Northland arrests for dealing P have dropped dramatically to an average of one per week.

Northland police prosecuted 29 people for dealing or trafficking methamphetamine in the first half of 2016.

Last year, police prosecuted 48 people for the same offence, down from 89, 119 and 168 the previous three years. In 2009 and 2010, police prosecuted a combined 592 offenders on the charge.

The drop in arrests could be interpreted as police making inroads into the region's meth problem.

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It comes at a time when one treatment service said methamphetamine use was close to overtaking alcohol as the most abused substance it was seeing, police received extra staff to deal with the drug and a special government injection of $3 million to curb the problem.


Northland district commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou didn't respond directly to a question regarding the decrease, but said police were working on an initiative to respond to the use of meth in Te Tai Tokerau.

"The initiative will bring together prevention, treatment and care to identify people who need help, and provide them with a holistic service."

He said Northland police will receive an extra eight staff in the coming weeks to deal with methamphetamine-related work.

The information also showed police charged 27 people for possession or use in the same time frame.

Last year 43 people were prosecuted for the same offence. The average over the past 10 years was 25.

Major Sue Hay of Salvation Army's Northland regional bridge programme said it was clear the issue was growing in the region.

She said the number of people who sought help for meth use had doubled since 2010.

"It's starting to tip. Alcohol is still the most commonly abused substance, but we're starting to tip towards seeing more people with methamphetamine as the substance that's giving them the most problems."

Major Hay said the Salvation Army's meth services at its three Northland sites had grown to provide treatment for about 300 users a year.

The bridge programme provided day programmes and one-to-one treatment for recovering users.

She said staff were seeing success with these initiatives, but residential treatment beds for recovering addicts were needed across the region.

Police replaced its official statistics with a new system in 2014, and cautioned the statistical series over time was not directly comparable with earlier figures.

The Government's annual methamphetamine report last year found just 10 per cent of methamphetamine users said the drug was becoming more difficult to get, and 38 per cent of users said it was becoming easier. This figure has grown from 19 per cent in 2011, and hasn't fallen since.

Prime Minister John Key recently announced a $15 million injection to tackle methamphetamine. The money was split between stemming the supply of the drug and its precursors, as well as expanding and strengthening health treatment programmes to reduce the demand.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said putting money toward treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue was a positive step.

However, the next day the Government announced a $1 billion prison plan, with further operating costs of $1.5b over six years, to show it was "deadly serious" on cracking down on meth and crime.

"There's a lot of us, to put it politely, quite upset by the significant contrast shown between the $15m [allocated for methamphetamine] and the $1b [on the prison], and there's a lot of us in the wider health and social sector whose jaws are still dropped - how can this $1b on a prison be true?" Mr Bell said.

"You're not going to ever police away a health issue. Prison is the last place you should send people with mental health and addiction issues."

Mr Bell said 40 per cent of the prison population was incarcerated for drug crime.

"Police are beginning to put more focus on referring people to help rather than processing them through the criminal justice system. We want them to actually formalise some of those things a bit more and make them a nationwide system."