Drug testing groups step up their services outside of music festivals as the government looks for a permanent way with no legal repercussions.

Organizations like the Drug Foundation and Know Your Stuff state that there is tremendous demand beyond festivals, and they want the resources to branch out (file image).
Photo: AFP

Before Christmas, ahead of the festival season, the government passed interim law allowing drug controls and reducing damage without the risk of prosecution.

But organizations like the Drug Foundation and Know Your Stuff say there is tremendous demand beyond festivals and they want the resources to branch out.

Both groups recently expanded their Wellington monthly drug control clinic to include Auckland.

Wendy Allison, executive director of Know Your Stuff, said it makes sense to expand to the South Island as well.

“You tend to miss out, most of the population is up here [North Island]but a lot of the damage is happening down there, so Christchurch or Dunedin would be the next logical step, “said Allison.

She argued that testing at music festivals only appealed to a group of people.

“This group of people is generally white and middle-class and can afford to buy a festival ticket. These are not the only people harmed by the issues we are trying to address.”

The most recent interim law change was introduced for this festival season, but test clinics have also been covered.

Sarah Helm, executive director of the Drug Foundation, said the rapid change in the law made it easier to talk about drug use and reduce the harm.

Test requests had been received from across the country, but the organizations lacked funding for test machines – which cost about $ 50,000 – and volunteers.

“We’re not meeting the demand, so we know we need to do more work looking for funding and policy options to do this more fully across the country,” said Helm.

Promoters are already helping to cover the cost of the service, but Know Your Stuff said sponsorship, grants or public funding would need to be considered to cover the cost of testing outside of festivals.

Andrew Little.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Health Secretary Andrew Little said the government was working to replace the interim measures with a more permanent law change by the next festival season.

“The amendment to the law and the drafting process for it are underway. A consultation process must take place for this, and we want to ensure that all citizens contribute to this amendment,” he said.

It would be “later on the way” before the government considered allocating resources to expanding the services, Little said.

“I am unable to promise or guarantee that we can allocate resources for this.

“We need to speak to the organizations involved and anyone else who may be involved in the future to achieve a permanent change in the law,” he said.

The National Party was primarily opposed to the change in the law – an attitude that contradicted its youth wing.

The party declined an invitation to question the expansion of the test services.