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Minister backs festival drug tests

Drug testing kits will likely feature at Rhythm & Vines in future after Police Minister Stuart Nash told Newshub he would like on-site drug testing rolled out at all major New Zealand music festivals.

Drug testing group KnowYourStuff has been testing at some festivals for five years but, because of restrictions under the Misuse of Drugs Act, they cannot advertise where they will be. That could soon change.

“Obviously we don’t want drug use at festivals, but if there is going to be drug use at festivals — and let’s face facts, we’re in the 21st century — we want people to be safe,” Mr Nash told Newshub.

A variety of drugs were reportedly confiscated at Rhythm & Vines on New Year’s Eve, including MDMA or ecstacy.

A small quantity of drugs, claimed to be MDMA, seized at the festival’s bag search checkpoint was found to contain non-psychoactive compounds, pesticides, antibiotic, other industrial reagents.

R&V organisers notified patrons on their mobile app of the potential hazard and ensured they were aware of the appropriate measures should they feel unwell.

Mr Nash said he would like to see changes in place here by next summer.

“The Minister of Health and I are looking at this, something will go to Cabinet this year,” he said.

“I would like to think that we can have something rolled out next summer across all our major festivals.”

Mr Nash said the testing tents would be independent of police officers, but testers would work closely with the New Zealand Drug Foundation — which welcomed the move.

Know Your Stuff director Wendy Allison told Newshub she was hopeful change was on its way.

“We have had consistent data over five years now that says when people find out that their substances are not what they believe them to be, the majority of them will then choose not to take these substances,” she said.

National Party police spokesman Chris Bishop said his party was cautiously supportive in principle to drug-checking at festivals.