Many people in rural areas are ''living in fear'' of drug
growers and dealers taking advantage of isolated conditions,
Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) executive officer Noeline Holt
RWNZ and Federated Farmers New Zealand asked their members
for feedback on the Ministry of Health's New National Drug
Policy, which sets out the Government's approach for tobacco,
alcohol, and illegal and other drugs.
Mrs Holt said the main concerns of the almost 400 people who
responded were about legal highs, marijuana plantations and
''Some of the most isolated homes and houses can be easily
accessed and [drug manufacturers] can discreetly manufacture
to their heart's content.
''Generally speaking, these kinds of nefarious activities,
including marijuana plantations, generally involve firearms.
There is a reasonable level of fear out there.''
Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson said
farmers in the region did have a concern about marijuana
''There have been many a farmer that have tripped upon [a
plantation] without too much effort.
''It is a concern if there is a marijuana patch on their
properties, because the growers are trespassing on their
farms. There's also an element of criminal intent when people
grow marijuana, so the farmers' properties are under threat.
''I don't think [they] are afraid, but they are concerned.''
Mr MacPherson said employers often had a hard time finding
genuine employees because of the isolated areas they were
expected to live in.
''Some employers are so desperate for workers that they'll
take anybody on, and so sometimes they'll take on people that
are drug users and dealers.
''I think if you have a good employee with a drugs or alcohol
problem, a good employer should show some compassion and help
that person through that difficulty.''
Mrs Holt said she was impressed with the number of
respondents who had workplace drug and alcohol policies in
place, and how supportive they were of their workers.
''The respondents said they would support and help a person
who had a problem because it is hard to get good workers.
''If people are impaired, they are a risk to not only
themselves but to the animals and people working with them,
so it is a genuine concern.
''I was impressed by the willingness of employers to help
support people through their problems.''
The RWNZ sent a submission to the New National Drug Policy
discussion document in February. The Government is aiming to
have the new policy ready by June this year.
- by Leeana Tamati