Warning of increase in Northland kids acting as 'P' couriers

breaking By Raniera Harrison

Claims have surfaced that some Northland school children as young as ten are allegedly becoming involved in the distribution of methamphetamine.

One Northland Māori health provider is speaking up after working with families in some of the region's poorest suburbs.

A senior Māori community health professional is on-guard to stop what he describes as methamphetamine allegedly being accessed by children in some of Northland's most impoverished suburbs.

Chief Executive of Te Hau Āwhiowhio o Ōtangarei, Martin Kaipo warns that "the ages of those distributing methamphetamine have come down to your almost like our grandchildren, and when I talk about grandchildren, those from ten upwards."

An alarming statement from Te Hau Āwhiowhio o Ōtangarei, a community-led health initiative in one of Northland's lowest socio-economic regions. However, others say the problem goes 'all the way to the top'.

"There wasn't enough awareness, there wasn't enough people on the ground doing the work," says former gang president and now Northland regional facilitator of the ManUp programme, Jay Hepi.

"There was a lot of officials at the top doing the work, saying 'hey let's do this and do that'. But it wasn't hitting the ground and, unfortunately, this drug is. We're not even getting any less of it."

Health providers in the North suggest that no firm statistics are readily available around methamphetamine in schools. With cannabis and alcohol-related incidents well documented, now they say their attention is turning to "the new scourge".

"These kids are skipping school to courier for them, to actually move some of the methamphetamine," says Kaipo.

Now, community health providers say the pressure is on the politicians to address the situation in small communities like Ōtangārei - strangled by the drug.

Minister for Regional Development and NZ First MP, Shane Jones says, "We should not be scared nor reluctant to address this issue. It cannot be rectified if it does not see the light of day."

A sentiment Kaipo and those in Ōtangarei lament.

"The solutions have always been dealt with in the communities because we live and we breathe it. We know who those are connected with it."

Anecdotally, Northland schools and agencies say they were used to getting very little help to combat the drug and the responsibility then fell back on the community.

"Quietly plaguing us, like an infestation all because there wasn't enough awareness. There wasn't enough people on the ground doing the work," says, Kaikohe-based, Hepi.

All Kaipo and many community health providers around Northland simply hope is that the children in impoverished suburbs will see a better day.