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Christchurch forum on ‘P’, alcohol & other drugs

Jim Anderton
Anti-drugs
28 April 2005

Christchurch public forum on ‘P’, alcohol and other drugs

7.30 p.m.

Christchurch Netball Centre,
455 Hagley Ave (South Hagley Park)
Christchurch

SPEECH NOTES

Apologies: Mayor Garry Moore, and local MPs Hon. Ruth Dyson and Hon. Lianne Dalziel and Gerry Brownlee.

On the panel with me tonight are:

Simon Williamson from the New Zealand Customs Service
Inspector Dave Lawry who is the Hagley/Ferrymead Police Area Commander, and Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Long - Officer in Charge: Drug Squad, Canterbury Police District HQ
Alison Locke, the Student Support Development Officer at the Ministry of Education
Elle King, Clinical Coordinator Community Alcohol and Drug or CADS for the Canterbury DHB
Cate Kearney, Manager of the Alcohol and Drug Association of New Zealand or ADANZ
Barry McDonald, the network coordinator of Sth Island Alcohol and Other Drugs workers) or ADSIN

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 all have to deal with.

And most importantly, they are a symbol that communities themselves are taking responsibility for their own 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 Christchurch community has shown itself well up to playing that part recently, with the local owner of a chain of Nos bars attributing the closure of his New Brighton bar and to public “aggro”.

That outcome is a perfect example of how a strong community with support from both local and central government can make a difference.

As an Associate Minister of Health and local MP I clarified the legality of selling nitrous oxide for inhalation purposes and now everyone is clear it is illeagal.

Last year I introduced legislation into the House to regulate BZP or Party pills.

The Christchurch City Council responded by looking at control on a local level.

But in the end it was the community, school principals, health professionals raising concerns and parents raising placards that had the most impact.

Other communities can learn a lot from what has happened here in Christchurch and I want to thank each and everyone of you here tonight for helping to make it happen.

As Minister for Economic and Regional Development the closure of Nos bars is one business growth opportunity I am not sorry to see gone.

These days the economy in Christchurch is not doing too badly and there are more jobs around.

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 I’m not a Pollyanna and I’m not going to tell you the problem of crime has gone away.

When you look for answers it’s hard to go past alcohol and drug abuse as one major cause.

When more than ninety per cent of prison inmates have drug and alcohol problems, that’s a clue.

This is not a problem isolated from Christchurch.

The Press every day seems to have a report on some drug related crime.

The government is taking tough measures in response to this.

There is a proceeds of crime bill due to be introduced to Parliament this year which will make it easier to strip crime gangs of their assets.

Police and customs are also being given new powers and resources to intercept criminal gangs.

Last year I introduced new Misuse of Drugs laws.

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 Department are now able to better penalise illegal importers of these products.

I also introduced new legislation to give Police and Customs 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.

There are parts of the country where the police are worried about family homes being used as shops for drug deals.

Children as young as four are being found present at drug deals.

They’re growing up playing in the places where drugs are being made and used.

Not so long ago a four year old ended up in hospital after swallowing the drug ‘fantasy.’

As the Christchurch community has recognised, 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 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.

For my part I accept Ministerial leadership is required in this area in much the same way as leadership was needed in the economic development of our regions.

As Minister for Regional Development I 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 of their community.

I am doing the same in trying to help communities rid themselves of drug and alcohol abuse.

That’s why we have police, customs, health and other agencies here tonight.

In the worst affected communities CAYADS or Community Action on Youth and Drugs programmes have been established and 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.

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.

This forum today is to inform you about the issues we face together and to give you an opportunity to listen and question.

I’ve talked to you about the tough laws and regulations the government has introduced to tackle 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, through the Progressive party budget bids, 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) but it’s from the Christchurch area.

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, and I personally never want to see it legalised, our number one drug problem is alcohol.

When does a weekend go by when we don’t hear something more about it?

In my view New Zealand's 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 Parliament’s decision to lower the drinking age to eighteen, in 1999, was a mistake.

There always seems to be yet another headline about yet another car smash, claiming the lives of 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.

I want to end my presentation by saying 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,

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 asking each member of the panel to give a brief perspective (10 minutes) on how this community is responding and can respond to the challenge of drugs and alcohol.

ENDS

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