Ice inquiry | North East region lacks ice beds


MORE beds to help people deal with ice addiction could a key to tackling the problem on the Border.

Gateway Community Health told the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the drug when it visited Wodonga in February that there were too few beds.

Gateway counsellor Bill Wilson said there was an urgent need for a North East treatment centre.

People were spending “a huge amount of money” on the drug, causing “a significant problem”.

Inquiry member and Murray Valley MP Tim McCurdy said the committee had said in its report more treatment beds should be provided.

“We need to work on the lack of beds in regional Victoria,” he said.

Mr McCurdy said it was much harder to stop using crystal methamphetamine than heroin.

“It’s 30 to 90 days before you can get off ice,” he said.

“When a bed’s in use, it’s tied up for a lot longer time.”

Gateway chief Leonard Peady said it would take some time to digest the committee’s long report.

“We know ice is an issue locally,” he said.

“Our staff are confronted with it and we’re really interested to see the report’s recommendations.”

Victoria Police eastern regional commander Supt Paul O’Halloran said he needed to study the report before commenting.

A spokesman said Victoria Police welcomed the report into the supply and use of methamphetamine and would “take time to read and consider the report findings and recommendations”.

Supt O’Halloran told the inquiry there was “quite clearly” offences in the North East — often involving burglary — driven by ice addiction.

More recently, he said, the ice problem in regional Victoria would need to be a community effort, an approach consistent with many of the report’s 54 recommendations.

The committee found the rise in ice purity was linked to growing awareness and sophistication in making the drug.

Committee member Ben Carroll said there had been a proliferation in local drug labs.

“It has made it very pervasive around regional towns, very cheap and very accessible,” he said.

But Mr McCurdy said although ice was relatively cheap in areas such as the North East, “it’s still a good market for the off-shore markets”.

“We understand more than 50 per cent of ice, crystal meth, comes in from overseas and that the clandestine labs aren’t as big an issue as we would think,” he said.

“The way we’re going to solve this is not through supply reduction — it’s going to be through demand reduction.

“You’ve got to stop people wanting to take it up.

“If you take one dealer out of the market, you’ve got two or three dealers saying ‘great, I can put my prices up’.”