and alcohol abuse has been three-pronged:

- Reducing supply.

- Reducing demand.

- Treating drug users to limit the problems.

In May, I announced with my colleagues $39 million to tackle the methamphetamine trade and the organised crime that goes with it, in order to reduce the supply of drugs.

- You only have to contemplate the giant P seizure in Fiji recently to contemplate the importance of this activity.

- Police believe that lab was on the verge of making about a thousand kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, worth $850 million.

- That could have flooded New Zealand.

Another measure we have taken to reduce supply was to reclassify ecstasy and amphetamine as Class B1 drugs.

- This gives police search and seizure without warrant powers to take immediate action against those caught in possession, manufacture and supply of these drugs.

In the recent budget I announced $14.65 million for initiatives aimed at reducing demand for drugs or aimed at helping victims of drugs and their communities.

- A further $5.5million over 4 years was set aside for suicide prevention.

- A total of more than $20.17million.

We need to face the fact that drug taking is widely accepted as a trigger for suicide by some people with mental illness.

- The mental illness most associated with suicide is depression.

- The $300,000 invested in this budget to develop a national initiative to combat depression is therefore important work.

- Once it has been planned, there will need to be significant extra funding for the campaign.

The most significant initiative was a new residential treatment centre for youth with alcohol and drug problems in the Central region.

I think it's important for you to know what we are doing in the Labour Progressive coalition government to protect children from the misuse of alcohol and drugs.

It seems to me contradictory that as we run anti smoking tobacco campaigns, people also send out messages that it is all right to smoke marijuana.

- Marijuana is the most used illicit drug.

- 15% of adults in one survey were current users.

- There are reports that 4% of 15-17 year olds are regular users.

But however bad marijuana is, our number one drug problem is alcohol.

- The total of alcohol related offences increased by nearly 80% in 2002/03 compared to the previous year.

- A recent survey showed that only around half of all parents know when their children drink.

- 14 to 17 year olds are drinking more and more often.

- Frontline police are having to deal with rising numbers of drunk teenagers.

- I've personally reached the conclusion that the decision to lower the drinking age has been shown to be a mistake.

- My Progressive Party colleague Matt Robson is going to introduce a Bill to put the age back up to twenty.

- I support it and I will be campaigning for it.

The coalition Government has a vital role to play in equipping families, communities and agencies of the State to combat the problem of drug and alcohol abuse.

- Our work to reduce drug and alcohol abuse in our communities is multi-faceted.

- At one level, we are aiming to reduce supply by toughening up penalties for the peddlers of dangerous drugs.

- We are increasing treatment services to reduce the harm drugs cause.

- And we are reducing the demand for drugs through community action programmes.

CAYAD programmes are our spearhead.

- In the end, government can help communities, but communities themselves have to play a role as well.

- CAYAD brings all the agencies together with the community.

- On the panel today, I'm very pleased to introduce a number of professionals involved in drug and alcohol issues in this community.

- Project Manager of CAYADS in Tauranga, Paul Stanley

- The Regional Manager BOP DHB Public Health Unit, Brian Pointon

- Gen. Manager BOP DHB - Mental Health Services, Jenny Wolf

- Police District Commander, Senior Sergeant Murray Lewis.

- And from NZ Customs, Simon Williamson, Manager Investigations.

I'm going to start off the panel discussion by briefly asking each member of the panel to give a perspective on how this community is responding and can respond to the challenge of drugs and alcohol - and then invite you to enter the debate with either brief statements or questions to anyone on the panel.

ENDS

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