The sentence of imprisonment handed down to a man in possession of more than 137.5kg of methamphetamine has been welcomed by those who say the drug could have caused significant harm to the community.
Lionel James Ruka McDonald, 42, was yesterday sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison for possession of methamphetamine for supply. He has a seven-year non-parole period.
McDonald had 137.5kg of the drug in packages in his vehicle and in storage units, when Rotorua police executed search warrants in Fairy Springs on August 14 and 15 last year. The estimated street value was more than $137 million and had the potential to cause $170m in social harm if distributed in the community.
Rotorua deputy mayor and former police officer Dave Donaldson welcomed the sentence Judge Greg Hollister-Jones imposed and believed it was "entirely appropriate".
"I applaud the sentencing judge [for imposing a] deterrent sentence for this level of crime."
Donaldson said the "devastation and impact" of methamphetamine was felt throughout the community and that was well documented.
"As a community, we're living with the effect of it, the human and financial cost of it. It takes a toll on families. That's not just the addicts, it's wider whānau.
"I know iwi leaders are absolutely appalled at the toll it's taking on their whānau."
Donaldson said methamphetamine was only emerging at the end of his policing career.
"Meth is the currency of organised crime. That's a real evil development in our criminal underground so to speak," he said.
Two arrested after operation targeting organised crime
"I know it's of extreme concern."
However, Te Pukenga Kōeke o Te Arawa chairman Paraone Pirika questioned whether McDonald's sentence was enough and said if the drug had made its way to the streets it could have resulted in loss of life.
"You can just imagine how many kids are going to be traumatised. You can just imagine the effect on families and the money they have available."
He said there were "a hell of a lot of reasons why" it was important to get methamphetamine out of the community.
"We have just seen so much stuff happening ... It really rots this place. People on P are uncontrollable. They go into survival mode, only thinking about themselves."
Richard Chambers, Assistant Police Commissioner of Investigations, Serious and Organised Crime, said it was a "significant seizure" which "equates to 10 weeks' consumption of methamphetamine for the whole country".
"This interception was an example of excellent work by Bay of Plenty Police staff and the removal of this amount of methamphetamine from the market will prevent significant harm in our communities."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the police did a great job dealing with the impacts of drugs locally and in partnership with the council's community safety work.
"This drug is a scourge in our country and the resultant behaviour causes much community disquiet and fear," she said.
"We all loathe the impact on families and the disruption caused in people's lives and in the wider community."
The Bay of Plenty has some of the highest rates of methamphetamine and cocaine use in New Zealand, according to a study of the region's wastewater released in October.
The study revealed the average daily drug use per 1000 people in each policing district between May and July. It found about 900mg of methamphetamine was used each day per 1000 people in the Bay of Plenty.
Do you need help?
Anyone affected by meth addiction is urged to seek help through the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787797, or free text 1737 to speak with a trained counsellor.
Anyone with information about the sale and supply of illegal substances in the community should contact their local Police station, or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.