17 Jul 2018

Northland couple turn up the heat on P-pipe merchants

2:55 pm on 17 July 2018

A Northland couple are calling out shopkeepers who sell P-pipes - the glass instruments commonly used for smoking methamphetamine.

Glass pipes for sale at the local Coin Save in Kawakawa

The pipes for sale at the shop. Photo: Screenshot / Facebook

Erana Paraone and her partner Wiremu Keretene challenged their local Coin Save in Kawakawa last week over the pipes in their display cases.

In a Facebook video that has had hundreds of likes from locals, the pair politely asked the lone staff member if he would consider withdrawing the pipes from sale.

"You may have heard of methamphetamine, this drug that's basically destroying our people?" Mr Keretene said in the clip to the staff member.

"We just notice that some of the utensils they use, you are providing to our community, which we are trying to help [stop]."

The man replied that everyone who wanted to buy a pipe was told they could not be underage, and that the pipes were for tobacco only.

The staff member said he could not make a decision about whether to pull the pipes off the shelves because he only worked there.

However, he promised to pass on the request to his boss, and the couple left him with an official meth information pack and left.

The couple promised they would be back.

Ms Paraone said they were committed to doing what they could to fight the meth trade in their community.

"It might seem futile, trying to get P-Pipes off the shelves when people can make their own untensils to smoke it," she said.

"But it's the principle. Our kids go into these shops, the Coin Savers and $2 shops because they have things you can afford when you've got hardly any money. And they see these pipes and they giggle about it, and think that's okay."

Selling the pipes openly normalised the use of drug that was destroying whānau, Ms Paraone said.

She also had the support of the Moerewa community spokesman Ngahau Davis.

He remembered the days when the local Four Square was offering bulk deals on isopropyl alcohol - used in the manufacture of meth.

The brisk trade was halted abruptly when it made the national news.

"I think people need to think when they're coming in as a business and they say 'well, it's just business'... I think you've got to come with some ethic.

"This is a terrible addiction and they say it's only for tobacco ... well you know it's a glass pipe? Let's get real here."

Far North communities were crying out for resources to help methamphetamine addicts and their families, Mr Davis said.

The ongoing pilot project run by police and the District Health Board (DHB) has encouraged people to get off the drug, he said.

However, in rural areas, addicts were coming forward only to find there was a two-month wait for a detox bed or rehab services and then relapsing.

"It's a recipe for failure so in some sense you're setting people up because you don't have the structures in place to deal with that."

There was an urgent need for a detox unit in the Far North and for safe drug free retreats for people to stay and get away from their old associates while they were recovering, Mr Davis said.

Northland Health said the five detox beds set aside for people withdrawing from drugs or alcohol would increase to seven by October.

But support services were about more than just detox beds, according to DHB manager of Mental Health and Addiction Services Ian McKenzie.

"Our community-based intervention and rehab service is far better than it was a year ago and the outcome from it is really good," Mr McKenzie said.

"Once people are motivated to get treatment they do a lot of the work themselves. I accept that the detox bed numbers are too low but we will build that slowly, and I think the focus on community treatment models is the right focus."

Mr McKenzie said already-high meth residue levels in Whangarei's wastewater had risen again since the harm reduction project began last September.

"They fell a little in the months before Christmas but they have increased again in the last three or four months. We hope this will be a baseline and the levels will eventually decrease," Mr McKenzie said.

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