A youth worker concerned about the number of young people using P says an increasing number of New Zealanders are "desperately looking to escape from third world level poverty and homelessness".

Roy Nathan, a youth worker at Te Runanga o Ngai Tamawhariua, working with at-risk youth in the Katikati region, said he has helped 14 and 15-year-olds who had been given methamphetamine by family members.

Nathan said P users were getting younger.

"We've had families that are in Oranga Tamariki care that are presenting with children from the age of 10 months old that present with positive methamphetamine within their hair follicles.

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"They get it free at first . . . it's a marketing ploy . . . so if they want it again they have to pay, and that is when there's a risk of turning to crime."

Born and bred in Katikati, Nathan said accessibility to methamphetamine was greater than ever.

"It's cheaper than a tinnie."

It was not just the increasing availability and cost driving meth use in cities and small communities, but underlying social issues, Nathan said.

"Meth is just the symptom . . . when you see some of the issues people are facing - lack of economic security, lack of a house, loss and grief, domestic violence - it is an escape from this misery. You won't solve the meth issue without looking at these social issues, which are getting worse."

Just a five-minute stroll down the road from Nathan's office, the "misery" of homelessness is starkly apparent with a paddock of caravans, cabins and vans where Nathan said families were living.

His services have helped house a couple with 10 children, including a young baby, who had been living in one of the caravans after the father had a stroke and the family lost their home.

The rising methamphetamine use in the community is being referred to as an intergenerational scourge by the organisers of a community hui in Katikati next week.

Speaking at the hui will be former P addict Natalie Ormsby, now 26 and a mother of three, who herself starting using the drug at just 14.

Lisa Corbett, teenage guidance counsellor at Katikati College, said while she was not seeing P usage directly with her students, she was aware of its greater presence in the community and that young people were being exposed to it.

"We're looking at prevention, information, education and awareness so that our students don't head down that same path."

Katikati police officer Steve Hindmarsh said the drug was always "lurking in the background".

While he has seen hard drugs in his 31 years of service in places from South Auckland to Queenstown, he said there were more people willing to try the "hard stuff".

Hindmarsh said he saw the impact of the drug throughout the community.

"Only today I spoke with a landlord who had found, through a meth test on his vacated property, that it was contaminated and he was facing a $70,000 bill to clean the house and replace the furnishings. It's not only the users who get affected, it is the wider community and their family and friends."

When police were called to domestic disputes, P was often involved, he said.

"I dealt with a couple recently who were having a domestic dispute. It didn't take long to figure out that drug use was apparent in the relationship. P pipes and the telltale plastic point bags were found in their sleeping area," Hindmarsh said.

"They both admitted to problematic use of P and to being unemployed skilled people. I knew straight away that the drug use was why they weren't working and the physical signs were a giveaway. The relationship was volatile, they were broke and there were indications of violence in the relationship.

"These are the situations police come across regularly anywhere in NZ. Sooner or later hard drug use will come to the attention of the police when things come crashing down."

Hindmarsh said Western Bay of Plenty Police were setting up a Proceeds of Crime unit for the area which should make a significant impact on those profiting from crime.

"Those making big money with no explanation as to how they are making it may find life a bit more difficult when the investigators come knocking."

Hindmarsh welcomed the seminar.

"Most people don't know about hard drugs and what signs to look out for. Many people don't know how to deal with a family member who is addicted to drugs or where to get help.

"Society needs to turn its back on drugs."


P awareness seminar
WHEN: November 14, 7pm to 9pm. Doors open 6pm
WHERE: Katikati War Memorial Hall
WHO: Keynote speaker Natalie Ormsby will share her real-life story about P addiction.
MC is Reon Tuanau, Te Runanga O Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Trust
ORGANISERS: Brave Hearts, Ngai Te Rangi and supported by the Breakthrough Forum, a hub of Western Bay community services.

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