It's a crisis that's been likened to the Rena, but more toxic.
It's the methamphetamine problem, and one which Matua Parkinson, a Western Bay of Plenty District Health Board member and former Maori All Black and New Zealand sevens star, has turned his attention to.
He and an entrepreneurial mate have come up with an electronic device which will alert owners or managers of rental properties when it detects methamphetamine precursors in a house.
“Methamphetamine is evil stuff - a scourge - and we'll do anything we can to help,” explains Matua.
The P Alert alarm is the size of a mobile phone, but twice as thick.
“P cooks need a power source and a water source, so the P Alert alarm would be hidden in the kitchen, the laundry or garage of a house which has been let or rented.” If it senses the precursors, the nasty stuff, then it sends a message to the desired telephone number.
“Then the best course of action is pretty much 111 – ring the police. They know about the P Alert and are supportive.”
The idea was born out of a boxing match. “I was training for a fight in Te Awamutu. Jamie Hanson's a bit of an entrepreneur and we were chatting about world things and we decided we should make it hard for the P cooks.”
A few months later he had the prototype for the P Alert. “He asked me to get involved because he needed a good-looking face to market it.”
He jokes about a serious problem, but he says the P Alert has already had a hit. “There are privacy issues, but it was copybook stuff. A Tauranga person had let their house for a week and cash was paid up front, which was a bit funny and a bit suspicious. The people were in there for two days when the P Alert messaged me and the property manager. By the time I rang police they were already on their way.”
The device costs $599. “That's a relatively small cost to help protect a rental investment of at least $300,000. And people don't want to let their homes over summers only to return to a place contaminated with methamphetamine.”
Apparently close to 300 devices have already been installed in Bay of Plenty houses.