A Tauranga mother of four who says she "almost died" while waiting for help with her methamphetamine addiction is backing a call for a Tauranga-based residential drug rehab service.

Pania Barry, 36, was addicted to P on and off for years, after first trying the drug as a teenager when someone offered her some to smoke out of a lightbulb.

She rapidly progressed to consuming 2g - $1000 worth - a day to get her fix.

While she spent time on and off the drug over the years, it was not until she "felt close to death" that she realised she needed "proper help".


However, she still had to spend eight weeks waiting for a space in Hamilton, during which time she kept using and felt suicidal.

"I thought about taking myself out, I was really, really low, depressed. Tired. But they had nowhere for me to go.

"I begged for help and went to Ward 17 for a few days, but that is no place to suit an addict. I just had to wait, and I used more. It could have killed me . . . it was only because I had people around me supporting me."

Barry agrees with the findings of a new report that there are not enough pre and post-rehabilitation services in the Bay.

"By the time someone gets to that point, they are already rock bottom. To have to wait months after that could be tragic for them."

Clean for a year after spending almost three months in the Hamilton-based residential rehabilitation run by the Salvation Army, Barry says she and others find it hard to believe there is no service in a city the size of Tauranga, particularly given the scale of the city's meth problem.

"I would say it is one of the easiest places in New Zealand to get meth. If I wanted some right now, I would know a dozen people I could just [go to] and get some."

She has noticed more people taking the drug over the years, particularly women.

"When I first tried to find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting years ago, there was only one in Tauranga, now there is about seven.

"Years ago, you never would see hardly any women addicted to meth . . . now there are loads of women at meetings . . . all sorts of women, all levels of life. And all ages. It is so readily available I have met people who started to try it in their 40s."

Barry said she would like to see more post-rehab services, another recommendation of the report.

"There was nothing for me apart from Narcotics Anonymous meetings. There is the Hanmer clinic, which is great, but it's not residential.

"Because I went to rehab in another town, it's hard when you come back here. Once you are an addict you are always an addict, but there is hope - if you have the right support around you."

A report into the impact of methamphetamine in the Western Bay reveals a massive spike in users, with community services struggling to cope with the 300 per cent increase in people needing help.

The research report, commissioned by the Breakthrough Forum - a group of 17 stakeholders including the police, Bay of Plenty District Health Board, Tauranga City Council and iwi - found that in the year 2016/17, 69 people asked for help from five community services, up from 17 people in the year before, an increase of 300 per cent.

Community organisations reported an increase in the past year of female users.

A further 92 people were treated by Bay of Plenty District Health Board services, up from 67 the previous year, an increase of 37 per cent.

Breakthrough Forum spokeswoman Jodie Robertson says there are indications the visible signs of meth in the Bay are increasing.

There is a need for more specific collection of data to better understand usage rates of methamphetamine, according to the report.

A lack of uniformity of methamphetamine-specific data across different services, and the fact that only some people addicted to P present to health services, mean data reflects only a portion of users in the Bay.

"There are lots of emotive stories but no hard evidence; no baseline of information about methamphetamine specific to the western Bay of Plenty. Anecdotally there is an apparent increase in the use of meth, however . . . users are not necessarily presenting for support," says Robertson.

The relatively low rates of people seeking help is contrasted with evidence of the presence of methamphetamine in former Housing New Zealand homes.

The report notes of the 75 per cent of homes screened in the Western Bay, 30 per cent had significant levels of methamphetamine contamination. Of those, 11 per cent were contaminated at levels that exceeded thresholds for acceptable health risk.

Workplace drug testing statistics across seven industry areas indicate that meth is the second most predominant drug of choice behind cannabis.

For those who did seek help, the report found limited care and rehabilitation and recommended a Tauranga-based residential rehabilitation facility, as well as post-natal addiction services and increased kaupapa Maori support.

Erin Scarlett O'Neill of Brave Hearts, which supports families of meth addicts, says as the report found, there may be services, but families may fear accessing them because of the criminal aspect.

She said a holistic approach was necessary for services to help users and their families with a range of needs, not just the addiction.

The health board's general manager of planning and funding, Simon Everitt, said the board acknowledged the issue with information and data and will further discuss the recommendations.

Lavina Good has been filming a series of videos called P Not Once involving users and their families, which she aims to roll out on social media next year, targeting young people.

"The war on meth . . . in terms of tackling the suppliers is failing. It is the demand side that needs to be attacked. Stopping the demand is where the battle needs to be fought."

Western Bay of Plenty police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said police are committed to stopping the supply of P and are looking at how to reduce its use in the community.

"As a community, we need to understand what is driving people to continue to want a drug, despite knowing the harm it causes to themselves, their families and our communities.

"We then need to tackle or remedy the behaviours that lie behind the harm these behaviours cause. This is not a quick fix and requires communities and community leaders to work collectively."

Asked whether a rehab service might reduce crime, Paxton said: "We need to ensure there is adequate support for those who are identified as drug abusers, to help them manage their addictions.

"Our message to users and anyone who is affected by methamphetamine is to ask for help, so they can get themselves and their families free of this drug."