NZ First pushes back on Police Minister's music festival drug testing initiative

Source: 1News

The Police Minister's plan to get pill testing in place before the summer music festival season begins is under attack by his coalition colleagues. 

Reporter Ryan Boswell has an exclusive story about a new tool that tells drug users what is really in their pill or powder

Stuart Nash revealed to 1 NEWS in January he wanted to change the rules around pill testing to ensure it was at festivals this summer.

"It saves lives, it save hospitalisations," he said at the time. "It's actually the right thing to do and it's dealing with the reality in which we find ourselves."

But New Zealand First MPs believe pill testing sends the wrong message. 

Law and order spokesperson Darroch Ball said allowing pill testing stations at festivals was "blurring the lines between right and wrong and what's illegal and not illegal".

"We need to stop them taking it in the first place," he told 1 NEWS today. "We've got to be very, very careful how we are trying to educate young people, especially in regards to the dangers of taking illegal dangerous drugs." 

Darroch Ball said the 'broken' mental health system doesn't get help to where it's needed.

When asked by 1 NEWS if having drugs tested was taking personal responsibility, Mr Ball replied: "No, not at all".

"People need to know the risk before they take it and personal responsibility means knowing what you’re taking before you go to the festival," he said. 

Wendy Allison from Know Your Stuff said there was a "whole lot of misconception and assumptions around drug testing".

"We're more interested in reducing harm. I'm not convinced just saying 'no' helps anybody."

She said 100 per cent of people using the pill testing facilities were intending to take a substance prior to the test. However, 68 per cent of people told them they had changed their mind, once they had found out what was in the substance.

"That's a significant change from 100 per 38 per cent after testing," she said.

"People are actually making safer decisions."

Ms Allison said they kept a jar of bleach for discarding drugs that saw "thousands of dollars of drugs" destroyed.

"They are choosing not to take these substances."

Know Your Stuff extended an invitation to Mr Ball this morning, "to try and help him understand better what happens".