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Morrinsville public forum on ‘P’, alcohol & drugs

Morrinsville public forum on "P', alcohol and other drugs.

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister in charge of drug policy

Progressive Party leader

7.30 P.M. Thursday, 18 November 2004

Westpac Trust Events Centre, Morrinsville

SPEECH NOTES

Acknowledgements:

- Simon Williamson - Customs Manager Drug Investigations

- Detective Inspector Peter Devoy, District Crime Manager, Hamilton.

- John Bailey, Student Support Development Officer, Ministry of Education.

- Kylie Turuwhenua, Youth Development Co-Ordinator, CAYAD Morrinsville.

- Murray Hunt, Clinical Director of the Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS), Waikato DHB.

- Paul Stanley - Project Manager Community Action Youth and Drugs (CAYADS)

There is going to be a panel discussion shortly, and we will hear from these panellists, then answer your questions.

Every month I host a meeting like this one.

- To me these forums are a symbol of hope.

- They are a symbol of individual communities recognising an issue we have to deal with.

- And most importantly, they are a symbol that communities themselves are taking responsibility for the solutions.

So to me, these events are about stronger communities.

- If there is one principle I stand for, it's giving our young people a future in their own communities.

- They need our support to be all they can be.

- We all have a responsibility to play our part.

- The effects of drugs and alcohol in our community is one of the biggest barriers to our development.

- You can't make the most of yourself if you are wiped out on drugs or alcohol.

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

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 bring local government together with central government agencies, and the community.

- Everyone with a stake has a role to play.

- I hope to do the same in helping communities rid themselves of drug and alcohol abuse.

CAYADS are the spearhead of a community approach to drug issues.

- Back in the nineties the previous government set up five CAYADs.

- They were a good idea, and they worked.

- So when I became Minister in charge of the government's drug policy I made it a priority to open more of them.

- As a result the Coalition Government has provided $2.55 million more for fifteen new community action youth and drug programmes.

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

- They get the community involved.

- They make sure all those in the frontline are working together with a plan tailored to the community.

- That's why we have police, customs, health and other agencies here.

The sites for the CAYADs we have opened so far have been chosen on the basis of a number of things.

- But the most important factor is the commitment, vision and determination of people at the coalface to uplift communities, day after day.

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

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

Drug and alcohol issues are at the top of my list when I sit down with our coalition partners in government.

- There are many competing demands for the government to spend money.

- Drug and alcohol abuse prevention gets funding because it is a top priority for the Progressive Party,

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.

We need to work on all fronts at the same time to get results.

On the reduction of supply strategy the government has been very tough.

Last month I introduced a Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill.

- Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have been made "controlled drugs'.

- These are used to make "P'.

- The new regulations also mean that the Customs Department will be able to better penalise illegal importers of these products.

- It will allow Police to respond quickly.

- Police and Customs will get broader powers of search and seizure without warrant.

These laws are very tough.

- But the challenge society faces from these drugs is extreme.

- P is an evil drug.

- We must be very strong in our collective response.

- We must not allow P to take root deeper into our society, to become more widespread, more acceptable and to cause more destruction.

Last week I introduced a further proposal in Parliament.

- To provide for regulation of some legal substances which can be abused - but experts say they don't yet warrant prohibition.

- We're talking about "legal highs' like the party pill BZP.

- This proposal allows for restrictions on the legal age of purchase and where and how they can be sold.

I told Parliament about the ongoing inquest in Wellington into the deaths of six people who inhaled "volatile substances.'

- The Coroner has called for more strategies to deal with the problem.

- Some people will joke about trying to regulate substances like hair spray and nail polish.

- It's true there is a huge variety of substances available that can be abused.

- Most have legitimate uses.

- So it's hard to combat.

- This Labour Progressive government has decided to at least try.

- The new proposal allows the possibility of some regulation to protect our most vulnerable young.

- That possibility should not be trivialized.

- Anyone who has watched with a sense of helplessness as young New Zealanders blow their brains away sniffing solvents knows how serious this issue is.

So we're working on the supply end.

We're also reducing demand and helping victims of drugs and their communities.

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

- So the government has stepped up funding for national initiatives dealing with depression and suicide.

It's important for you to know what we are doing to protect children from the misuse of alcohol and drugs.

- Very recently we sent out a School-Based Drug Education Handbook and Practical Guide.

- It's designed to help schools deal with the issue.

- Just today I got a letter back from the principal of one quite large boys school (I don't want to name it).

- He welcomed the book, because he said, "we are very keen to access any resource that will reduce the damage of drug use among our young men.'

Let me emphasise the rest of his letter, because it helped to convince me we're on the right track:

"Thank you for the School-Based Drug Education Handbook and Practical Guide. This appears to be a very useful resource and I have passed it on to my Head of Health. We are very keen to access any resources that will reduce the damage of drug use amongst our young men.

It greatly concerns me that some political parties criticise us for having Coke in our canteens, whilst at the same time wanting to legalise marijuana!

Whilst accepting that Coke is not a healthy food it is nowhere as destructive to our people's education as is marijuana. It is comforting that the huge concern amongst secondary schools is being addressed by our country's leaders such as you. Whilst my colleagues have vastly differing views on most things they have a very unified view on drugs!"

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

- Last weekend 29 teenage drink drivers were apprehended in Auckland over the weekend.

- The binge drinking culture has been affecting younger and younger people since the drinking age was lowered. Just last week figures showed a big jump in the number of alcohol related admissions to hospital for children aged 10 to 14.

My Progressive Party colleague Matt Robson has a Bill in the ballot of Members' Bills at Parliament to put the legal age for buying alcohol back up to twenty.

- Day after day we get reports that indicate that our decision to lower the drinking age to eighteen, in 1999, was a mistake.

- There is no shame in the fact that Parliament got it wrong in 1999.

- We've now had plenty of time to assess the impact of the law change.

- We need to go back to square one.

We also need community-based efforts to control alcohol abuse.

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

- CAYAD brings all the central and local 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.

- It's my pleasure to introduce the panel:

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.

Ends.


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