Former prime minister Helen Clark is backing injecting rooms and testing at festivals to prevent drug deaths.

"I am of the view that the best drug policy will be where we decriminalise use and possession and put in place effective legal regulation," she said today.

But decriminalisation should be accompanied by state-of-the-art harm-reduction
measures such as New Zealand's needle-exchange scheme.

"It also includes safe injecting spaces and that goes together with drug-testing so that people aren't ingesting things or injecting substances which are going to kill them.


"Drug-testing at music festivals is also very important because they are places where a lot of drugs tend to be traded. There's a little bit of that done in New Zealand. This is the way to go. How do we save life and how to we give people options about how they can move forward," she said.

Clark did not believe such moves would green-light drug use.

"In my experience, the state of the law is almost irrelevant as to whether people use drugs or not. My motivation is, how do we stop death, how do we support wellbeing?"

Clark was a speaker at a gathering of addiction sector leaders at Parliament today. Late last year she was appointed to the prestigious Global Commission on Drug Policy, a drug reform think-tank.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell welcomed her support for injecting rooms and drug-testing.

"Having the mana of Helen Clark on an issue that is so politically sensitive and treacherous, she's able to bring her leadership and say these things which New Zealand finds difficult," he said.

Kathryn Leafe of the New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme said it was important to enhance harm reduction and there was plenty of evidence that drug-testing and injecting rooms did this.

"I was really heartened by many of Helen Clark's comments and also her support for the needle-exchange programme."


The Drug Foundation and other organisations already carry out testing at festivals, but it is a legal grey area.

Recently, drug-testing body KnowYourStuffNZ discovered the dangerous pain-control drug Fentanyl at a New Zealand music festival. The potent drug has killed dozens of people overseas.

Police also issued a warning last month when 13 people became ill after taking what they thought was ecstasy but was later found to be a much more potent drug.