By ERWIN CHLANDA
All hell broke loose in New Zealand when “ice crazed addict” Antonie Dixon, chopped off two women’s arms with a Samurai sword and killed a man with a homemade machine gun.
A new Prime Minister raised the drug budget by $39m. Ice was elevated to an A category drug.
Surveys showed that 43% of the population wanted a tough-on-ice response and only 7% wanted better rehabilitation and treatment.
A 72 page “action plan” was released.
Then the news media went viral when Millie Holmes, the pretty daughter of a radio personality was also caught on ice. What, rich white kids take drugs too?
That was the question which New Zealand asked itself, according to Ross Bell (pictured), director of the NZ Drug Foundation, who spoke at today’s seminar about ice. It was convened by Central Australian Youth Link Up Service (CALUS), the section addressing substance misuse of Tangentyere Council.
In other words, the country was divided.
As awful as the background was, it provided an opportunity for the drug activists, says Mr Bell.
It became clear that elevating the drug to a level where offences needed to dealt with by the Supreme Court didn’t work very well – it clogged the courts.
The police was already on high alert over ice but confiscation of dealers’ property ballooned, raising $180m.
Sniffer dogs were even retrained to sniff out cash.
Customs was also pretty well at the point where it couldn’t do any more – there were only so many precursors at the border – all water, anyway.
“Supply side initiatives, their success gauged by price, availability and purity were not achieving much.
So, here was all the money slushing around, and the drug campaigners managed to channel it from the stick to the carrot.
Innovative projects, such as specialist referral services and phone counselling call-back services were set up.
Residential treatment options became available, mostly within four weeks. Completed treatment rose to more than 80%.
Justice and health were working together, under the banner which in Australia is called “all of government” initiatives.
To top it all off, the Salvos and a usually notorious biker gang (pictured together at top) teamed up – basically the bikers were at their wits’ end. The coalition earned the support of the government.
This caused Mr Bell to muse: “Imagine the Prime Minister approving a Cabinet paper saying $4m to the Mongrel Mob.”
An organisation www.methhelp.org.nz was formed, giving the message that there is a way out of ice addiction, and not shaming addicts.
Its new Prime Minister gives Australian campaigners a chance to “jump on the meth bandwagon”.
Get the Turnbull government to channel more money into health.
“Resist scare campaigns which the Australian Government is running on TV right now. They are appalling.
“Evidence informed policy responses will catch on – more treatment money, where there has been huge under-investment so long.”
He says the mantra in New Zealand is now “proportion, compassion and innovation”.
“You have a new New Prime Minister. Work with him.”
And, by the way, let the narrative not be side-tracked by alcohol being the bigger problem.
“Don’t let it compete against meth.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA