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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.

In 2012, 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 authority
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 profound changes
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
committee
• the sale of products is prohibited from convenience/grocery stores, liquor outlets and petrol
stations
• 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 methamphetamine
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.

The 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 meet the
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.

Ends

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