Peter Dunne - Narcotic Drugs Meeting, Vienna, Austria
National Statement to United Nations Commission
on Narcotic Drugs Meeting, Vienna, Austria
Mr Chairman and distinguished colleagues
Thank you for the opportunity to address this fifty-seventh meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. I represent the New Zealand delegation in my capacity as Associate Minister of Health and the Minister responsible for alcohol and drugs policy. I am delighted to again return to Vienna and to express once more New Zealand’s support for the work of the CND and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
New Zealand is a strong supporter of the drug conventions and our country has always taken its responsibility as a signatory to the conventions very seriously. New Zealand is also pleased to support the theme of the High-level segment of reviewing “Progress achieved and challenges in implementing the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem”.
I attended CND 52 in 2009 when the Political Declaration was adopted and I regard this as an excellent opportunity, five years on, to review the progress we have made.
The key words in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action are “cooperation”, “integrated” and “balanced”. They reflect, at a global level, important components of the drug strategies employed by many Member States, including our own.
Our government’s National Drug Policy is based on the overarching principle of harm minimisation. It is supported by three pillars of supply control, demand reduction and problem limitation – the latter being the provision of treatment services and harm reduction activities such as needle exchange and opioid substitution therapies.
However, successful outcomes from the drug policy in our country are only possible if we keep striving to improve cooperation between local agencies and providers, integrate programmes wherever possible and maintain a balance between each of the supply control, demand reduction and problem limitation pillars.
Similarly, cooperation, integration and balance are
necessary at the international level if we are to meet the
target for the Political Declaration and Plan of Action
adopted at the 52nd session: namely, to reduce
significantly, by 2019, the cultivation and production of
drugs;the demand for drugs and related health and social
risks; and the diversion, trafficking and
money laundering associated with their trade.
The scheduled round-tables are a valuable opportunity to share information and enhance collaboration among Member States. I look forward also to renewing old acquaintances and making new contacts with representatives of Member States.
New Zealand’s primary issues of concern are the availability and use of methamphetamine and new psychoactive substances (NPS) and the provision of treatment services to those seeking or needing help.
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
I want to outline New Zealand’s proposed approach to address the seemingly intractable problem of controlling NPS – a problem which affects our country and many others around the world.
the New Zealand Government decided that our drug laws were
ineffective at dealing with the rapid growth in NPS, as new
substances can be developed at such a rate that each time
one is restricted several more become available, therefore
keeping one step ahead of any controls. Indeed, in 2011 New
Zealand had introduced interim legislation to create
temporary bans on the importation, manufacture and supply of
substances and banned approximately 40
(mainly synthetic cannabis) substances in under two years.
However, this still required the Government to identify untested and potentially harmful substances which were already being sold on an unregulated market with unknown effects on consumers. The temporary bans also seemed only to enhance the market’s efforts to replace the banned substances with new, potentially more harmful products.
Furthermore, attempts to create ‘blanket’ bans on groups of substances in other jurisdictions appeared to have been little more effective than bans on individual chemicals.
So we decided to take a different approach through
legislation which I introduced in 2012, and was passed by
Parliament in July 2013 as the Psychoactive Substances Act
2013. This legislation is intended to provide sponsors of
NPS the ability to demonstrate to a national regulatory
that their products meet certain safety standards – and if they do, the products may be marketed and sold from licensed retail outlets.
We are currently operating under a transitional regime while regulations are being developed.
However, after six months
in operation the legislation has already brought about
to the psychoactive substances market in our country. These include:
• a product may only receive interim approval if it is considered a ‘low risk of harm’ by an expert
• the sale of products is prohibited from convenience/grocery stores, liquor outlets and petrol
• products are restricted to people aged 18 years and over
• advertising of products is prohibited and there are strict controls on packaging and labelling
There are currently around 40 products on the market with interim approval. This compares with an estimated 2-300 unregulated products on the market previously.
All products without approval are prohibited by default.
There are approximately 150 retailers with interim licences and a smaller number of holders of other licences such as for import, manufacture and wholesale. This compares with an estimated 3-4000 unregulated sellers prior to the legislation. A number of products have not gained approval,or have subsequently been withdrawn from the market, because they pose greater than a low risk of harm.
Products and the activities of licence holders are being monitored by a national regulatory authority and by local police and health boards. It is early to determine outcomes of what is a unique approach to controlling NPS, but I am confident it will prove to be successful.
New Zealand is of course willing to share its experience with other Member States.
Methamphetamine Action Plan
I also visited in 2011 for CND 54, where I presented to delegates for the first time on New Zealand’s Methamphetamine Action Plan. Methamphetamine, its precursor chemicals and other amphetamine-related substances remain a major concern, not just for New Zealand but throughout the Oceania region.
The Methamphetamine Plan has been in
effect since 2009. It has been given a high priority, with
six-monthly reports progress reports from joint government
agencies reporting directly to our Prime Minister. The Plan
focuses heavily on promoting actions under each of the
pillars of supply control, demand reduction and problem
limitation in order to reduce the harms from
on users, their families and in communities.
The key supply control action under the Plan was to schedule the main precursor substances, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as prescription only medicines and work towards making other precursor and agents harder to obtain.
Pseudoephedrine has now been replaced almost completely by alternatives in the medicines market and consequently we are experiencing very little diversion to the illegal manufacture of amphetamines.
Other supply control measures include a dedicated cross agency enforcement and border response and targeting of criminal networks. Our government is also working with the Chinese government to reduce the supply of methamphetamine and precursors to New Zealand.
Key treatment initiatives have been achieved under the Plan, including dedicated methamphetamine residential treatment beds and detox services, nurses in prison watch houses and pilot drug court schemes. Other demand reduction actions include a dedicated national methamphetamine website,providing information on addiction and related health problems, user stories and how to access help.
Methamphetamine remains a challenge for our country, but we now have a targeted focus on this market and an integrated response across many agencies and NGOs.
The Plan has heralded some welcome news. Past year use has reduced from 2.2% of the adult population in 2008 to 0.9% in 2013. There is a particular reduction in new users. Domestic supply has significantly reduced and street prices for the drug remain high. And more users are being treated,although more needs to be done to try and encourage people with problems into treatment services.
challenges our country faces may be different in nature to
the challenges of others, but the strategies necessary to
meet these challenges are essentially the same. Better
cooperation, integration and a better balance of strategies
are required at our national and global levels if we are to
target established by this Commission for 2019 – to eliminate or reduce significantly the production of,and demand for illicit drugs, the abhorrent crime associated with its trade, and the health and social risks to our citizens.
Mr Chairman and distinguished colleagues, I wish to thank you once more for the opportunity to participate in this 57th session of the Commission. On behalf of the New Zealand delegation, I look forward to the remainder of the general debate and the round-table discussions, as well as the chance to work with many of you over the coming days.