NZ Election 2020: National's anti-meth plan: Introduce 'Matrix' rehab course, 'crack down on kingpins' with tech intelligence

The National Party's plan to stamp out meth includes introducing a 'Matrix' rehab programme developed in the United States, and cracking down on drug "kingpins" by funding more technology intelligence. 

National wants to roll-out the 'Matrix Programme' across New Zealand, a rehabilitation scheme developed in the US through the 1980s to respond to cocaine addiction, of which the Australian city Adelaide based a pilot programme on in 2017. 

It's designed as a 20-week programme - estimated to cost $8 million a year - involving three sessions a week of two to three hours of group therapy, with a one to two year follow-up. Participants in the programme are tested for drug use weekly. 

If elected in October, National would deploy the 'Matrix Methamphetamine Treatment Pilot Programme' across five District Health Boards (DHBs) in 11 locations to provide direct support to those recovering from meth use. 

A $50 million fund would be set up to pilot new or scaled-up whole-community harm reduction programmes, and 13 detox beds would be set up to ensure every DHB is available to assist with in-patient detoxing from meth. 

National would also increase funding for drug intelligence to enable Customs, police and health authorities to better identify drugs coming into New Zealand. 

More drug dogs would be introduced to airports, while police and health would get more funding to identify new drugs and bad batches sooner, and a new strategy would be worked on to try to reduce meth use in prisons. 

"There is no single solution to what has become a scourge on our society," National leader Judith Collins said on Monday. "A National Government will tackle this problem from all angles, addressing both demand and supply."

National's plan is to address both demand and the supply side of meth in New Zealand.  

"We will use the full force of the criminal justice system to crack down on drug kingpins and use the health and social sector to deliver a more compassionate and systematic approach to getting drug users into treatment and support them back to health," the policy says. 

National's meth reduction policy:

  • Deploy 'Matrix' rehab programme across five DHBs in 11 locations to support meth addicts
  • Add 13 detox beds for meth addicts across New Zealand
  • Have at least one full-time specialist per DHB to assist with detoxing
  • Establish a $50 million contestable fund to pilot new or scaled-up whole-community harm reduction programmes
  • Increase funding for drug intelligence to enable Customs, police and health authorities to identify drugs coming into New Zealand, and identify new drugs and bad batches sooner
  • Deploy more drug dogs at airports
  • Try and decrease use of meth in prisons

The prevalence of methamphetamine in New Zealand communities has a massive impact on families, as Newshub's National Correspondent Patrick Gower revealed in his special investigation in July.

The closure of the border due to the COVID-19 has forced criminals to rethink supply lines for hard drugs, with Customs seizing 109 kilograms of meth in the six months to the end of June, down from 590 kilos for the same period last year.

But police busted 38 meth labs between January and June, 15 more than last year, showing how the drug is being manufactured locally.

"There can be no tolerance for the dealing and supply of methamphetamine. Those who peddle this drug are responsible for the misery and social harm it causes," says National's justice spokesperson Simon Bridges.

"We will build capacity to interdict the international crime cartels that are bringing this problem to our shores. Good intelligence and international co-operation will be a priority under National."

The Government announced $20 million in July for nine community-based schemes tackling meth use across Northland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Tairāwhiti and Otago.

But National is criticising the Government for cancelling National's Meth Action Plan - announced by former Prime Minister John Key in 2009 - which set $10 million aside each year from proceeds made up of seized criminal money.  

According to a Cabinet paper shown to Stuff, the Government cancelled the programme as it is considered a "broader-based approach to crime-related harm was needed".

With meth as the most commonly detected illicit drug nationwide and recent wastewater testing estimating it accounted for over half of the detected drugs in New Zealand, National wants to crack down on it by unifying Government resources to stamp it out.

National wants to invest in the latest innovations and technology and deploy it at New Zealand's airports, ports and distribution centres where it is likely the majority of drug shipments get through without detection.

It would also crack down on illegal smuggling of cash and money laundering to stop Chinese and South American syndicates and New Zealand gangs from "making super profits" from meth distribution.

Data and artificial intelligence would be used to analyse drug use, criminal networks and patterns of supply so enforcement agencies could better disrupt both demand and supply.

National released its law and order policy last month, which included a proposal to help fund the relocation of recently released prisoners so they can have a fresh start.