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Methamphetamine has become a “scourge” on the Waitaki district, mayor Gary Kircher says.

Mr Kircher’s comments came after figures released to the Oamaru Mail under the Official Information Act reveal the number of methamphetamine-related court proceedings in the district has increased.

He has called on the community to “step up” by reporting any information relating to the sale and use of the Class A drug in the Waitaki district to police.

“It’s a community problem and it needs a community solution,” he said.

“Police have a role of enforcement, but the community needs to step up and make sure they have as much information as possible.

“We know there is dealing going on .. we [also] know a lot of thefts that are happening around the district are drug-related.

“The more information police have on that the more chance they have of dealing with the problem of drug use.”

Installing CCTV cameras and co-ordinating social agencies through Safer Waitaki were ways the Waitaki District Council was helping to combat the problem, Mr Kircher said.

A methamphetamine community response group, made up of social services dealing with the various aspects of drug-related harm, has also been set up under the Safer Waitaki umbrella to investigate how to best tackle the problem.

“It is more indirect support that [the council] can give, rather than direct,” he said.

“We are not legislated to have any particular role, which limits what we can do .. but we are pushing for more central government funding.”

Oamaru police referred all media inquiries about methamphetamine in the Waitaki district to the police’s media centre in Wellington.

National Drug Intelligence Bureau detective inspector Blair MacDonald said the increase in methamphetamine-related court proceedings in the Waitaki district was small and, as such, it was “not possible for police to speculate on what may have caused the increase”.

However, he acknowledged that illicit drugs were causing “significant harm in our communities”.

National border closures, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, had disrupted international methamphetamine supply chains and made it harder for the finished drug to get into New Zealand, he said.

This “may have led to a moderate increase in domestic methamphetamine production”, he said.

Across the country, police seized 26% more methamphetamine in May 2020 than in May 2019.

“This indicates effective policing during a time of likely reduced methamphetamine supply and availability,” Det Insp MacDonald said.

The National Drug Intelligence Bureau had also received “numerous” reports of methamphetamine selling for more than $1000 per gram and $10,000 per ounce – double the average pre-Covid-19 price.

“This follows a general pattern where the further away from Tamaki Makaurau [Auckland] the sale occurs, the more expensive methamphetamine prices are,” he said.

“However, as Covid-19 restrictions have eased, we have seen prices fall again.”

As the alert level restrictions had eased, police had observed a return to “business as usual” for organised criminal groups, he said.

Last month, police arrested two people and seized methamphetamine, cannabis and firearms after a series of search warrants were executed in Oamaru.

Court proceedings for methamphetamine-related offences in Waitaki.-

2017: 1

2018: 19

2019: 23

2020 (January to June): 7

Source: NZ Police data released to the Oamaru Mail under the Official Information Act.