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Testing reveals district’s meth use

Gisborne’s first test results for the level of illicit drugs in the city’s wastewater show methamphetamine accounted for 85 percent of drug residue found in the sewerage system.

The testing also showed that daily methamphetamine use in the Eastern police district — Hawke’s Bay, Wairoa and Gisborne — was close to 1000 milligrams per 1000 people.

Ecstasy use was around 130mg a day per 1000 people.

In both drug categories, the Eastern district amount was second only to Northland.

Gisborne District Council joined the testing programme earlier this year after previously voting not to.

Police have released results from the nationwide programme for the third quarter and Gisborne results are included for the first time.

The programme covers around 80 percent of New Zealand’s population. Drugs tested for were methamphetamine (P), cocaine, heroin, MDMA(Ecstasy) and fentanyl. Testing did not include cannabis.

“Methamphetamine use is most prevalent per capita in the Northland police district, followed by the Eastern district,” police said.

Results show 85 percent of the illicit drug waste found in Gisborne wastewater was from methamphetamine use, with the remaining 15 percent MDMA.

Wairoa’s wastewater results featured 97 percent meth and 3 percent MDMA.

In Hastings, it was 94 percent meth and 5 percent MDMA.

In Napier, it was 93 percent meth and 6 percent MDMA.

A small amount of cocaine was detected in both these cities.

Cocaine, heroin and fentanyl use did not show up on the Gisborne test results.

In terms of per capita use of meth, Northland’s figure was marginally closer to 1000mg a day per 1000 people than Eastern, followed by Bay of Plenty on about 860, Central 685, Waikato and Tamaki Makaurau 665, Wellington just over 600, Tasman 480, Canterbury 430 and Southern 230.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the council was happy to support police with the testing programme.

“It enables them to collect information that allows them to better inform and resource their work in this area.”

Area police commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said he was pleased Gisborne and Wairoa had been included as part of the programme.

“We have recently received the third-quarter results, which identify the proportion of drug use detected in both catchments for the May-July period,” he said.

“We don’t have anything to benchmark this against at this stage since we only joined earlier this year.

“Tairawhiti police in Gisborne and Wairoa are working with agencies and communities to reduce methamphetamine in our communities and I look forward to working with Mayor Rehette Stoltz and (Wairoa) Mayor Craig Little going forward.”

Findings put cost of social harm at $19m a weekPolice headquarters said the information provided by the testing helped police and other agencies make informed decisions around drug treatment services and initiatives to combat organised crime groups dealing in meth and other drugs.

Nationally the tests showed average weekly use of the detected drugs in the quarter had an estimated street value of $8.9 million.

“This is estimated to generate approximately $464 million of criminal profit annually across the country,” police said.

“Methamphetamine remains the most commonly detected illicit drug nationwide, with approximately 15kg consumed on average each week nationally.

“Detected average methamphetamine use translates to an estimated $19 million per week in social harm.

“Annually, this could equate to more than $1 billion.”

MDMA was the second most commonly detected illicit drug across the country, with an estimated consumption rate of 7.9kg on average each week.

MDMA use was most prevalent in Southern District (Southland), closely followed by Tamaki Makaurau.

Cocaine was detected in low quantities, approximately 907g on average each week and more prevalent in the Auckland region (per capita) than anywhere else in the country.

Overall fentanyl consumption averaged 1g per week.

Police said as fentanyl had only been tested for very recently, it was too early to draw conclusions about what proportion of the fentanyl in wastewater is illicit.

Heroin was not detected at any of the testing sites between November 2018 and July 2019.

“This is consistent with other indicators that the opiate (heroin) user population in New Zealand is very low.”

Meth is a highly addictive drug that is most often smoked using a glass pipe.New Zealand Herald file photograph by Mike Scott