NZ First has put the brakes on a plan to legalise drug quality testing at music festivals this summer, in its latest move blocking policies proposed by Labour.

Police Minister Stuart Nash this year threw his backing behind a law change to allow testing of pills at public events around the country, after police found illegal drugs containing traces of a pesticide at the Rhythm and Vines festival in Gisborne.

The tests help those planning to take pills check if they're safe and contain what they're meant to. Testing has been carried out by volunteers for about four years at some gatherings on substances such as MDMA, LSD and cocaine.

The legal situation was currently a grey area for those involved in the testing, Nash said.


But NZ First law and order spokesman Darroch Ball said his party was opposing the policy after discussions.

"We're going down a very, very slippery slope when we've got illegal drugs being tested in green safe-zones," he said.

"This is a party drug, this is for recreational fun times and young people are making that conscious decision to take those illegal, dangerous drugs. What these pill-testing stations do is totally absolves all of those young people from taking personal responsibility for their decisions."

The policy had not yet been taken to Cabinet.

NZ First MP Darroch Ball says the policy would absolve people of personal responsibility. Photo / Mark Mitchell
NZ First MP Darroch Ball says the policy would absolve people of personal responsibility. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Nash said he still backed testing and had hoped to get the support of the National Party when he announced earlier in the year.

"I'm still a big fan of drug testing at festivals because it plays into the prevention first approach by police," he said.

"I can't get it over the line, but that doesn't mean I stop efforts in other areas to see if it can make change in some way."

Drug Foundation director Ross Bell said the current drug market was messy and dangerous and that Ball needed to "get out of the way".


"We need to get real and understand that efforts to control supply or reduce demand don't always work, and some people will still choose to use drugs," Bell said.

"New Zealand has the chance to protect young people who are making choices we might not agree with."

Policy differences

The policy is the latest in a series put forward by Labour ministers to come up against NZ First.

Justice Minister Andrew Little last year announced he would be taking a plan to repeal three strikes criminal legislation to Cabinet, but was forced to backtrack at the last minute after NZ First objected.

Little had said the policy wasn't working but NZ First said it wasn't a priority for reform.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in April announced the Government would not be introducing a capital gains tax because consensus could not be reached among its members, despite her personally backing it.

Minutes after Ardern said she would be abandoning the policy for the entirety of her term in the top job, NZ First leader Winston Peters took to Twitter with the line: "We've heard, listened and acted. No capital gains tax".

NZ First also got concessions from Labour on reform of the Employment Relations Bill, including a clarification that the law didn't compel employers to settle and changes to workplace access rules for unions.