New Zealand Drug Foundation Parliamentary Symposium Reception
E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou
I specifically acknowledge:
The Honorable Peeni Henare
Members of Parliament, including The Cross-Party Mental Health and Addictions Wellbeing Group
Tuari Potiki, New Zealand Drug Foundation Chairperson, and Board members
Sarah Helm (Executive Director of the NZ Drug Foundation)
Kirsten Horsburgh (CEO of the Scottish Drugs Forum)
Sione Crawford (CEO of Harm Reduction Victoria)
Arild Knutsen (Leader of the Association for Humane Drug Policies, Norway)
Many thanks to the Cross-Party Mental Health and Addictions Wellbeing Group for hosting this Symposium today, and I appreciate the invitation to speak to you all.
I hope today’s programme has been inspiring and informative, and you have acquired knowledge and insights that will help reduce drug harm, here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and further afield.
The whakatauki I orea te tuatara ka patu ki waho suggests a problem is solved by continuing to find solutions. It also implies that process may take some time, and a variety of approaches will be required.
Tuari, I want to acknowledge your long-term commitment to dealing with the realities of drug use, harm minimisation, but most importantly, an evidence-based and humane approach to drugs within our society. Thank you e te rangatira.
My husband Richard is a medical practitioner who works with people with a range of addiction issues – so, we both have a strong interest in the work of the New Zealand Drug Foundation. My many years in public health taught me to appreciate the complexity of these issues but also instilled me with resolve to address areas of drug use and harm.
The evidence is clear: zero-tolerance policies do not work when it comes to recreational drug use.
I want to thank everyone here today, whatever role you play in reducing drug harm, for your commitment to find strategies that are informed, humane and effective.
I appreciate the stigma you may have faced in doing this work. No doubt there are naysayers who choose to believe your work is about condoning or encouraging drug use.
I also know so much of what you do is probably unheralded – or undertaken on a voluntary basis.
The fact that this Symposium is being held in the Parliamentary complex – and is being hosted by a cross-Party group – confirms that you are achieving traction with your mission.
The Award of Royal New Zealand Honours to people in the sector is another sure sign of that societal attitudes are becoming more enlightened.
As Governor-General, I have the privilege of presenting insignia to Honours recipients at Government House. This year, those recipients include seven from your sector.
Christine Rogan and Professor Emerita Lynne Connor received their insignia earlier in the year at Government House Auckland.
At our most recent investiture ceremonies at Government House Wellington, I was delighted to present Ian MacEwan, Te Puea Winiata, Shirleen Prasad, Lotta Dann and Wendy Allison with their insignia.
Their accolades are a sign of greater willingness to embrace the messages around drug use.
To everyone here tonight who played a part in helping Wendy establish KnowYourStuffNZ as a world first for licensed drug-checking – thank you for what you have achieved. This new tool enables us to help keep people safe from harmful drugs and to reduce drug use, as a result of conversations with people about their risky behaviours.
This audience will be keenly aware of the 54 percent increase in deaths from drug overdose in Aotearoa between 2017 and 2021 and further worldwide trends with use of both existing and emerging highly addictive drugs. Education and an informed response will always be appropriate ways in which we must respond as a country.
When it comes to drugs, ignorance may be bliss – but it can just as easily lead to fatal outcomes.
I appreciate the value you add to the early warning system operating in Aotearoa, and acknowledge the challenges you face in a constantly evolving drug environment.
New approaches can make a difference.
On behalf of my fellow New Zealanders, I thank you all for your efforts on their behalf, whether it be as a clinician, harm-reduction practitioner, researcher, policy-maker, peer support worker, or politician, and I wish you all the very best for your collective efforts to transform the way New Zealand addresses drug issues.
Kia kaha e koutou, kia manawanui.
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.