Labour’s short-sighted decision in 2018 to scrap National’s highly successful Meth Action Plan – and its outright refusal to accept that New Zealand has a gang problem – is contributing to a surge in gang membership, meth use and misery in New Zealand’s most deprived communities, National’s health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
Wastewater testing shows meth use is highest in locations with higher levels of gang membership per capita, notably Northland, Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay.
“The rise in gang membership and drug abuse go hand-in-hand,” says Dr Reti. “It’s an indictment of Labour’s ‘nothing-to-see-here’ approach to crime, which is now causing lasting damage to communities across New Zealand.”
Meth use is widely recognised as a major factor in domestic violence, social deprivation, crime and social harm. It also helps to enrich criminal gangs, whose membership has ballooned under Labour.
The cross-agency Meth Action Plan introduced under the last National Government implemented policies to crack down on the supply of meth, while providing a health-based response for the victims of the drug.
Using $10 million set aside each year from the proceeds of crime fund – money seized from criminals – the plan gave Police and Customs the resources they need to disrupt supply chains and crack down on gangs.
“This plan was working, with a 50 per cent reduction in usage among adults between 2009 and 2015.
“Labour’s decision to cancel this programme three years ago was baffling at the time, but with meth use and gang membership both climbing, it’s absolutely clear now it was the wrong one.
“Rather than hiring gang members to run rehab programmes for their own victims, Labour should swallow its pride, admit it made a mistake in cancelling the Meth Action Plan, and go back to what was proven to be working.
“At the election, National released set of proposals that would build on our past success in reducing meth use, and would tackle the meth problem from all angles, addressing both demand and supply.
“We’re calling on the Government to urgently reinstate the Meth Action Plan, and to commit to tackling both supply and demand for methamphetamine in New Zealand.”
National’s plan to tackle meth supply:
- Increase funding for drug intelligence to enable Customs and Police to identify drugs coming into the country.
- Deploy the latest detection technologies at New Zealand’s airports, ports and distribution centres, where the majority of illicit drug shipments are arriving without detection.
- Improve the use of data and artificial intelligence to analyse drug use, criminal networks and patterns of supply so enforcement agencies can better disrupt supply.
- Target criminal gangs, their precursor supply chains and drug distribution networks with additional focus and resourcing for Police.
- Crack down on illegal smuggling of cash and money laundering to prevent domestic gangs and the international syndicates they work with from extracting super profits from meth distribution.
National’s plan to tackle meth demand:
- Deploy the Matrix Methamphetamine Treatment Pilot Programme across several District Health Boards to provide direct support to those recovering from methamphetamine use.
- Add 13 detox beds for methamphetamine across New Zealand, ensuring every District Health Board has at least one.
- Ensure at least one methamphetamine specialist per District Health Board is available to assist with in-patient detoxing from methamphetamine.
- Establish a contestable fund of $50 million to pilot new or scaled-up whole-community harm reduction programmes.
- Establish best practices for frontline police to refer meth users to DHBs, Ministry of Social Development, education resources and community-based support.