Otago Daily Times

Meth ‘well and truly here now’



CENTRAL Otago has lost its innocence regarding methamphet­amine and it went up in smoke in the space of just a few years.

Detective Sergeant Derek Shaw, of the Central Otago CIB, said while the drug had been slow to arrive in the region it was ‘‘well and truly here now’’.

‘‘I think was have lost our innocence a wee bit around here in the past couple of years.’’

The slower arrival meant the problem was less than in larger centres but for every dealer taken out of circulatio­n, another would swiftly take their place, he said.

Central Otago was generally at the end of line for supply as the main corridor for methamphet­amine’s spread and ‘‘actually most crime’’ centred around State Highway 1.

The laws of supply and demand governed the supply and use of meth in Central Otago.

‘‘I’m sure nobody chooses to be addicted to anything, be it methamphet­amine, alcohol, gambling . . . It’s the addiction that drives demand, that drives supply, and meth appears to be so addictive.’’

It was also destructiv­e to the user and everyone around them.

He cited one case in Central Otago where, by crossrefer­encing bank records more than $60,000 had disappeare­d from the individual’s accounts and savings.

‘‘It could only be attributed to meth use and addiction.’’

Det Sgt Shaw said during investigat­ions related to methamphet­amine it was common to ask ‘‘why?’’

‘‘People get into a [drug] scene, they think they can handle it recreation­ally, but suddenly it is out of control.

‘‘We sit with people during an investigat­ion and say ‘how did you get on it mate?’ and they will say ‘it just took me over’.’’

While the presence of methamphet­amine often led to more widespread crime, that was something the region was not experienci­ng.

‘‘We have a reasonable abundance of jobs in Central Otago and to a degree people can fund it.’’ It was a fine line.

‘‘It [methamphet­amine] just pushes you over that line and you have serious offending driven by meth — we haven’t quite seen that here,’’ Det Sgt Shaw said.

Most dealers dealt with in Central Otago were also ‘‘their own best customers’’ and were dealing to feed their own habit.

That made them different from highend dealers, who dealt for the ‘‘huge monetary rewards involved’’ rather than for a personal high.

Firearms were also part of the mix, he said.

‘‘Totally embedded with meth is firearms — it is the highrisk, highreward nature of it.

‘‘Anytime we are doing an operation at an address we go appropriat­ely equipped.’’

The way those operations were conducted was also different from 20 years ago, when everyone from the dealer to the procurer was targeted — something police called ‘‘body count’’.

That ‘‘body count’’ could mean 60 to 80 people were arrested in a single operation.

‘‘Now the focus is to cut the head off the monster.’’

Now the people identified as part of an investigat­ion were dealt with differentl­y by police, the focus having switched to ‘‘harm reduction’’.

‘‘Our mindset has moved to harm reduction. They’ve cropped up as a user and we go to them and have a conversati­on — go in and see what we can do to break the cycle.’’

That often involved bringing other other agencies in to work on the harm reduction goal.

No meth labs had been discovered in Central Otago for some time, but the trickle of the drug into the region was turning into a steady flow and the methods of communicat­ion for dealing it were becoming increasing­ly sophistica­ted.

The most recent police operation conducted by the Central Otago CIB led to a 31yearold landscape gardener appearing in Invercargi­ll District Court on Tuesday, following a twomonth investigat­ion into the supply of drugs in Wanaka.

He was arrested last Friday in Queenstown.

The man was granted interim name suppressio­n and faces six charges, including possession and supply of methamphet­amine and unlawful possession of a firearm.

He was remanded on bail until his next appearance on December 14, in the Queenstown District Court.


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