A Palmerston North man has become the first motorist in New Zealand to be convicted of driving under the influence of kava.
At Palmerston North District Court yesterday Aho Ioane, 53, a forklift operator, pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence of a drug.
The court was told Ioane produced a negative breathalyser result when police tested him for alcohol after he was seen weaving across the road in his car on the way home from church. His speech was slurred, he had bloodshot eyes and he was unsteady on his feet.
He told police he had been drinking "Tongan kava" before church.
The drink is made from the root of the kava plant and is used in ceremonies across the Pacific. It is favoured for its ability to induce dreams or visions and causes a feeling of tranquility.
When taken to the police station, Ioane was diagnosed by a doctor as being under the influence of a drug to the point where he was incapable of driving.
He was sentenced to 50 hours of community work and had his licence suspending for six months.