Focus on meth — Bennett
Mining and drug reform were some of the hot topics when Paula Bennett and Scott Simpson spoke to Waihi residents last week
Methamphetamine is the drug that’s destroying small communities and should be the focus of law reform rather than marijuana, Paula Bennett said during a recent visit to Waihi.
The National Party’s deputy leader was brought to Waihi by Coromandel MP Scott Simpson on Wednesday last week.
Mr Simpson hosts regular seniors’ afternoon and morning teas with random invitees from the electoral roll — “literally a cup of tea and a couple of Krispies” — and said New Zealand was fortunate to have an “intimate little democracy” where politicians are accessible and can chew the fat.
“I always learn something,” said Paula.
“People should be genuinely surprised at how often you’re sitting around forming policy and making a decision on a piece of legislation and I’ll pop up with the series of visits I have done. The topics people raise and concerns they have are genuinely fed into the decisions we make.”
As National’s spokesperson for drug reform, she brought information to the seniors meeting about next year’s referendum on legalising recreational marijuana.
There was confusion about medical marijuana, which she supports, and recreational marijuana use which she had “genuine concerns around”.
She’d recently spoken to women on drug rehabilitation programmes at Arohata Prison and was told they’d smoked marijuana laced with meth and they didn’t know.
Asked about methamphetamine use and its impact on communities, she said it was this drug that should be the focus of Government action.
“I wish we were putting this much energy and the money we’re putting into this referendum into meth because that is the harmful drug in our communities that is really destroying lives.
“Police need newer and better powers to be really cracking down on our gangs, Customs with it coming over our borders, and better education earlier . . . that prevents people going down the path of taking it.”
Pro-mining, Paula spoke about business confidence and Government staying out of “picking a business for Waihi”.
The pair spoke about confidence in establishing small businesses in towns like Waihi and some of the barriers.
A former beneficiary herself, what does it take to pick yourself up and have the confidence to turn life around with a new idea?
“Sit down and think about what we can do.
“So often we focus on what we can’t do, and think I couldn’t possibly go for that job — whereas for so many women in particular if we look at it, we’re the best organisers I know. If they’re surviving on a benefit then frankly they should probably be running a bank or an accountancy because they probably have better money skills than anyone I know.
“They often have these amazing skills that are slightly hidden from themselves even, but when you dig in they’re right there — their ability to work with children, experts in hospitality and food.
“When I was the minister I used to say to the Work and Income offices was the first thing you ask someone is ‘what do you like doing and what are you good at?’.”
One woman in her 30s told her she’d responded to that. It was the first time anyone had asked her that question and she couldn’t answer it. She liked driving — and now drives trucks.
“She’d just bought herself a new couch and it was the first time she’d been able to buy new furniture.”
She encouraged people to ask about the “really amazing” programmes from Work and Income.
“They need to walk in and say ‘can I get some help finding what I’m good at?’. It’s digging in to building confidence, working out your strengths, learning skills like how to sell yourself in an interview, how to start a small business.”
“They’re spending like you didn’t earn it.”
This was a common thread throughout National Party’s deputy leader Paula Bennett’s rhetoric when she and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson visited Waihi on Thursday, referring to current Government spending.
The two politicians are on the campaign trail in the lead up to the 2020 election. Paula — who is also spokeswoman for social investment and social services, drug reform and women — has recently been tasked with running the nationwide campaign.
Paula and Scott visited Goldfields Railway, had a chat with Waihi Leader reporters, enjoyed an award winning bacon and egg pie at Waihi Bakery all before their morning tea with Waihi seniors at the Salvation Army.
Paula spoke to a well-attended, supportive audience of Waihians of the issues of concern before questions were taken from the audience.
High on the list of topics was drugs and the New Zealand cannabis referendum next year asking if recreational cannabis use should be legalised.
Paula has serious concerns about legalising recreation use. She talked to the crowd through the difference between ingredients tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and the difference between cannabis and medicinal marijuana.
They support medicinal marijuana. The current Government speak of being able to regulate recreational cannabis, Paula says, but she believes the variation of THC potency will create a black market.
She also spoke of possible outcomes — increasing health issues with vaping (especially young people), increasing numbers of people who can’t pass drug tests to gain employment and the increase of drug drivers on the road.
“I genuinely worry about normalising it.”
Mining was a hot topic at the meeting. Scott addressed the issue of Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage declining an application from Oceana Gold to purchase farmland near Waihi.
“It my view Eugenie Sage has a philosophic, ideological opposition to mineral extraction and she would never have approved any application of this sort being requested by Oceana Gold. Now it’s going to be judicially reviewed.
“We think this is a devastating blow to the long term prospects for Oceana Gold and Waihi. They have been and continue to be an excellent corporate citizenship providing jobs and economic benefits to the people of Waihi.”
Scott points to the coalition Government’s ban on oil and gas exploration in Taranaki and stopping the hydro dam on the West Coast.
“It actually speaks to Government putting the hand brakes on economy at every turn. All these things seem to go against the concept of a growing, thriving economy.”
Paula spoke of her concern for business confidence, the economy and that no new roads have been created under the current Government to support business.
“They are really good at spending your money. They are spending like they don’t know what it’s like to earn your own money.”
She also spoke on the welfare system, and social housing and how some expect the Government to take care of them — and how Labour grow that expectation.
She believes in a welfare system for those who need it for a time or for those with severe disabilities “but we believe if you can work, you should. Under this current Government, they say if you want to work, you should. I believe that we have got to the point that we have more people on welfare that has gone beyond extreme need.”
Concern was expressed by guests about young people and the global spectacle about a climate “crisis”.
“We see it all the time. They think the world is going to end in 12 years. They are so anxious ridden about it,” Scott says. “We support the creation of an independent climate commission of experts, real experts. There is so much conflicting information out there.”
National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett with Coromandel MP Scott Simpson in Waihi last week.
Paula Bennett and Scott Simpson are on the campaign trail and visited Waihi last week.