New Zealand First members have backed a rethink of the party's position against testing of pills at music festivals, in a public clash between its youth wing and members of its parliamentary caucus.

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

NZ First's caucus appeared to have halted the plan last month, with several of its MPs coming out in opposition.

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But after push from Young New Zealand First, the party's membership on Sunday made time to publicly debate the issue at its annual conference.

And in what was a narrow vote by show of hands, the youth wing won out despite criticism from MPs Clayton Mitchell, Darroch Ball and Mark Patterson.

Young NZ First's Rob Gore implored the audience to back a proposal calling for the party to rethink its position to support the policy.

"Here you are judging young people for taking MDMA, but we are generation who watched our parents and our parents and our grandparents drink themselves into an early grave and yet we haven't taken the steps we needed to take to reduce alcohol abuse in our society 30 years ago," he said.

"Brother, do not point out the sawdust in my eye, look at the plank of wood in your own."

Young NZ First's William Woodward said the policy was not an endorsement of drugs.

"If we can save lives we should. Pill testing is proven to reduce the amount of people dying from dangerous drugs," he said.

But Ball – one of the most vocal opponents of the testing – said he could not back a policy that was about recreational drug use.

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Police Minister Stuart Nash threw his backing behind a law change to allow testing of pills at public events after drugs containing traces of a pesticide were found at a festival. Photo / File
Police Minister Stuart Nash threw his backing behind a law change to allow testing of pills at public events after drugs containing traces of a pesticide were found at a festival. Photo / File

"What it does is it normalises the illegal use of drugs. It's not only festivals," he said.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin, meanwhile, tried to play diplomat, backing the policy but saying changes – such as confiscating pills that failed tests – could be made part of it. Jenny Marcroft also gave her support.

Remits backed by the membership aren't automatically party policy, but are sent to be decided on by the party's parliamentary caucus of nine, including leader Winston Peters.

Peters sat out of Sunday's debate.

Meanwhile, the party on Sunday morning also announced its new board, with Rotorua's Kristin Campbell-Smith elected president.

Her predecessor, Lester Gray, last month resigned with a letter citing concerns he had not been given enough information about the party's financial documents to sign off on them.