New projects are being targeted in Hawke's Bay to help crack a methamphetamine problem which could be one of the worst in Australasia.
While calculating the scale of use of "P" is anecdotal, some indication of the problem has come in police statistics which show a trend towards a possible quadrupling of the numbers being prosecuted in the region.
The figures show Hawke's Bay Police prosecuted 45 people for methamphetamine use or possession in the first six months of the year, a figure double the annual average over the last 10 years and just one short of the 46 prosecuted last year.
The police prosecuted 18 people for dealing or trafficking, already five more than the annual average, while 57 people were prosecuted for possession of items for the use of methamphetamine or allowing property to be used for use or supply. The figure averaged 24 a year over the last decade.
While police nationally are warning a change in reporting in 2014 means figures are not directly comparable with some past statistics, police Hawke's Bay area commander Inspector Tania Kura confirmed there had been a "marked increase" in the arrests, and said: "The district is working on reducing the harm of drug use by working with users, families and partner agencies in order to receive help."
She said police referred some users to support agencies for their drug use as well as prosecuting them, although in Auckland police avoided prosecutions of users identified from cellphone numbers uncovered in a major methamphetamine dealing bust by text messaging details of how users could get help to overcome their addictions.
Hawke's Bay-based Denis O'Reilly, manager of Mokai Whanau Ora, a national programme run through Ministry of Health programme Community Action Youth and Drugs (CAYAD), says there's a "bottleneck" where current programmes and methods are unable to meet the demand for help.
Having been in the fight since 2004, when he thought the methamphetamine problem was being brought under control, he believes it is a health problem where users need help from family and friends, not "demonising" and prosecution.
CAYAD and Mokai Whanau Ora will be piloting a new programme in Hawke's Bay called Tangata Mahi Pai (People doing good things) based around a series of week-day activities.
The numbers it can deal with will depend on the availability of funding and upskilled volunteers, but the Lotteries Commission has given support and other agencies are considering steps to make it sustainable.
Continually frustrated by numbers using methamphetamine, including those who have "been through hell and back and are back on it", he said the first short will be held before Christmas.
Recent tackling of the dealing network - which he believes is more a network of individuals than groups - has seen some decline in availability of methamphetamine, but it's not a time for complacency.
"We have a problem, so we have to be resilient to get things done," he said. "It's much as the same way we get through something like an earthquake. It is very hard to get on a programme, because there are so few."
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the Government's recent announcement of of a $15 million investment in tackling methamphetamine problems was a positive step towards treating addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue.
But the "next day" the Government announced a $1 billion spend on building new prison space, needing another $1.5 billion to run it - to show Government was "deadly serious" on cracking down on methamphetamine and crime.
"There's a lot of us in the wider health and social sector whose jaws are still dropped," he said. "How can this one-billion dollars on a prison be true?"
"You're not going to ever police away a health issue," he said, noting 40 per cent of inmates are incarcerated for drug crime. "Prison is the last place you should send people with mental health and addiction issues."
"Police are beginning to put more focus on referring people to help rather than processing them through the criminal justice system" he said. "We want them to actually formalise some of those things and make them a nationwide system.