12 May 2017

Gangs want govt help for their meth-addict members

9:05 am on 12 May 2017

Gangs are approaching police to help them deal with their own members who hooked on methamphetamine, the Police Minister says.

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Photo: wikipedia

Police at the eighth Australasian Drug and Alcohol Strategy Conference said gangs controlled nearly all of New Zealand's P trade, with Asian organised crime groups importing most of the drug that was in the country.

The supply-driven market is, according to the Police Association, flooded with high-quality cheap meth made in China.

The Ministry of Health estimated about 34,000 people were taking an amphetamine substance, including P, each year - and a report out last year from the Drug Harm Index put the annual social cost of meth at $1.8 billion.

Addressing the conference, Police Minister Paula Bennett said gangs had come to her in the past few months, asking to work with the government on programmes to help P addicts, including their own.

"They've got huge concern, about the young people within their gangs that are now a bit more out of control.

Paula Bennett. 2 February 2017.

Paula Bennett (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"Gangs, of course, work on a hierarchy, and methamphetamine is such an insidious drug that one actually loses that respect and that natural order of things."

She said it seemed ironic that gangs were complaining about members who were hooked on P and disobedient.

"The behaviours that are being exhibited are of genuine concern to them as well.

"I get that ... But excuse me if I'm also going to turn around and say, stop peddling the bloody stuff and that's the best thing you could do.

"Many of our organised crime [groups] and gangs are the reason it is being imported, manufactured and distributed in New Zealand."

Mrs Bennett said she would be open to sitting around a table with gang leaders and finding a solution together.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush agreed.

"If they're keen to ensure that their younger generation doesn't go down that track, then we're very prepared to listen and work with them."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Tribal Huk gang leader Jamie Pink said he believed he had driven 90 percent of P out of Ngaruawahia in recent months.

He said it was great to hear gangs were reaching out to the government for help.

"They're calling out for help, there's obviously a big problem in their ranks. At the end of the day, it's a breakthrough there that they're trying to get help and get their people off it."

But it was unfair Mrs Bennett was placing the blame for New Zealand's P problem on gangs, he said.

"Most of the people we've had to deal with weren't gangs, but they were syndicates.

Jamie Pink, Tribal Huk gang leader

Jamie Pink says it's unfair to blame the country's P problem on gagns. Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

"I think the gangs are getting a bit of harsh treatment ... There's other people out there too [who] don't wear bloody patches on their back."

Mr Pink said there needed to be more focus on rehabilitation centres for addicts in rural areas than on border control.

You can hear more about the scale of New Zealand's P problem and what gangs and authorities are doing to curb the crisis, on Insight this Sunday morning after the news at 8.