What a marvellous story was the half billion dollar 500kg methamphetamine operation on Ninety Mile Beach last week.

Police glee fair shone all the way from Northland to Wellington, like sunshine glittering on the mighty Tasman.

Epic movies are made of such stuff - maybe a comedy of errors with a cast of allegedly bumbling multi-national mariners, eagle-eyed locals, evil offshore villains, a range of interesting vessels and doubtless oodles more once the whole story comes out.

All set in one of the finest scenic locations on the planet.


It could be the making of Northland - with glistening Ninety Mile Beach rivalling Matamata's Hobbiton as a premier movie tourism destination.

Pre-existing myths based on that legendary stretch of coastline abound too, should sub-plots be required, such as the late Yvonne Rust's (possibly apocryphal) anecdote, in which, back during the 20th century chapter of Northland's ongoing boom-and-bust economy, a visiting millionaire arrived.

I forget his name - but I imagine him something like an old-fashioned fairground snake-oil salesman.

He was peddling Tung oil (drying agent extracted from Vernicia fordii) plantations as a saviour crop for the North. Many trees were planted but the crop failed and the venture went bust ... as they do. Odd paddocks marked with serried rows of Tung oil tree stumps still exist in isolated pockets of the Mangakahia valley.

But anyway, before the scheme's demise, the ostentatious millionaire, who conducted his peregrinations throughout Tai Tokerau in a Rolls-Royce, bogged his Roller on Ninety Mile Beach, whereupon it sank into the sand, never to be seen again. It happens.

Apparently though he went out immediately, bought yet another Roller, drove it too along the beach, suffering exactly the same fate ... meaning there is not one but two Rolls-Royces buried under the fabled Te Oneroa a Tohe, and quite possibly many more hatchets besides.

Of course not everything about Meth, P or any of the drugs generally grouped under the colloquial term "speed" is amusing.

Speed is highly destructive. Users feel energy, stamina, 10-foot tall and bullet-proof, which is why various forms of the drug have been fed routinely to armed forces in battle so they can carry out the unspeakable more easily.

However, users never recover time overspent, living forever with the deficit, and with brains and teeth deliquescing into green cheese.

That said, many latter-day snake-oil salespeople have made good careers scaremongering about P - proselytising in local halls with magic-lantern horror stories and charging voluntary community groups big money better spent helping rather than terrorising.

Fear sells

Lately a whole new meth testing and decontamination industry has grown around P like a rat up a drainpipe, charging exorbitant fees for decontamination and impeding access to State Housing.

Fortunately Dr Nick Kim, senior lecturer in environmental chemistry at Massey University, stated last week that potential effects for new tenants in houses used for past P smoking are no worse than those in moving into a house where people smoked tobacco, or in handling banknotes.

Washing walls and curtains is fine. No reason for $94,000 refits.

Housing NZ needs to step in, allay public fears and stop haemorrhaging the public purse into the hands of those making money out of P.