Regional Australia is bearing the brunt of the ice epidemic.
Regional Australia is bearing the brunt of the ice epidemic. kaarsten

Regional communities bear brunt of ice addiction

AS THE Special Commission of Inquiry into the drug "ice" went to Broken Hill this week, it became clear how devastating the drug can be to regional communities, which were bearing the brunt of the issue across the country.

There, social worker Michelle Kelly explained how 21 children had been removed from their family home between January last year and April this year. In all cases ice was a factor.

According to data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, while use of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, has been increasing across the country, use in regional areas was growing significantly faster than that of metropolitan areas.

The entire coastal area from Mid-North Coast to the Richmond and Tweed have a rate of more than 100 people per 100,000 involved in incidents of possession or use of amphetamines in the 12 months to March this year.

A map on the BOCSAR website made plain the pattern emerging of higher usage in the regions.

In Coffs Harbour and Grafton, use and possession was up almost 10 per cent in the past five years but had remained stable in the past two. While this could be seen as a positive step, the rate per population of 100,000 remained high at 117 people.

Across regional NSW, possession or use had risen 8.7 per cent in the five years to March last year and 11 per cent in two years. What this showed was the rate of amphetamine use was rising at a rate almost double that of the metropolitan areas of Sydney.

A representative for NSW Police said the Coffs/Clarence Police District used several initiatives and strategies to target and disrupt the use and supply of prohibited drugs in the region. Police Minister David Elliot said NSW had some of the lowest crime rates in 20 years, and the changing nature of crime meant it was vital more police were needed.

The NSW Government was assigning 450 extra police across the state over the next 12 months. They would include eight new officers for the Coffs/Clarence police district.