11 Jun 2021

Patrick Gower - On P

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:30 pm on 11 June 2021

When journalist Patrick Gower talked to New Zealanders about cannabis for his series On Weed, many told him the real problem in their town was 'P'.

Gower's upcoming documentary On P explores New Zealand's methamphetamine epidemic.

Before making the documentary, Gower thought he knew a bit about 'P' - he'd covered its use in NZ as both a crime reporter and a political reporter. 

But that didn't prepare him for the reality of how much methamphetamine is here, how easy it is to get and how many addicts we’ve got.

"I was absolutely shocked by how much of it there is in this country. And I didn't think I would be ... there's heaps of it."

New Zealand is seen as a "ready market" for 'P' and as such we are a target for crime syndicates from other countries like Mexico, Gower says. 

Although Customs and the NZ Police are doing a great job keeping it out, they simply can't compete with the volume of 'P' entering the country in so many different ways, he says.

"'P' is worth quite a lot of money in this country. Meth, in New Zealand, is worth the most of pretty much anywhere in the world and that's made us more of a target. It means they're pumping more in here and making the problem even worse."

When 'P' enters your life, the ensuing path of destruction is inevitable, Gower says.

"['P' addicts] all have the same story. They use it once, then their partner uses it. Then they start beating each other up and violence comes into the relationship. Then they need money. "

Theft from parents and employers often follows.

"['P'] doesn't discriminate. It kicks in quickly and it doesn't matter what part of society you come from - you go down the same road."

Patrick Gower

Patrick Gower Photo: Mediaworks

As a documentary subject,  'P' is not much fun because even people who take the drug actively dislike or even hate it, Gower says.

Although he tried cannabis - in a place where it is legal - for On Weed, there was never a suggestion he would sample 'P'.

"I just felt awful watching [a person in the doco] use it. I felt like I'd crossed an ethical line even letting this happen because of just how evil this thing is… there's just nothing good about it. 

"You can get hooked off one hit. How dangerous is that when it's being pushed in every small town all around New Zealand?"

New Zealand needs to approach meth addiction as a health issue, Gower says.

"We have to attack it 'one addict at a time'… and the issue with that for the government is it will be a very expensive model to roll out across the country."

He hopes families will watch Patrick Gower: On P together.

"This is part of our life in New Zealand. It's something all parents need to think about confronting … Watch it with your teenage children and make them know not to ever go there."

Patrick Gower: On P screens Tuesday June 15, 8.30pm on Three

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