War against billion-dollar P trade being lost - King

By Mike Houlahan

Strategies to combat the billion-dollar trade in methamphetamine are not working, and tighter controls of chemicals used by criminals to make P are needed, Justice Minister Annette King says.

Her concession that the authorities are struggling to win the war against P comes in a new Cabinet paper setting out Government policies to target organised crime.

The Government set up a joint agency approach to tackling P in 2003.

Measures included reclassifying it as a Class A drug and creating a Methamphetamine Action Group.

But , methamphetamine-related cases as a percentage of all cases sent to the High Court have risen from 41 per cent in 2004 to 54 per cent in 2006.

The drug has been a factor in several murder cases, including the killing of Wairarapa schoolgirl Coral-Ellen Burrows.

The paper said efforts to target methamphetamine sale and use and prevent medicines such as cold cures being used to make the illegal drug did not appear to be having any impact on the price, purity or availability of P.

Ms King said police and chemical companies agreed that voluntary controls over the sales of chemicals used to make P were ineffective, and laws were needed to prevent organised gangs getting hold of precursor chemicals.

"The New Zealand methamphetamine trade is estimated to be $750 million to $1.5 billion at retail level and has clear links with domestic and international organised crime," she said.

"Any comprehensive effort to curb organised criminal activity in New Zealand must consider ways of tackling this co-operation."

A growing "P for Paua" trade, in which ethnic New Zealand gangs traded seafood for crystal methamphetamine brought into the country by Asian organised crime gangs was evidence of that, she said.

But special duties fisheries officers are unable to give evidence anonymously - a law Ms King said should be changed.

These measures were among options for tackling gangs that Ms King wanted to achieve within the first 12 months of the Government's organised crime strategy.

But National's law and order spokesman, Simon Power, derided Ms King's plans for policing gangs as backing away from the problem.

"The paper reveals the Government has rejected or deferred far more measures to combat gangs than it has recommended, leading it to conclude that 'none of the proposals in this paper require an immediate legislative response'," Mr Power said.

"An admission of this nature seems to confirm that any attempts the Government has made in the methamphetamine area have come up short."

- NZ Herald

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