Marijuana growers causing 'level of fear'

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 says.

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 methamphetamine manufacturing.

''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 plantations.

''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 

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