A NATIONAL Ice Action Strategy was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday as part of a solution to tackle the growing problem of ice (crystal methamphetamine) across Australia.
The problem has been on the rise in western NSW over the past 12 months with an increase in the number of people becoming addicted to the drug including children as young as 13.
The announcement of the new taskforce was welcomed by those on the ground, working with addicts in both medical and rehabilitation professions.
A former paramedic who has treated addicts and witnessed distribution of the drug around Wellington welcomed the announcement saying the taskforce had to 'strike hard'.
The woman, who didn't want to be named for fear she would become a target, said the town was becoming a distribution centre for the drug.
"There are a number of inroads into Wellington and because of its geographical location the drugs are distributed here," she said.
The woman said she witnessed two men exchanging the drugs near a local toilet block.
While she called the police the men had left by the they arrived.
"It's very hard for police. They are run off their feet and our paramedics have been put in life threatening situations numerous times," she said.
"Paramedics had to sit on a patient while medical staff tried to get them into an ambulance.
"This problem in Wellington is not the worst in the state. There are major problems in Orange, Dubbo and Narromine. It's a disease which has spread."
With few drug rehabilitation centres available in the region, demand for places at the Orana Haven centre in Brewarrina was high, with an increase in enquiries due to the number of hardcore drugs being used.
Orana Haven Drug and Rehabilitation Centre drug and alcohol worker Alan Bennett said people of all ages were using ice.
"In the last 12 months there's been a big increase in it," he said.
"It's still present in Brewarrina and there doesn't seem to be a decline in the use. It's across the board."
In an interview with the Daily Liberal earlier this year Orana Local Area Commander superintendent David Simmons also said youth were part of the problem.
"Young teenagers are absolutely using it and our greatest concern is that its presence is increasing," Supt Simmons said.
"The more people you get using it, the more people are going to be hurt, the more damage is done and the more people die.
"It doesn't look like plateauing at this stage and if it continues we'll get more crime, more break-ins, more valuables and cars will go missing and there'll certainly be more health problems."
Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton welcomed the announcement.
"Ice use is a growing problem that is hitting our regional and rural communities hard," MrCoulton said.
"It is a substance that literally destroys people's minds. It causes psychosis and long term psychological issues, not only ruining individuals' lives but destroying families, and hurting communities."
"There is now a concerted effort of Governments at all levels to address this issue, and while initiatives are being rolled out at a local, state and territory level, there is a role for the Commonwealth Government to assist in ensuring these programs are targeted, efficient and effective."
The National Ice Taskforce will examine current efforts to address the issue as well as identifying ways to coordinate an approach to the solution focusing on education, health and law enforcement.
The taskforce will be led by the former Victorian Police chief commissioner Ken Lay APM and will provide an interim report to the Prime Minister by June. The report will be taken to the first meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.