24 Jun 2016

No 'War on Drugs' - senior cop

From Nine To Noon, 9:08 am on 24 June 2016

There is no 'War on Drugs' in New Zealand because drug users should be treated as victims, not enemies, a senior police detective says.

The amount of methamphetamine seized last year was three times more than in 2014, and last week police seized 500kg of the class A drug valued at half a billion on the street - the biggest-ever haul in New Zealand.

Most of it was found on a washed-up boat on 90 Mile Beach in Kaitaia.

Northland Police have made a record seizure of methamphetamine - with an estimated street value of $438 million on the street.

Baggies of meth from the 90 Mile Beach haul laid out. Photo: SUPPLIED/New Zealand Police

The seizure was more than the total combined amount of meth seized in this country in 2015.

Detective Superintendent Virginia Le Bas said police had adopted a prevention-first approach to combating more methamphetamine coming into the country - and it was working.

Ms Le Bas leads the newly created police gang intelligence centre and said the number of drug users was decreasing

She said the police's primary focus was on treating drug users as victims.

Ms Le Bas told Nine to Noon users should be helped where possible, and police work with other agencies to remove people from the drug lifestyle.

"Community intelligence is basic policing where we collect data and assess what are the actual problems and where intervention is required.

"It's a complex issue and there's not one agency that can work by itself to solve it."

She said any officer had a responsibility to focus on prevention.

"Prosecutions will be undertaken and evidence will be provided to the courts, but it's also about building a resilience in the community so they can say no to crime and what they can do to prevent it.

"New Zealand should work to be the safest country in the world and be proud of it."

Ms Le Bas said about half of all methamphetamine came from gangs. However, it was mostly individual gang members operating on their own, rather than organised collectives, she said.