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Reader calls Lismore Mayor to ‘get his head out of the sand’

UPDATE 1.40pm: READERS have voiced varied responses to Lismore Mayor' Isaac Smith's comment over town's ice problem after it featured in a national TV expose.

Nathan Hayward called Cr Smith to 'get his head out of the sand' in his comment on the Northern Star's Facebook page over the town's feature in the ABC program Ice Wars.

Getting out on the streets with patrolling police at night was Amy Green's suggestion for Lismore's Mayor and other politicians to see a different perspective into the ice issue.

"I think our politicians need to walk our streets more often or go on patrol with our police officers and see what really goes on in the Lismore City Shire, especially at night. (It) Might change their opinion pretty quickly," she wrote.
Callum Lockrey directed Cr Smith into Lismore Base Hospital's busy emergency department.

"I recommend the mayor going into the emergency room of a Friday and Saturday night. then get his thoughts on the situation again," he wrote.

Reader, John Heaton looked at the scourge of ice more broadly and credited the show for its portrayal of the concerns.

"I thought the show did a great job on those three regional towns, exposing the truth that the ice issue is not just a city problem. It is widespread," he wrote.

A former Lismore local said the regional city's drug woes were shameful and among the reasons they left the area.

 

UPDATE 11am: LISMORE Mayor Isaac Smith has criticised the ABC's Ice Wars show over its portrayal of his city earlier this week. 

While Cr Smith said documentaries are useful to uncover different issues, he is concerned Lismore's ice woes was painted as a dominant problem that overshadowed the town's many positive attributes.

"The ice issue is a national issue not just a Lismore issue," Cr Smith said.

"The common comment I had was 'this isn't the Lismore I know."

Cr Isaac Smith is looking likely to be Lismore City's next mayor. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Cr Isaac Smith is looking likely to be Lismore City's next mayor. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

Cr Smith planned to reach out to mayors of other regional areas portrayed in Tuesday night's episode, including Wellington and Nowra.

He said "it would be great to reach out" to those mayors in a bid to put pressure on the Federal and State Governments to better tackle the problem.

On Facebook, Cr Smith said "it is disappointing to see stereotypes and generalizations" used to describe the serious health issues of ice.

"There is always another drug issue, it is currently ice, and our community needs to work with all levels of government to see people helped and protected," Cr Smith wrote.

 

FRIDAY 8.20am: EXPOSURE of the Northern Rivers ice problem on national television this week has created a frosty tension within the community.

Lismore-based author, Eben Venter took to Facebook to criticise his town's portrayal in Tuesday night's ABC programme Ice Wars.

Mr Venter said the show "slandered" the regional city by implying "it is being taken over by ice" and targeted "poor, vulnerable people."

"At one point Lismore was purposefully portrayed as godforsaken and post-apocalyptic, like a scene from the movie Snowtown," Mr Venter said.

The confronting episode triggered varied responses on social media with one Facebook post said ice makes "heroin looks like a play drug."

Mr Venter said he doesn't deny the serious issues methamphetamine presents but questioned the show's facts.

 

Lismore writer Eben Venter.
Lismore writer Eben Venter. Contributed

And he wasn't the only one, National Drug Research Institute Professor Nicole Lee, of Curtin University, published a scathing article that downplayed the idea of the 'ice epidemic' and said it's not "tearing apart the fabric of our community."

Prof Lee referenced 'the best data available' in her piece for The Conversation highlighting: "2.1% of Australians over 14 years have used methamphetamine in the last year and about half of those prefer ice over speed."

While it may seem like a small percentage, Richmond Local Area Command crime manager Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay regularly confronts the faces behind the figures.

"The vast majority of people don't have to deal with it, they don't see it," Det Insp Lindsay said.

Det Insp Lindsay, who featured on Tuesday night's episode, respected Prof Lee's opinion but said front line agencies who confront ice users daily "have a different point of view".

"I think (the show) is indicative of the issue Australia wide and in NSW," Det Insp Lindsay said.

Rehabilitation centre, The Buttery's residential program manager Trent Rees has seen an upswing in meth users at the clinic.

"We have seen a slight increase in clients using methamphetamine as the drug of choice compared to a few years ago," Mr Rees said.

Mr Rees said ice is not exactly a cheap drug but it's long lasting affects give its users "bang for their buck".

"The reality is it's available. Is it an epidemic? It's a price point," Mr Rees said.

From a policing point of view, Det Insp Lindsay said the Richmond LAC has placed significant numbers of alleged ice suppliers, manufacturers and some users before the courts.

Four of those offenders, three in Lismore and one in Armidale, will be facing court over ice-related charges next month following the latest drug operation, Strike Force Thermal.

 

Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay says police are concerned about the discovery of homemade guns found when police executed a search warrant in Lismore.
Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay says police are concerned about the discovery of homemade guns found when police executed a search warrant in Lismore. Cathy Adams

He said some viewers may be misinterpreting the show's goal in what he described is ice's "dramatic effect on regional areas."

"The positive side of the show showed that people in these towns are over it," Det Insp Lindsay said.

"It's not just a police issue but a whole community issue to get rid of the scourge of ice.

"It's time to stand up and say: 'enough is enough.'"

Det Insp Lindsay stressed "there is no silver bullet to the ice problem" but an integrated approach by law enforcement, health and education agencies is a constructive step towards a solution in the Northern Rivers and the nation in general.

"It has to involve education, health and enforcement. One operating on it's own won't solve the issue," he said.

Mr Rees agreed and said the battle to combat drug abuse isn't being fought effectively.

"The idea of a war on drugs is ludicrous," Mr Rees said.

He said waging a war on why people use illicit substances in the first place would make for a better start to end the vicious cycle of drug abuse.

Topics:  editors picksdrugs ice wars lismore methampetamine northern rivers crime


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