- Publish Date
- Thursday, 19 July 2018, 8:55AM
A Moerewa couple is urging other New Zealanders to follow their lead in persuading a shop owner to pull glass pipes used for smoking P from its shelves.
Last Thursday Erana Paraone and Wiremu Keretene asked staff at Coin Save in Kawakawa to stop selling glass pipes commonly used for methamphetamine, a class A drug better known as meth or P.
The couple — who have been campaigning against the drug for several years as well as supporting locals trying to break their addictions — filmed their encounter in the store then posted it to Facebook. As of yesterday it had been viewed more than 138,000 times.
The video shows a cabinet full of meth pipes and Keretene politely asking a Coin Save staff member to pull them from the shelves.
''You may have heard of methamphetamine. It's a drug which is basically destroying our people,'' Keretene told the sales assistant.
''We've just noticed that some of the utensils they use, you're providing to our community which we're trying to help. So we've come to ask you about taking them off the shelf.''
The staff member said the pipes were intended for tobacco and sold only to adults, but acknowledged problems such as adults buying pipes and giving them to under-age users.
As an employee he couldn't make decisions but he promised to pass the couple's request to the business owner.
When the couple returned this week hoping to meet the owner they found the pipes had been withdrawn from both the Kawakawa and Kaikohe stores.
Paraone said she had been amazed by the response to the video, and hoped it set a precedent for others to follow. Family members had alerted them to the meth pipes so they had made the video to show anyone could ask for drug equipment to be removed.
'We never expected the video to go viral.''
Keretene said they had received message of support for their kaupapa from Whangārei to Whakatane. The couple had been asked to do the same thing in other towns but it was up to local people to take action in their own areas, he said.
They had taken a non-confrontational approach and returned to the store to thank the owner. They urged others to visit the shop to thank staff for supporting the meth-free kaupapa.
''You take a positive approach, you get a positive outcome. We encourage others to do the same thing in their communities.''
Paraone said removing the pipes wouldn't end the P problem but use of the drug had been normalised by the easy, and highly visible, availability of pipes. Meth pipes were no longer sold in the Kawakawa area though there was still a shop in Moerewa selling bongs for smoking cannabis.
The couple are part of a largely self-funded campaign to reduce meth use called Whānau Tuatahi, along with people like Arthur Harawira, reformed gang members Phil Paikea and Jay Hepi, and Ngāti Hine Health Trust.
The couple's wake-up call came when a relative was bashed almost to death by her meth-using partner, Paraone said. The drug didn't just affect the user but also their wider family and community.
Paraone, a former kick boxer, also runs a gym in Moerewa offering fitness training to people trying to break their addictions, and is about to start an empowerment course called Mareikura to teach girls aged 5-12 life skills and show them positive life choices.
Keretene is working with kaumātua on a potential rāhui (cultural ban) against P, which would send a powerful signal that meth had no place in Māori culture.
The couple are also turning their attention to imports of P pipes, questioning why possession of drug utensils is a crime yet businesses are allowed to import and sell drug paraphernalia under the guise of tobacco pipes, or incense burners.
Coin Save's Kawakawa landlord, who did not want to be named, said she didn't realise the shop was selling P pipes until she saw the video on Facebook.
When she visited the store to talk to the owner the pipes had already been withdrawn. The language barrier and a degree of naiveté may have meant staff weren't entirely sure what they were used for.
''The thing is that they got rid of them immediately.''
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is an offence to possess any pipe or other utensil for the purpose of consuming drugs.
However, a spokeswoman for New Zealand Police said selling pipes was not illegal because the utensils could be used for other, legal purposes.
Northland is believed to have particularly high rates of P use. That is borne out by tests of Whangārei wastewater showing levels of the drug twice as high as in Auckland and four times Christchurch levels.
The Advocate has asked Northland MPs whether they believe the laws on drug utensils need to be tightened.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is reproduced here with permission.