Manawatu candidates face off over youth crime, methamphetamine

Grey Power members listen to candidates for Palmerston North pitch for votes.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Grey Power members listen to candidates for Palmerston North pitch for votes.

Manawatu politicians agree that arresting and locking up young offenders will not solve the region's youth crime problems, but that has not stopped candidates from getting a grilling about their plans.

Many questions from the crowd of Grey Power members at a candidates meeting in Palmerston North on Wednesday touched on law and order, including dealing with methamphetamine and youth crime.

NZ First MP Darroch Ball said the youth justice system was failing, as many young offenders were being given pre-charge warnings or discharges without conviction.

From left, Darroch Ball (NZ First), Robin McCandless (Green) and Iain Lees-Galloway (Labour) at a debate hosted by Grey ...
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

From left, Darroch Ball (NZ First), Robin McCandless (Green) and Iain Lees-Galloway (Labour) at a debate hosted by Grey Power.

"It's a conveyor belt of youth crime. Just under half of adult prisoners have gone through the youth justice system."

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That had led to the group of 150 young offenders who had more than 1000 convictions between them, who National wants to send to a year-long bootcamp based at Waiouru Training Camp. 

National candidate for Palmerston North Adrienne Pierce during a debate hosted by Grey Power. Seated, from left, Darroch ...
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

National candidate for Palmerston North Adrienne Pierce during a debate hosted by Grey Power. Seated, from left, Darroch Ball (NZ First), Robin McCandless (Green) and Iain Lees-Galloway (Labour).

Ball wanted a demerit points system for young offenders. Those who offended and their families would be given support, but if they racked up points they would be sent to court, he said.

Other solutions were more police, increased funding for Customs to stop drug materials at the border, and a system  that would  kick out people who used methamphetamine from state houses and put them on a register available to landlords for seven years, Ball said.

The Green Party's Rangitikei candidate Robin McCandless​ spoke directly to Ball when saying the register would end with people sleeping in cars for seven years.

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway has his turn at the microphone.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway has his turn at the microphone.

"Addiction comes from hopelessness. You are going to make it worse.

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"You can't just beat them with a stick. That will make them more miserable and wanting to get high to take away the pain."

More money could be funnelled into the fight against methamphetamine if a different stance was taken to softer drugs  such as cannabis, he said.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie confirms he is a SuperGold Card user.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie confirms he is a SuperGold Card user.

A more unequal society, with people working two or three jobs just to pay rent, would always lead to more crime, so increasing benefit entitlements and the minimum wage would help solve that, he said.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie said reintegrating former prisoners into society was difficult, as many people did not want them in their neighbourhoods.

The toughest part of tackling the methamphetamine problem was stopping  its ingredients getting into the country.

National's pledge to increase  Defence Force spending would enable the navy and air force to do more patrols, McKelvie said.

National's Palmerston North candidate Adrienne Pierce said dealing to gangs was key.

"[Drugs] are a huge financial opportunity for them.

"It's not a low socio-economic problem. It's across our entire country."

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway said former Prime Minister Sir John Key's war on P had done little, apart from making it harder to get cold and flu medication containing pseudoephedrine – an ingredient used when making methamphetamine.

More police and upgrading Customs was a start, but the bigger picture was more important.

"It is a symptom of poverty and inequality.

"We have to build a society where people have so much hope and so many opportunities that they don't turn to this poison.

"Housing, education, the 70,000 young people not in work or training – until we deal with those, we can't fix the other issue."

 - Stuff

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