Once known as the 'Gas Man', one of New Zealand's most prolific meth cooks, now turned drugs counsellor, is heading to the Bay.

Peter Thorburn, 48, used to cook millions of dollars of pure methamphetamine, run guns, and handle so much money in his drug business he would have to weigh the notes as he didn't have time to count them.

He was known as the 'Gas Man' among the organised crime world of gangs, guns and drugs he moved in because he once nearly blew himself up in a fiery cook up.

He is sharing his "cold hard meth facts and solutions" at a meeting next month in Tauranga.


Thorburn is the guest speaker at the talk, organised by Turning Point Recovery Service and Junction Peer Support and Advocacy, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Event organiser Vaughn Cruickshank, who works with locals suffering from addiction, says interest in attending the event is already so strong he has had to move it to a larger venue to accommodate numbers.

Attendees include addicts, former addicts, families of addicts as well as local body councillors and lawyers, says Cruickshank.

"Interest indicates the scale of the issue and meth is a particular problem in the Bay ... with it associated mental health issues."

Thorburn, who spent 23 years addicted to alcohol and drugs but has been clean since 2005, says meth is more available than ever.

He also said there was no one type of user with increasingly more professionals and labourers using.

"The price is dropping and the market is flooded with methamphetamine, with addiction services struggling to cope."

He does not believe the answer simply lies in ploughing more money into addiction services.


"Throwing more money at the problem is not effective, we need to go back to empowering communities."

Key to solving the meth crisis is to understand the demand as a health-based issue of addiction.

"Someone might judge a meth user but be drinking a bottle of wine a night, or be obese, or be gambling or whatever. What we need to look at is what is it in our society making people so anxious or depressed that they use different coping mechanisms.

To curb meth use, you need to examine what drives that use and that lies in families and communities."

Thorburn himself smoked his first joint at 9, was growing cannabis as a teenager and tried meth soon after. Intelligent, the son of a mayor, he studied chemistry books to learn to cook it and soon reached the higher echelons of the drug world, working for several organisations, trading firearms as well as meth.

At the height of his eight-year P addiction, he would wake up with a P laced coffee and a couple of lines before breakfast, and smoked up to $4k of methamphetamine a day. He witnessed a young child drink caustic soda from a fridge by mistake while her mother was bagging P.

His sister died of a heroin overdose.

It is a bleak world from his past he will answer questions about but does not want to dwell on, as he looks to the future, not backwards.

It took his last stints in prison on drugs and firearms-related crimes for him to reach what he calls his "low" and since 2005 he has turned his talents and brain to helping people who he previously associated with.

Now a university trained counsellor and trainer, he has worked with a number of diverse addiction and mental health services. He recently started his own company, Meth Education and Solution Services.

One of the projects he is currently advising on is the establishment of a specialised hospital in Auckland for meth-related health issues including meth affected babies.

For a Bay audience "desperate for guidance", he is hoping to demystify and remove the stigma from the drug. He speaks from experience in what works, not just gained working in the addiction services sector but from his own life experience.

"It is not something I want to sensationalise, talking about drugs and guns, I want to focus on why people are hurting so much they are reaching for the pipe."

WHAT: Cold Hard Meth Facts and Solutions, Organised by: Turning Point Recovery Service and Junction Peer Support and Advocacy.

WHERE: Otumoetai College—Performing Arts Centre - Windsor Rd, Tauranga

WHEN: Thursday, October 11 from 6pm-8pm

HOW: $2 donation, Contact Vaughn Cruickshank at Junction to reserve a seat. vaughn@junction.org.nz or 543 3010.