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Government serious on combating amphetamine abuse

25 September 2003 Media Statement

Government serious on combating amphetamine abuse

Methamphetamine is an evil the Government has committed significant resources to combating, the Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Drugs, Jim Anderton, says.

A United Nations report released yesterday showed the use of amphetamine-type drugs in New Zealand and Australia appeared to be among the highest in the world.

Mr Anderton described methamphetamine, also known as P or Pure, as ‘pure evil’.

“New Zealand has already seen a number of high profile murders and other horrific crimes of violence caused by this drug. The pure truth is that P can cause permanent, serious physical and psychological effects on individuals and accompanying damage to families and communities.”

Mr Anderton said the Government’s Methamphetamine Action Plan, released on 22 May this year, included a 19-point strategy to counter P.

The plan included greater search and seizure powers for police, increased powers for Customs to deal with unlicensed imports of methamphetamine ingredients, improved community education and more comprehensive drug monitoring surveillance data to support enforcement.

The aim was to control supply, reduce demand and limit the problems methamphetamine was creating in New Zealand. Measures in the Plan built on existing programmes and initiatives.

Actions taken so far under the Plan included more money in this year’s budget for Police and Customs initiatives, reclassification of methamphetamine to a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and the development of community action plans The Ministerial Group continued to meet regularly, and further announcements were due in the near future, Mr Anderton said.

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Since May when Cabinet approved the reclassification of Methamphetamine, anyone convicted of importing, manufacturing or supplying the drug now faced up to life imprisonment, while those possessing the drug faced up to six months jail and a fine.

Customs Minister Rick Barker said seizures of controlled drugs entering New Zealand currently ran at more than one a fortnight.

“Customs made 28 significant seizures of controlled drugs entering New Zealand in the financial year to the end of June 2003, including more than 265,000 tablets of MDMA (ecstasy), 941gms of crystal methamphetamine, 964gms of amphetamine, 217gms of cocaine, and 233gms of heroin, “ Mr Barker said.

Twenty-one of the 43 people arrested as a result of the seizures were couriers, with most seizures at the Auckland International Mail Centre or Auckland International Airport.

Customs had also seized in excess of 530,000 tablets (or powder equivalent) of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the common precursor chemicals for the making of methamphetamine, in some 222 separate incidents in the eight months to August this year.

“This represents an increase of over 1600 per cent in two years,” Mr Barker said. In 2001 there were 32,653 tablets intercepted, compared with 254,987 tablets in 2002 and 10,300 the year before.

“Work by the police with the Pharmacy Guild and other organisations to limit domestic supply of precursor chemicals, appears to show domestic illicit drug manufacturers have turned elsewhere for ingredients to fuel their criminal enterprises,” Mr Barker said.

Customs also had more staff and more eyes on the border, to increase drug smugglers’ risk of getting caught, Mr Barker said.

Police Minister George Hawkins said to date this year clan lab seizures totaled 94, compared with 80 last year.

The Government had allocated $6.6m over four years in this year’s Budget to fund two police teams trained in the cleanup of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.

The teams, each with five police officers and two civilian staff, would be based in Auckland and Wellington, with the Wellington team also covering the South Island. They would begin work on 1 January 2004.

Other initiatives included Police funding research by Massey University on the link between crime and the use of P, increasing public awareness of the drug through the weekly “Police 10-7” television programme and working with Documentary New Zealand on a special programme about the issue. New statistics codes to help track the use of the drug had also been introduced.

Around the country, Police were providing presentations to groups including schools, nurses and the wider community to explain the issue and discourage the use of the drug.
Pharmacists were working closely with Police to curb the increase in professional purchasers of pseudoephedrine-based products, or “pill shoppers”, seeking the key ingredients in the manufacturing process.
Police had also produced in conjunction with FADE a brochure on methamphetamine called "Breaking the Ice".

Police have developed a Maori or English language presentation on P called Patua Te Ngangara (Battling the Devil), in conjunction with Dr Pita Sharples and other Maori youth workers.

A number of Police staff trained in presenting the programme were delivering it in their communities.

Mr Anderton said the entire community should get behind Government moves to counter the abuse of amphetamine-type drugs.

“This is not the time for cross party, cheap political point scoring. This is a time for unity in the face of one of the most serious challenges New Zealand has faced in recent times.”

ENDS

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