A LARGE group of people met at Maraenui Marae to assist the fight against methamphetamine. Photos supplied

A TO-do list has been started to help in the fight against methamphetamine on the East Coast.

The plan of action, which includes the establishment of a marae programme, courses and a forum for youth, along with billboards and stickers to raise awareness, has evolved from a hui at Maraenui Marae last weekend which saw 200 people gather for the common goal of tackling meth use within their communities.

Opotiki district councillor and meeting organiser, Louis Rapihana, said people from all hapu of Te Whanau a Apanui attended along with other Bay of Plenty iwi, invited guest speakers and Opotiki Mayor Lyn Riesterer.

Watching so many people walking onto the marae to be part of the important project was a moving moment for him.

Speaker Kevin Hollingsworth talked to the crowd about his time using meth and how he “had a PhD in how to hide it, or so he thought”.

“He spoke about how it affected relationships with family members and friends,” Mr Rapihana said.

“It also meant time in prison – this was the wake-up call for him.”

Mr Rapihana said Mr Hollingsworth brought his mother with him – “someone who had seen the effects of this evil drug”.

“He then went into his journey around coming clean and how he’s working with users with groups he has started.

“As a counsellor he has worked with people ranging from eight to 70 years, who are struggling with the effects of drugs and alcohol.”

Mr Hollingswoth brought samples of what users used to inhale meth, showing how they would become creative with hiding things in ordinary items like a computer mouse and light bulbs.

“He even brought different sizes of meth bags filled with rock salt to show the people what weights they come in,” Mr Rapihana said.

Opotiki woman Pauline Tai spoke about her journey with using and selling meth, the struggles she has had not only in getting clean, but also how it has impacted her reputation in the community.

“She mentioned the group she created S.T.O.P – Stop Taking Our People,” Mr Rapihana said.

“Pauline now has groups all over doing and sharing their views with different facilitators and she mentioned how she tried to take this kaupapa into Whakatohea, but no one was interested.”

Another speaker, Dennis Makalio from Porirua, spoke about the movement he created to help the fight meth in his city by educating the rangitahi.

“He thinks this is the only way we’ll win the battle; he believes we cannot help the addicts, as it’s too late,” Mr Rapihana said.

“We need to focus on saving the future with education.”

Mr Rapihana said Mr Makalio had been fighting for a long time to have the Government acknowledge that this was a crisis and action was needed now.

Mokeke Poihipi closed the korero providing living proof that people can make change if they really want to.

“Mokeke spoke about how she lost her children and when she had another she knew she was going to lose her if she didn’t make a change, so she moved back to Maraenui where she found support from her whanau – something that had been missing in her life.

The day closed with final words from people of all walks of life including teachers, clinicians, gang members and kaumatua.

Another hui is planned, most likely in January.