Anderton address at Tairawhiti public forum on P
Anderton address at Tairawhiti public forum on P, alcohol & other
There is going to be a panel discussion shortly, and we will hear from these panellists, then we'll 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.
I first came here to Tairawhiti as a Minister five years ago, when the employment picture was bleak. In 1992 unemployment reached 12.7 per cent. By 1999 it was down to 8.7 per cent, still very high.
Young people had real problems finding jobs and the community was under pressure.
Today, unemployment in the region has almost halved to 4.7 per cent, prospects in this region are brighter than they have been in a generation.
Unemployment for the whole country is now the lowest in the world at 3.6 per cent.
I used to say that if we could halve the rate of unemployment, we would see a drop in the rate of crime.
Since unemployment has come down to half what it was five years ago, our crime rate has dropped to the lowest level in 21 years.
It can’t be a coincidence.
But why isn’t there even less crime?
When you look for answers it’s hard to go past alcohol and drug abuse.
When more than ninety per cent of prison inmates have drug and alcohol problems, that’s a clue.
Even the Police Association this week said publicly it is worried about a big rise in P-related gang violence.
The government is taking tough measures in response to drug-related crime.
Police and customs are being given new powers and resources to intercept criminal gangs.
Just a few weeks ago here in Gisborne a major operation resulted in thirteen arrests and sixty charges.
Last year, I introduced new Misuse of Drugs legislation to ban the importation of manufacturing ingredients for methamphetamine.
This means substances that are available at the chemist – like ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine - have been made ‘controlled drugs’.
These are used to make ‘P’ so we have to toughen up on them.
Customs will be able to better penalise illegal importers of these products.
Police and Customs will get broader powers of search and seizure without warrant.
That Misuse of Drug Bill will be back in parliament on the 14th of March and I look forward to its passage into law.
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 deeper roots into our society, to become more widespread, more acceptable and to cause more destruction.
I saw the police commenting in the paper that they’re worried about family homes being used as shops for drug deals.
Children as young as four are being found present at drug deals, one ended up in hospital this week after swallowing the drug 'fantasy'.
They’re growing up playing in the places where drugs are being made and used.
Community safety is not only an issue for the government and for police and for other authorities – though they have important roles.
It is also an issue for each family and community to take responsibility for itself.
It’s no good just hoping someone else will fix the problem; we all have our part to play.
For communities, it starts by accepting a community-wide response is called for.
I accept Ministerial leadership is required in this area in much the same way as leadership was needed in the development of this region.
As Minister for Regional Development, I came here to bring local government together with central government agencies, and the community – with different iwi groupings, businesses and everyone who has a stake in the future.
I hope to do the same in helping communities rid themselves of drug and alcohol abuse.
That’s why we have police, customs, health, education and other community based agencies here.
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 Labour Progressive Government has provided $2.55 million more for fifteen new community action youth and drug programmes.
The government is tackling drug and alcohol abuse with three strategies.
Treating drug users to limit the problems.
We need to work on all fronts at the same time to get results.
This forum today is to inform you about the issues and to give you an opportunity to listen.
It’s also to formally launch the Community Action Youth and Drugs programme in this region.
There are two guests from the CAYAD on the panel – I want you to hear from both Janette (Varley) and Moki (Raroa) because the CAYAD is a joint venture.
It covers the whole of the Tairawhiti region and so the two primary health care organisations are involved (Te Aitanga A Hauiti Hauora and Turanganui.
The CAYAD programmes are designed to reduce the demand for drugs.
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.
I’ve talked to you about the tough regulations the government has introduced to tackle the drug-related offending.
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 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.
Last year I sent out a School-Based Drug Education Handbook and Practical Guide.
It’s designed to help schools deal with the issue.
I got a letter back from the principal of one quite large school (I don’t want to name it).
Let me emphasise his letter, because it helped to convince me we’re on the right track:
“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…
“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.
When does a weekend go by when we don’t hear something more about it?
An Alcoholics Anonymous survey came out this week that showed the proportion of women members has risen from 25 percent thirty years ago to forty percent today.
In my view the binge drinking culture has been affecting younger and younger people since the drinking age was lowered.
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.
Last weekend there were headlines about yet another car smash, which claimed the lives of three young people.
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. CAYADs bring 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.
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. Then there will be time for questions.