Weekend Sun column
We all know about the scourge of methamphetamine, or P, and the impact it has on communities. It's a drug that destroys lives, comes hand in hand with violence and allows gangs and organised crime to flourish in our towns and cities.
When our Tackling Methamphetamine: an Action Plan was launched in 2009, New Zealand had one of the highest rates of P use in the world. Through the combined efforts of Police and Customs and Health authorities we are making progress. But there's more we need to do.
We have recently announced further steps in the Government's plan to tackle P. Almost $15 million seized from criminals will be invested in 15 new anti-drug initiatives, with more funding for Police and Customs, and a greater focus on treatment for drug abusers.
This year's funding is the highest-ever allocated under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, in our efforts to combat methamphetamine and drug crime.
We're now dealing with a hard-core group of users struggling to kick the habit, so we're focusing more on them by investing $8.7 million in health-related initiatives.
This includes treatment facilities, as well as funding more innovative ways for the Police to work with health services to reduce demand. Among the 15 initiatives is funding to better identify P use among incoming prisoners and to pilot a prison treatment programme. Another pilot programme is aimed at preventing and addressing substance-related harm in schools.
This builds on the methamphetamine plan's investment in additional residential treatment and detox services, and phone and other forms of helplines. And it is on top of the $150 million the government invests every year and alcohol and drug treatment programmes.
We are determined to provide further treatment options, as well as new measures to clamp down on manufacture and supply. $3 million will go toward a joint Police and Health initiative to reduce P demand in Northland. We're also investing in programmes to identify and stop precursors and illicit drugs before they reach New Zealand. Customs is also working to disrupt and dismantle the supply of methamphetamine into New Zealand by overseas gangs.
Our approach is making a difference. That difference saves lives, gives families hope, and makes our communities in the Bay safer.