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Napier public forum on P, alcohol & other drugs

Anderton opens Napier public forum on P, alcohol & other drugs
21 July 2005
Topic: Jim Anderton's Speeches

Speech Notes

Time: 7.30-9.30pm
Dinner for speakers: 6pm
Venue: The Faith Family Fellowship Church, Maraenui Shopping Centre, 34 Bledisloe Rd, Maraenui, Napier

On the panel with me tonight are:
Senior Sergeant Tony Dewhirst (Drug Issues);
Sergeant Allan Potter (Youth Issues)s Manager;
Simon Williamson from the New Zealand Customs Service;
Andrew Raven, Clinical Leader, Addiction Services, Hawkes Bay DHB;
Denis O'Reilly, Mokai Whanau Ora CAYAD;
Gerry Everett, Ministry of Education Student Support and Rose Carpenter, Coordinator Student Engagement Initiative;
Paul Stanley Ngaiterangi Iwi

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

But first, an overview of society and the role of drugs and alcohol.

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 Napier, Hawkes Bay community is well up to fulfilling its responsibilities.

I remember attending the anti-drug event at Otatara Pa last year, organised by Mokai Whanau Ora your local CAYAD or Community Action on Youth and Drugs group.

I remember the community support for the keep free-of -drugs message that was being promoted.

Jo Walsh of the Eagles took time out from a world tour to share his experience with the people of this community.

They had a special significance for him. Because it was in this community a decade ago that he decided his life had to change.

He is an inspiration for many who find themselves with drug and alcohol addictions.

He talked to us honestly about the perils of drug abuse.

But he also showed us that you can find a positive way forward no matter how severe your addiction.

He taught us that, with the help of family, friends and the community, you can get your life back and build a better future for yourself and your family.

That event couldn’t have happened without support from the Hastings District Council, Napier City Council and the Waiohiki Community Trust.

And the event wouldn’t have happened without you the community supporting the message and participating.

Communities do make a difference.

Recently there was a gathering at an Auckland marae where a region-wide rahui or ban on using or dealing in P or pure methamphetamine was declared.

P had had a devastating effect. With some families and whanau being ripped apart. There was also an acknowledgement of an undercurrent of growing violence and criminal activity within the community.

So a rahui was declared.

Recently I clarified the legality of selling nitrous oxide for inhalation purposes and now everyone is clear that legal opinion to the government and police is that the sale and purchase of nitrous oxide other than as a prescription medicine is illegal.

Enforcement of that opinion started with a crackdown on importers. Now attention has been turned to retailers, with the initial grace period from prosecution over.

Last year I introduced legislation into the House to regulate BZP or Party pills and that legislation was passed last month by Parliament with the support of all parties except one, ACT.

City Councils up and down the country 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 and offering solutions that has the most impact.

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

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

These days the economy in Napier and the Hawkes Bay is much stronger than it was there are a lot 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 of crime.

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

And when front-line police tell me that up to 90% of the criminal activity (from family violence to road deaths) has its origins in alcohol abuse, that also is a clue.

This is not a problem isolated from Napier and the Hawkes Bay.

The Hawkes Bay newspaper every day seems to have a report on some drug related crime.

The government has taken tough measures in response to this.

A proceeds of crime bill was introduced to Parliament, last month which will make it easier to strip crime gangs of their assets.

Police and customs have also been given new powers and resources to intercept criminal gangs.

The Misuse of Drugs bill that I introduced was enacted into law last month and among other things it means that:

Substances that are available at the chemist – like ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine -- have been made ‘controlled drugs’.

These are used to make ‘P’, so had a responsibility to toughen up on them.

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

Police and Customs have broader powers of search and seizure without warrant.

I accept that these laws are very tough and some have said draconian.

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.

As we all know 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 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 that leadership was needed in the economic development of our regions when I first entered government in late 1999.

As Minister for Regional and Industry 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.

Having said that, in some communities local leadership is very strong and what I learn in one region I pass onto the next one I visit.

The Urban Renewal Project here in Maraenui is a prime example.

Maraenui, has been identified as one of the more disadvantaged communities in New Zealand with overrepresented statistics for high levels of violent crime, unemployment, teenage pregnancy, alcohol, drug and gambling problems and low standard housing.

The Maraenui Urban Renewal Plan, sponsored by the Napier City Council and with seven government agencies on board, has 6 projects which aim to establish a safe secure and revitalised shopping centre, a one-stop government agency shop, a community safety plan, a Whanau Ora Centre, a Housing upgrade plan and a credible community based organisation.

It is an ambitious project and a necessary one and I look forward to seeing it succeed.

In this and other affected communities, CAYADS or Community Action Youth and Drugs programmes have been established and are integral to a community approach to drug issues.

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

They were a good idea, and they were having a positive impact.

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 youth and drug programmes.

The CAYAD located here in the Hawkes Bay was one of these.

Last year, another CAYAD got the greenlight in Murupara with funding secured from the National Drug Policy Discretionary Fund the Progressive Party won in Budget 2004.

In Budget 2005, the Progressive Party sought $3.23million worth of funding for a further five CAYAD programmes to be established in at risk communities where illicit drug use has been identified as being far too high.

The government is tackling drug and alcohol abuse with three strategies.

1. Reducing supply.
2. Reducing demand.
3. 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 some 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 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 (he said) that some political parties criticise schools for having Coke in our canteens, whilst at the same time they want 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 don’t accept its illegal status should ever change while a significant section of the scientific community has concerns about its potential serious harm to some, vulnerable people, 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 alcohol purchasing age was lowered.

My Progressive Party colleague, Matt Robson, has a Bill to strengthen the rules against supplying liquor to minors, to further restrict the amount of time available for liquor advertising on television and to raise the legal minimum age for buying alcohol to twenty.

That bill was supported by a large majority of Parliamentarians to go to the Law and Order select committee where the public can have their say.

I urge you to do so by the deadline August 12 –send your submission to the Chair of the Law and Order Select Committee, Parliament NO STAMP REQUIRED.

It is not just one measure that will make a difference. It will require a package of measures in order to change NZ’s drinking culture for the better, but day after day we get reports that indicate that Parliament’s decision to lower the drinking age to eighteen, in 1999, was a mistake and I believe we should rectify it.

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 or alternatively to reduce income tax.

Drug and alcohol abuse and suicide prevention gets funding because it is a priority for the Labour Progressive government. In last year’s budget $53.6 million was secured to fight “P” alcohol and other drug abuse. In this year’s budget I secured another $13.5 million to continue the fight against drug abuse and for programmes to prevent suicide.

That is public money. It is taxpayers’ money utilized to enhance the well-being of the whole community.

On the panel today, I’m very pleased to have with me a number of professionals involved in drug and alcohol issues in this community.

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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