By JO-MARIE BROWN and ANDY BREW
On a wet, wintry evening last month, around 180 Murupara residents crowded into a school hall to hear about a drug that has already begun to harm their tight-knit community.
Concern about the arrival of P in the small Bay of Plenty town was so great that everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly had turned out. And they were shocked to learn about the devastating effects P was having.
Some cried. Some felt sick. But they also decided that enough was enough.
"We haven't had any of the extreme violence associated with P here yet but it'll only be a matter of time," said Bill Bird, chairman of local iwi authority Te Runanga O Ngati Manawa.
Several methamphetamine laboratories have already been found in Murupara this year after police raided the homes of Tribesmen and Mongrel Mob members, among others.
But in an attempt to stop the drug - which has been linked to violent killings and crimes elsewhere in the country - from becoming entrenched in its town, Murupara has taken the unusual step of declaring itself to be P-free.
Representatives from the police, public health groups, schools, churches, iwi, local businesses and politicians are working together to develop an advertising and education campaign in the town.
Signs will be erected on roadsides as you enter the town, stickers and badges will be handed out and a "P awareness day" is planned.
"It's about getting the message in people's faces that there will be zero tolerance," Mr Bird said.
"We want people to know that if you nark or tell on someone that you suspect of being on the drug, it is not a sin. It's actually helping them."
Murupara's local district councillor Jacob Te Kurapa believed that for a small, rural town - which is a shadow of its former self - P was the last thing it needed.
It was once a thriving mill town but the corporatisation of forests in the late 1980s has seen the population shrink to less than 2000 and left behind a legacy of unemployment and petty crime.
Several shops are empty and others, such as the local chemist, have been forced to install security shutters to qualify for insurance cover.
"Murupara has had its blows and socially we do have our problems. We've got kids as young as six or seven wandering the streets here," said Mr Te Kurapa.
"P is definitely something we can do without, which is why we're forming these strategies."
An advertising campaign - using the slogan "Ngati Manawa P Kore" in reference to the area's iwi saying "no more" P - was a local solution to a local problem, he said.
Getting youngsters involved was one of the keys to banishing methamphetamine use in the town.
"Kids talk about things quite innocently and if we can get them talking about what they see happening then somebody's going to hear it.
"And in the end that information will wind its way back to the proper authorities and users will be caught."
Murupara Primary School's principal Mandy Bird agreed that making young children aware of the harmful effects of P was a good idea.
"We've got to give them the skills to be able to make the right decisions by making sure they're informed and able to withstand peer pressure to say no."
Murupara hopes to implement its P-free strategy ideas over the next two months.
Mr Bird said funding for things such as stickers and signs would soon be sought from various community groups and public organisations.
"Are we concerned about our future? Our children? Of course we are," Mr Bird said.
"We've got to get real. The problem is real so the solution must be real."
* Has the drug P had an impact on your life or your community? Email the Herald News Desk to share your story.
Herald Feature: The P epidemic
By JO-MARIE BROWN and ANDY BREW