Paula Bennett New Zealand
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett during a press conference at Parliament on 12 December, 2016 in Wellington Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

The Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand has warned citizens of using methamphetamine, or crystal meth, as a substitute for marijuana, despite acknowledging there has been a cannabis drought in parts of the country.

Paula Bennett, Deputy Leader of the National Party, said crystal meth, which she referred to using the slang "P", was an "insidious drug" that destroys towns and cities.

She told journalists that drug users should not be tempted to try crystal meth even if the price of marijuana continued to rise.

She said: "I've heard anecdotally that it was a bad growing season for marijuana in some parts of New Zealand, I'm not the expert on that, and that as a consequence that's driven up the price of marijuana and made P more attractive.

"Can I just say to every New Zealander that's thinking that: Actually a bit of a toke on marijuana is incredibly different than having a go at P. Which one hit, and you are hooked, and it takes an average seven years to get off that addictive substance.

"It is not just soul-destroying for individuals but we see families in so many towns and cities that are absolutely destroyed because one member is going through the hideous addiction of it."

A cheeky reporter then asked Bennett if her message was "Hold out for the joint rather than [P]?" to which the unamused deputy prime minister replied: "Don't go near any of them, but certainly don't see P as a substitute to marijuana."

A 2016 report in The Guardian claimed that New Zealanders had become adept at "cooking" crystal meth as it was difficult to import other hard drugs onto the remote islands.

In February, authorities in Hawke's Bay said that meth addicts had taken to stealing garden gnomes in order to pay for their fix.

Bennett said: "I don't know if I would even call it a war on P, I think there is a battle and there are too many New Zealanders that are losing, and they are addicted and it's absolutely horrific.

"This insidious drug that hooks people on the first hit of it, and destroys individuals and families. I'm just seeing too many people that are caught in that hideous trap."

Bill English and Paula Bennett
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and his Deputy Paula Bennett Getty