More resources needed for 'war on drugs'

By Whatitiri Te Wake

A Northland community leader believes the government budget shortchanges efforts to make real change in the "war on drugs".

Martin Kaipo says his community of Otāngarei is home to the region's most pressing issues, and he is keen to make his concerns known when the Māori budget roadshow arrives in his town this week.

But, after crunching budget numbers, he sees some gaps.

“It doesn't allow us to do what we want to do as Māori providers to actually go out and extend our arm and know that we've got the resources to do it,” he said.

He has been vocal in seeking more support to help the region meet the need for the issues that meth has caused in his community, commending a Northland initiative Te Ara Oranga, which he says was delivering great outcomes, but not being funded appropriately.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation called for a nationwide rollout before the budget, given the programme's success - but it only went as far as the Bay of Plenty.

“Te Ara Oranga looks to do things more holistically, including community prevention work to address some of the harm. And it really tries to meet the need for people, instead of doing it in a service provision way,” he said.

Stop 'punitive approach'

Evaluations showed a 34% reduction in criminality for participants.

Although Kaipo said extra funds would help, questions still remained on how adequate it was.

“Let's hope the opportunity and better resourcing come so we can address it. The war on drugs is going to be hard anyway - it's hard to beat.”

The government put up over $100 million for mental health and addictions but NZ Drug Foundation chief executive Sarah Help said it was not transformative

“We want to see a transformation that shifts from a punitive approach we know isn't working. We're seeing four times as much on that punitive approach that's harming Māori the most than we are on other health-based approaches,” she said

The Māori budget roadshow arrives in Whangārei on Friday, where these concerns will be discussed.