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

Waihi Leader - - Front Page - By ALI­SON SMITH [email protected]­hileader.co.nz

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.”

PHOTO / REBECCA MAUGER

Na­tional Party deputy leader Paula Ben­nett with Coro­man­del MP Scott Simp­son in Waihi last week.

PHOTO / REBECCA MAUGER

Paula Ben­nett and Scott Simp­son are on the cam­paign trail and vis­ited Waihi last week.

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