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Hon. Jim Anderton - public forum on drugs

Hon. Jim Anderton - public forum on P, alcohol & other drugs

Associate Health Minister

Speech notes prepared for delivery at public forum on P, alcohol & other drugs

Thursday, 12 May 2005 7.30 p.m.

Forum North, Rust Ave (Cafler Suite) Whangarei

We all have a responsibility to play our part in turning the tide against drug abuse. The Northland community has shown it is well up to playing that part.

A very good example is the support it has given the local theatre production Ten Foot Tall and Bulletproof, which has been successful in helping educate the community on the dangers of drug, particularly P. This strong community support along with measures at both local and central government make all the difference.

SPEECH NOTES - Embargoed against delivery

Thursday, 12 May 2005 7.30 p.m.
Forum North,
Rust Ave (Cafler Suite)

Apologies: MPs Phil Heatley, Hon. Dover Samuels, John Carter MP and John Key MP.

On the panel with me tonight are:

Simon Williamson from the New Zealand Customs Service;
Detective Inspector Chris Scahill who is the Northland District Crime Manager, (accompanied by Charl Crous Policing Development Manager who is not speaking);
Chris Eve, Northland Operations Manager, at the Ministry of Education;
Jenny Gibbs, Manager, Rubicon Youth Alcohol and other Drug Service;
Francil Tarau Community Action Facilitator for the local CAYAD Ki Whangarei;
Paul Stanley Ngaiterangi Iwi.

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 Northland community has shown it is well up to playing that part. A very good example is the support it has given the local theatre production Ten Foot Tall and Bulletproof, which has been successful in helping educate the community on the dangers of drug, particularly P.

This strong community support along with measures at both local and central government make all the difference.

As Associate Minister of Health and Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy I was able to help Ten Foot Tall and Bullet Proof with funding from the National Drug Policy Discretionary Fund, which I secured as Progressive leader in last year’s budget. The Arts Promotion Trust here in Whangarei wrote for funding help and I was able to help.

Of course you can’t, even with the best will in the world, help every endeavour, but this fund has criteria to meet and the group met that criteria and funding was secured.

I read recently that it has been invited to perform in the Wairarapa, and that Wellington schools are also showing an interest. So your community, which helped put together some of the initial funding, is helping other communities as well.

Recently I clarified the legality of selling nitrous oxide for inhalation purposes and now everyone (or almost everyone!) is clear it is illegal.

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

City Councils up and down the country have responded by looking at ways to control these substances at a local level.

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

In Christchurch it was the public “aggro” voiced at a local level that recently had the owner of a local Nos Bar decide to shut up shop.

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

These days the economy in Whangarei and Northland is a lot better than it was 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 Whangarei and Northland.

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

The coalition 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.

The Customs Department is 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.’

Community safety, however, is not only an issue for the government or for police and 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 that 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, education 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. Opotiki, Nelson, Hokianga, Whangaruru and Kaitaia

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 set up more of them.

As a result the Labour-Progressive Government provided $2.55 million more for fifteen new community action on youth and drug programmes in its 2003 Budget. The Whangarei CAYAD was one of those.

Earlier this morning, the Progressive Party I lead in Parliament announced its Budget 2005 initiatives which include increased investment of $1.88 million in enhancing liquor licensing enforcement capability, a $6.53 million National Depression Awareness initiative and $3.23 million to establish a further five CAYADs.

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 or liberalized, 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 and this has been exacerbated since the drinking age was lowered.

My Progressive Party colleague, Matt Robson, has a Bill that was recently pulled from the ballot of Members’ Bills at Parliament to put the legal age for buying alcohol back up to twenty amongst other things.

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 and suicide prevention gets funding because it is a top priority for the Progressive Party.

In last year’s budget $53.6 million was secured to fight “P” alcohol and other drug abuse.

In this year’s budget, as I've already outlined, a further investment of $13.5 million is made to continue the fight against drug abuse and suicide prevention.

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.

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