Meth and crayfish: two degrees of seperation

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That’s a headline not many of us probably thought we’d ever see, but crayfish and methamphetamine established a connection recently with the Northland theft of a large quantity of crayfish believed to have been intended for trade with Auckland gangs in exchange for P.

Both locations aren’t surprising when you look at the five areas branded as New Zealand’s “P Lab hotspots”. University of Auckland researchers* recently crunched the numbers which reveal that the top five spots are:

1.     Helensville

2.     Herekino (far North)

3.     Hamilton Central

4.     Opanuku (West Auckland)

5.     Newton (Central Auckland)

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of meth usage in the world. A 2015 survey found that only El Salvador, The Philippines and Australia consume more meth per capita. The hike in usage now means that the demand for methamphetamine is outstripping local supply and Customs are waging an ongoing war with protecting New Zealand’s borders.  The latest figures obtained by the NZ Herald show that Canada has emerged as the leading source of pure meth importation to New Zealand. In just the last six months, 49.6 kilos of meth has been intercepted from Canada, knocking China off the top spot.

This has led to Customs refocusing their energy from our domestic border to management at the point of origin, another tactic in the war against crime syndicates.

And it’s not just the usual drug suspects you’d expect to be prisoners of meth. Over the past year, Drug Detection Agency testing showed that 13.4% of all positive pre-employment drug tests detected meth. Due to the long hours, stress and physical labour of construction, forestry and meat working, meth has long been an issue in these roles, but the epidemic has now spread to employees in tourism, the public sector and professional services.

Meth has gone rural too and farmers are being warned to regularly check the farm cottages where employees stay. The sense of isolation on a farm can lead to drug use and with limited rural police resources mean many believe they have less chance of getting caught.

Unfortunately, it’s still certain segments of society who continue to be ravaged by meth. In the last financial year, Housing New Zealand spent nearly $52 million fixing state houses, with the most expensive bill sitting at over $103,000 for the cleanse of one state house.

As you’d expect, the meth issue is a thorn in the side of our political parties as we head into the next election. Labour has promised to fund 1,000 more police officers and prioritise community policing to deal with crime and meth supply. Last year National promised to invest a total of $8.7 million in health-related initiatives to combat the meth issue, including treatment facilities, as well as funding more innovative ways for police to work with health services to reduce demand. Meanwhile, the Greens are focused on the consequences of meth leading to the eviction of tenants from Housing New Zealand properties.

Only one thing is for certain in the current environment. Meth is here to stay and its effects aren’t going away.

*The Geography of Methamphetamine Manufacture in New Zealand between 2004 and 2009.