A large-scale meth bust in a town of about 6000 people has drawn the attention of police from all over the world.
Operation Notus led to the arrests of 48 people and the restraint of nearly $3 million of property in March last year in Kawerau.
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The six-month operation investigated Mongrel Mob-related drug dealing and police said it led to a 34 per cent drop in crime at the time.
Along with methamphetamine and cannabis, 26 firearms and more than $21,000 was seized, as well as three stolen Toyota Hilux utes and power tools.
The Bay of Plenty police district won the supreme award at the 2018 New Zealand Police Evidence-based Problem-Oriented Policing Awards for their work on Operation Notus.
Last week, police and community partners went to the United States to present their work as finalists in the 2019 Herman Goldstein Awards in Santa Cruz.
They focused on how officers from the National Organised Crime Group and Bay of Plenty district partnered with Tūhoe and Tūwharetoa to ensure addicts, whānau and the wider community were supported to deal with the aftermath.
This included assisting families displaced during the operation and providing referrals to treatment providers for people with addiction problems.
In the words of National Organised Crime Group manager Detective Superintendent Greg Williams: "Criminal activity in the town was attacking the very fabric of the community."
Senior Sergeant Al Fenwick, who was in charge in Kawerau at the time, told the Rotorua Daily Post "the Mob was selling meth in Kawerau pretty much indiscriminately".
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"They were getting richer and richer and everyone in town noticed.
"We'd sort of come to the realisation from a policing point of view that meth wasn't something we were going to be able to arrest our way out of for want of a better term.
"Locking up people wasn't going to solve the problem. We were fighting hard but we were sort of just keeping our head above the water, or even going backwards."
The small Kawerau team contacted Police Commissioner Mike Bush and he agreed to send the National Organised Crime Group.
Fenwick described this as "no mean feat" because the group usually dealt with major international drug operations.
In total, 360 police staff were deployed to Kawerau and eventually "cleaned out the top echelon of the Mob in Kawerau dealing meth", Fenwick said.
"No one wanted the Kawerau we'd ended up with, where meth addiction was high and gangs were running the town. So it kind of allowed the people of Kawerau to take their town back, and I think they took that opportunity.
"There was a lot more vocal opposition to meth. People who were afraid of repercussions weren't so afraid. We got a big influx of information from the public about all sorts of stuff that wouldn't have come."
However, he said the operation's biggest success was that it approached methamphetamine from a health perspective.
"So all of the people we identified as being customers or meth users, which included some of the dealers, we offered support to get them into counselling. We focused on working together with the community to avoid an 'us versus them' situation."
He said positive feedback came from all over the town, from retirees to gang members.
"Even the people involved could see the damage it was doing to families."
Fenwick said Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau social services were "largely picking up the pieces of these dysfunctional families who had spent all their money on meth instead of looking after their kids".
The services' chief executive Chris Marjoribanks was one of the presentation team in Santa Cruz last week, alongside Greg Williams, Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid, Tūhoe Te Uru Taumatua chief executive Kirsti Luke and Detective Inspector Mike Varnam.
The presentation was more than an hour-long and the group did it twice last week at the event.
Marjoribanks said having Tūwharetoa ki Kawerau on the global stage was "a humbling experience" for the organisation.
He said Kawerau had no funded adult addiction service at the time of Operation Notus.
"So within our organisation, staff with qualifications in that area took on extra workloads so nobody in need was turned away. We wanted to ensure support came from within the community.
"More than 250 people since Operation Notus have made self-referrals to Tūwharetoa for addiction support, principally around methamphetamine. And people are three to four times more likely to have success when they self refer."
He commended the police for treating methamphetamine use as a health issue.
"I would definitely like to see this approach taken elsewhere. If we have enough support in our communities, that's where they [users] should stay, instead of going to prison. That way they can continue work and other roles and reduce the impact on their wider whānau there."