An estimated 500 Huntly residents marched across the landmark Tainui Bridge today as a show of solidarity against the "rampant" effects of methamphetamine in the region.
Local Jack Berryman (Ngāti Whāwhākia) says, "It's destroying the families. We know it's destroying the families. Our whole part in this is about bringing the collective together and raising the awareness. Bringing it out of the dark into the light."
25-year-old, father-of-four, Leitari Tepana - who is the head organiser of today's march says he is fully aware of "the effects and the impacts that P can have and I want to get it out of my community so my kids can be raised without the opportunity to come across that."
On December 13, 2017, six people were arrested in Huntly where a quantity of methamphetamine, marijuana, firearms and a large sum of cash were uncovered by Police and the Armed Offenders Squad under Operation Talaus. It is the most recent case of criminal activity that has come to light and now the locals say they are fighting back.
"Gangs coming out, machetes, guns, big brawls, you know, something just happened over the weekend. There are certain streets that are being targeted" adds Tepana.
Organisers of the event have revealed to Te Kāea that the majority of the small town's streets have either a methamphetamine dealer or user living on the street.
"It's easier to find P then it is to find weed and I think that's really bad for not only the community but for our kids as well," says Corey Rees, a former Police officer in the Waikato region - who's seen first-hand the detrimental effects of the drug.
Another local, Lionel Wairau (Te Whakatōhea) says, "It's a pest that eats people. It takes people to dark places. Here we are gathered today in our town."
This community says through unity their message is clear.
"We need to start talking to one another. The younger generation needs to gather to find a resolution. That is the biggest challenge ahead of us." says veteran Māori activist, Tame Iti (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Wairere) who was in attendance today to show his support.
A town meeting has been called in a fortnight's time to further discuss potential measures the town can take to eradicate the problem.