National’s pledge to spend half of its promised new methamphetamine policy funding on clamping down on organised crime has been criticised by some in the addiction sector as the wrong focus.
Government police spokesperson Paula Bennett announced at the weekend that National would pledge $82 million over four years to tackling methamphetamine – with $40 million to be spent on 1,500 additional patient drug treatment places and education services. The other $42 million was to be spent on “tough measures” to “crack down on gangs and the supply of serious drugs”.
“Gangs are increasingly pushing dangerous drugs into our communities and we are committed to stopping them, locking them up and seizing their ill-gotten gains,” Bennett said.
Sue Paton, the executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa-New Zealand (dapaanz) said it was great to see more resources being promised to tackle methamphetamine, but it would like “much more, if not all” of the $82 million put towards treatment.
She said drug treatment experts had been telling the government for years that the best way to reduce the supply of any drug was to reduce demand for it by supporting people to come off their addictions.
“Education, treatment and more rehab beds will help with that,” said Paton. “Harder penalties, cancelling benefits, more drug dogs and entering people’s houses without a warrant will not.”
Dr Vanessa Caldwell, co-chair of the National Committee for Addiction Treatment (NCAT) said fears around rising methamphetamine addiction and associated violence were understandable, but targeting gangs and human rights would only make matters worse.