Police Minister Stuart Nash wants to see all New Zealand music festivals kitted out with drug testing kits by next summer.

This has been welcomed by the New Zealand Drug Foundation, who said this was "fantastic news".

But the foundation's executive director Ross Bell has warned the Minister that a law change would be needed before drug testing stations become the norm at the bigger festivals.

Nash's comments come after illicit drugs, which contained traces of pesticide, were obtained by police in Gisborne at the Rhythm and Vine music festival earlier this week.


On Saturday, a man in Australia died after a suspected drug overdose at a festival in New South Wales.

Nash said when it comes to the issue of drugs at music festivals, he wants to see a "more compassionate and restorative approach" when it comes to the use of drugs.

He said drug testing – whereby the chemical makeup and properties of a drug could be assessed before consumption – would be a move towards this approach.

"There are young people that go to these festivals that are taking drugs – I think if we continue to say 'yeah, this is a bad thing,' we're not going to do anything to help mitigate the risk and we're going to see people continue to end up in trouble."

He is seeking advice on how other countries deal with the issue of drugs at festivals.
But he is confident that a drug testing would help prevent hospitalisations.

In fact, he said at some festivals in Australia drug hospitalisations dropped by 95 per cent after drug testing was implemented.

He said the Government would work with independent organisations – such as the NZ Drug foundation – which would run the tests.

Police would not run the testing, Nash said, but they would be working closely with the event organisers to ensure the testing had integrity and was safe.


Bell welcomed Nash's moves towards making drug testing stations the norm and said they are reasonably common overseas.

He said adopting the practice in New Zealand was a "no brainier".

But because of the legal risks for some of the bigger festivals – such as RnV – many organisers can't have the testing stations onsite.

This is because of a clause in the misuse of drugs act – "if you have a test, you're admitting there are drugs on the site."

Bell said this is a big problem for organisers, given the legal liability.

The Drug Foundation had some drug testing at festivals in New Zealand in the past, but the Government is keen to enlist their services for all major festivals in the future.

"If we get the information and it shows this stuff [the testing] works, and it prevents hospitalisations like the evidence has shown it has overseas – it would be good to see this sort of stuff rolled out for next summer's events," Nash said.

Bell said the foundation would be happy to help, but it needs more resources to be able to do so.

But not everyone is impressed with Nash's comments.

Family First National Director Bob McCoskrie said the Government's approach was "flawed and dangerous".

"Pill testing will be seen by many younger people especially as a clear endorsement of drug use."

He said it would send a message that illicit drugs are acceptable and can be safe and will worsen harmful drug use.

Earlier this week, a petition calling for the introduction of roadside drug testing was launched.