I had just completed the blog below when I heard about today’s attack on people in Christchurch, by at least one male self-proclaimed white supremacist. Guns and meth, meth and guns, the message is clear: New Zealand is becoming less safe and more like the USA. I do not yet know what toll has been taken by today’s events. I do know I have already had two comments reported to me approving of this gun crime. I find this almost incomprehensible. I am sure we will hear more.
In the meantime, my story today is about some events of 18 months ago, again in Christchurch.
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The trial of my grandson’s killers has further exposed an underbelly in New Zealand that would not be out of place in a Chicago ghetto. Two drug dealers, each owning an armoury of guns, take a third out to an isolated place and shoots him dead.
While superficially not about drugs, but about a woman who all three had ties to, the events of 4 September 2017 were driven almost completely by two unassailable truths: all of the participants were heavy users of ‘meth’, or ‘P’, and all were used to operating in a violent environment with plenty of weapons.
I am pleased to report that, watching the trial, I felt none of the crazed need for revenge that seems to emerge in many of the families whose children are the victims of violent crime. I did not feel the need to call for the death penalty or for the young men to be locked away for life. I just felt really sad.
Bradley was a sweet boy who had a difficult upbringing. He had a lovely sense of humour and was intelligent, albeit rather under-educated. Many of his family and friends were very fond of him, and took him in when needed. He was a strong and large young man, and good looking before he covered his face with ugly gangland tattoos. I always told him (pre tattoo) that he would be a wonderful firefighter, rescuing kittens from trees and babies from fires. He left behind a lovely young son who I hope will have a great life.
He got involved in a gang very early on and, though he said he wanted to break free, this was nearly impossible. Despite spending 8 months in pre-trial detention (remand), and then receiving an excellent talking to by the judge, and a home and support from his son’s grandmother, he was not able to keep out of trouble. I suspect he was probably a drug user all the way through, and that this drove many of his choices.
He died, alone apart from his killers, in a terrible execution-type killing, both eyes shot out, on the banks of the beautiful Waimakariri River. His Grandad would really have suffered, so I am please he pre-deceased Brad by a few months.
At the heart of this is the meth industry and the burgeoning meth usage, which has been creeping across communities for years. The first high, so they say, is so pleasurable, and the first low so terrible, that people thereafter pursue the twin goals of repeating that first experience (which cannot happen) and avoiding the lows.
In the process that addiction becomes so strong, the psychological effects are so profound and the physical effects so devastating that the person is completely changed. Getting off the meth, I have been told, is virtually impossible, and most who attend treatment end up either back on the drug or committing suicide.
It ruins families. You cannot be a good parent and a meth addict, as the drug highs and lows come to dominate one’s daily practices. Some say that meth use is compatible with a normal life: that meth users can work at a daily job and hold down a normal life. This may be true for some. My experience of it is that it leads to a lovely young man dying alone on a riverbank.
We all know that this drug is flooding in to New Zealand either as precursors or in finished form. It is, probably a multi-billion-dollar industry. Recent stories cover the emergence of the drug in the Pacific Island community, with devastating effects. Many women in prison are addicts.
For the past few days I have seen in front of me two men who both contributed to the spread of the drug through dealing, and were themselves heavy users. Most heavy users need to become dealers in order to afford their habit. One of them also has a significant mental health problem, which was probably both medicated by and made worse by the meth. They will both now spent a big hunk of their lives in prison.
I am glad they are going to prison. They spread misery in the community and killed my grandson. But they are also people’s sons and siblings, people for whom once there were aspirations and hopes. What will Kasha, what will Cody, turn out to be? Police officers, trades people, teachers…. or murderous drug dealers?
In every batch of meth and precursor smuggled into New Zealand, guns of various types are thrown in. Armed hyped up meth dealers are normalising gun crime in New Zealand. Drugs/ guns are a couplet, and a very dangerous one.
I think our country needs a better understanding to the methamphetamine industry in New Zealand and its spread and effects. Also how to push back against, and heal, the harm that it causes and get rid of the guns. While I hesitate to advocate for an inquiry, there being so many, I think that things have come to such a pass that this is now necessary.
Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research. Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).