Tauranga's methamphetamine problem is spiralling into an issue bigger than the Rena disaster, school parents have been told.
More than 300 Bay parents gathered at a local high school on Tuesday night to talk about the region's growing methamphetamine crisis and how it is impacting school-aged children.
They listened to a panel of experts including a Tauranga police officer, local drug and addiction workers and former addicts.
The panel included Tauranga police officer Lindsay "Red" Smith who looks after more than 30 families in the Bay who have a child addicted to meth; former meth addict turned social worker Glenn Shee, school educator and ex-drug addict Pat Buckley, as well as a former police sergeant, Brooke White.
White, 29, of Tauranga, was a frontline officer for Auckland Central police for 10 years,
"I came upon a lot of drug use and saw first hand the damage it does."
Although White recently left the force and moved back to the Bay, she wanted to be on the panel at tonight's seminar to offer parents her first-hand experience from the front line, and it is not pretty,
"When I had to attend the accidental meth overdose of a young woman the same age as me, that stuck with me and made me want to try and help where I can by sharing what I know as a police officer."
MC of the event, Tommy Kapai, director of social agency Te Tuinga Whanau Trust, said knowledge is an empowering weapon to "fight the Bay's increasing P epidemic",
At the event, Mr Kapai said he has never seen the school hall so full since the Rena disaster.
He said it was a crisis bigger than the Rena and more poisonous.
"It's everywhere, right across the community and parents need to know that. But this is not about scaremongering. People fear what they don't know. I want people to come away from this armed with knowledge so when their own kids come across this - and they will -families are equipped to deal with it."
The seminar was organised by local mother Erin O'Neill, whose charitable group Brave Hearts supports families coping with the fallout of having a loved one addicted to methamphetamine.
O' Neill's own son is a former P addict who became addicted at just 15 while still at school, an addiction which lasted 10 years. He is now clean.
The Brave Hearts group meets twice monthly in the Bay and attracts new members every meeting.
O'Neill says without knowledge, parents remain in the dark, as she was when she was unaware for four years that her son was smoking meth out of modified light bulbs at home - despite the fact that light bulbs kept going missing.
"I don't want others to go what I went through. This seminar is to support other parents by sharing knowledge."
The seminar will also debunk some of the stigmas about methamphetamine addiction,
Says Kapai, "We need to tackle this as a community - currently there is a stigma about admitting you have a problem or someone in the whanau has a problem, but those walls need to come down. By talking more, gaining knowledge, it gives families more strength."
P: An Awareness Seminar
Organiser Brave Hearts:
0508 272834 (0508 BRAVE Hearts)
Who is invited: The seminar is open to the public and there is no cost. It will be of particular interest to family with school-aged children, and those involved in the education sector, eg teachers.
MC: Tommy Kapai Wilson, author and director, Te Tuinga Whanau
• Lindsay (Red) Smith, senior constable, Tauranga Police
• Pat Buckley, life skills educator, Amped4life and finalist NZer of the year 2012
• Glenn Shee and Taurua Faulkner, Ngai Te Rangi
WHAT WAS DISCUSSED
• How to identify the tell tale signs including behaviour and drug paraphernalia as well as drugs themselves
• The key risk factors for your child
• What support is available
• Skill to cope when a loved one is addicted.