"They're spending like you didn't earn it."

This was a common thread throughout National Party's deputy leader Paula Bennett's rhetoric when she and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson visited Waihi on Thursday, referring to current Government spending.

The two politicians are on the campaign trail in the lead up to the 2020 election. Paula — who is also spokeswoman for social investment and social services, drug reform and women — has recently been tasked with running the nationwide campaign.

Paula and Scott visited Goldfields Railway, had a chat with Waihi Leader reporters, enjoyed an award winning bacon and egg pie at Waihi Bakery all before their morning tea with Waihi seniors at the Salvation Army.

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Paula spoke to a well-attended, supportive audience of the issues of concern before questions were taken from the audience.

High on the list of topics was drugs and the New Zealand cannabis referendum next year asking if recreational cannabis use should be legalised.

Paula has serious concerns about legalising recreation use. She talked to the crowd through the difference between ingredients tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and the difference between cannabis and medicinal marijuana.

They support medicinal marijuana. The current Government speak of being able to regulate recreational cannabis, Paula says, but she believes the variation of THC potency will create a black market.

She also spoke of possible outcomes — increasing health issues with vaping (especially young people), increasing numbers of people who can't pass drug tests to gain employment and the increase of drug drivers on the road.

"I genuinely worry about normalising it."

Mining was a hot topic at the meeting.

Scott addressed the issue of Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage declining an application from Oceana Gold to purchase farmland near Waihi.

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"It my view Eugenie Sage has a philosophic, ideological opposition to mineral extraction and she would never have approved any application of this sort being requested by Oceana Gold. Now it's going to be judicially reviewed.

"We think this is a devastating blow to the long term prospects for Oceana Gold and Waihi. They have been and continue to be an excellent corporate citizenship providing jobs and economic benefits to the people of Waihi."

Scott points to the coalition Government's ban on oil and gas exploration in Taranaki and stopping the hydro dam on the West Coast.

"It actually speaks to Government putting the hand brakes on economy at every turn. All these things seem to go against the concept of a growing, thriving economy."

Paula spoke of her concern for business confidence, the economy and that no new roads have been created under the current Government to support business.

"They are really good at spending your money. They are spending like they don't know what it's like to earn your own money."

She also spoke on the welfare system, and social housing and how some expect the Government to take care of them — and how Labour grow that expectation.

She believes in a welfare system for those who need it for a time or for those with severe disabilities "but we believe if you can work, you should. Under this current Government, they say if you want to work, you should. I believe that we have got to the point that we have more people on welfare that has gone beyond extreme need."

Concern was expressed by guests about young people and the global spectacle about a climate "crisis".

"We see it all the time. They think the world is going to end in 12 years. They are so anxious ridden about it," Scott says. "We support the creation of an independent climate commission of experts, real experts. There is so much conflicting information out there."


LABOUR RESPONDS
By DR DAVID CLARK
Health Minister

The recreational cannabis referendum will in no way distract police, Customs and other law enforcement agencies from their work disrupting the supply of methamphetamine and synthetic cannabis into our communities.

Police and Customs are working together to combat the organised criminal groups who are supplying meth, and our investment in 1800 extra police staff will go a long way in this area.

Police Minister Stuart Nash advises me these extra police include 200 staff in districts with a specific focus on preventing crime related to drugs. In addition there are 500 national positions focused on combating the harm caused by organised crime and the supply of methamphetamine in our communities.

Reducing drug harm is not just about enforcement though. It requires a multi-agency approach focused on prevention, treatment, and harm reduction as well.
We recognise that drug users caught in the web of addiction will usually benefit more from health treatment options than from prosecution.

We don't want to ruin lives by putting people in jail at a cost to taxpayers of $110,000 a year when a better option is to help them get the treatment they need to get off drugs.

Fear of prosecution can deter people from seeking help to deal with addiction issues. That's why this Government has reaffirmed in law the existing police discretion about when to prosecute and explicitly requires consideration of whether a health-centred or therapeutic approach would be more beneficial.

For example our pilot in Northland, the Te Ara Oranga programme, has resulted in police referring 257 people to the DHB for addiction treatment for methamphetamine.