Police bemoan Wanaka's 'apathy' over drugs

An apathy towards serious drug-dealing within the Wanaka community is concerning and needs to change, a police officer involved in last week's drug bust in the town says.

Detective Bryan Gillespie worked on Operation Viking, an undercover police drugs investigation targeting the sale and supply of LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and cannabis in Wanaka, which has resulted in nine arrests to date.

In Wanaka's Crimeline report this week, Det Gillespie said it had been evident ''for some time'' there was a drug culture in Wanaka.

''I have made this a focus for the last 18 months and have collated and analysed numerous pieces of information. We were fully supported by police management, who could see that this was an important issue for the town and that something had to be done.''

Since the start of the investigation, police were aware of at least four people in Wanaka who had become suicidal as a result of drug taking, including one who required hospitalisation, he said.

Police were committed to limiting the availability of the drugs concerned, but it was up to the community to help remove the market for drug dealers and ultimately push them out of town, Det Gillespie said.

''The culture of drug taking and the nature of the drugs involved causes police to have great concern, given the flow-on effect of the normalisation of drug taking within the community and potential exposure of local youth.

''The picture built by the inquiry team to date shows an apathy to this offending within the Wanaka community ... the challenge that faces Wanaka residents is to decide what sort of town they want to live in and what sort of exposure to drugs they want their teenage children to have.''

Det Gillespie said while many of those involved in the drug dealing had been identified as being in Wanaka's ''party scene'', they had also sold class A and B drugs at public events and in or around local pubs.

''Some of the persons involved hold prestige in the community and come from a wide array of backgrounds and occupations, so don't stereotype your average recreational drug taker.''

There were many people ''on the fringes'' of the offending who had been identified and would be spoken to in the weeks to come, while others would face charges in due course.

Det Gillespie said the discreet operation had been a real team effort and one which had not been easy in a small town.

Southern DHB Central Otago alcohol and drug clinician Julie Scurr last week declined to provide any information to the Otago Daily Times on the level or impact of drug-taking in Wanaka, citing privacy issues.

Other drug and alcohol support workers said they were not aware of a problem with class A and B drugs in Wanaka.

-lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz


If you need help

• Contact Lifeline New Zealand, 0800 543-354
• Youthline phone counselling, 0800 376-633
• Citizens Advice Bureau, 0800 367-222.0800
• What's Up (1pm-11pm every day) - 0800 942-8787 (0800 What's Up). 


I find it surprising

I find it surprising that Ms Scurr delined to make any information available to the ODT on the level and impact of drug taking in Wanaka.  There is no need to mention names so where is the privacy issue? Unless information is forthcoming, how can the community judge the severity of the problem.  And as for drug and alcohol support workers not being aware of a class A and B drug problem here, have they not got their ears to the ground so to speak?  Do they perhaps belong to the same group of people in the area who formed part of the opinion in a recently cited survey in the ODT that alcohol is not perceived to be a problem.  Wake up before these problems become entrenched or you can kiss the Wanaka Lifestyle Reserve slogan good bye.