Police warn of deaths and hospital admissions from dodgy pills as Queenstown is found to be New Zealand's capital for the illegal party drug MDMA.
Officers have been targeting MDMA dealers this year after wastewater testing revealed the Southern police district — including Otago and Southland — was the worst in the country for the drug.
The drug, also known as ecstasy, made up the greatest proportion of drugs found in wastewater across several areas, including 80 per cent in Queenstown, 73 per cent in Dunedin Tahuna and 65 per cent in Green Island.
Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, of Queenstown, said what worried police most were the other chemicals being sold under the guise of MDMA.
Officers had needed to call ambulances on nights out due to people having life-threatening reactions.
He said recent raids had revealed pills contained N-Ethylpentylone (bath salts) and mephedrone.
The latter, also known as M-Cat or Meow Meow, first hit the headlines in 2010 when, as a legal high, it was connected to 25 deaths in the United Kingdom.
It has since led to emergency hospital admissions across New Zealand.
Yesterday, police confirmed a 51-year-old man had been arrested in Queenstown on firearms charges after a two-month investigation run by the police's National Organised Crime Group.
His arrest followed two others on Sunday and Monday, following warrants in Northland, Auckland and Waikato.
Police seized more than 2kg of methamphetamine, alongside LSD, heroin, cocaine, MDMA, several hundred thousand dollars in cash and eight firearms.
A police media spokesman would not confirm what was recovered during the Queenstown arrest.
However, speaking specifically about MDMA , Inglis said it was being sold to unsuspecting young people by those willing to sell anything to make money, no matter the harm.
Bath salts were even more dangerous and were three times more powerful than MDMA, he said.
Side effects included rapid muscle breakdown, paranoia, an inability to sleep for 36 hours and even psychosis.
In July, the Otago Daily Times reported a 19-year-old student in Dunedin was found trying to scratch his eyes out after taking MDMA laced with bath salts.
Inglis said there had been several foreigners in court recently thinking they could fund their stays in New Zealand through drug dealing.
He further raised concerns about the number of gang members spotted in Queenstown, warning they brought the threat of guns and violence.
He urged the community to reject gangs and make it known patched members were not welcome.