New Zealand Defence Force to overhaul drug policy

Newshub can reveal the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is set to overhaul its approach to alcohol and substance abuse among personnel after a report commissioned by the force found a number of critical problems with its current policy.

It's almost two years since five Kiwi soldiers lost their jobs after a drug-fuelled night out in Palmerston North.

But a string of incidents like that one have had a lasting effect. NZDF hired the NZ Drug Foundation to investigate its approach.

The report released to Newshub is critical of NZDF's handling of alcohol and drugs users. It found current policies aren't working and are too "enforcement" based.

Barrister Michael Bott has represented a number of soldiers accused of substance abuse in recent years.

"It's a bad look for our country because the same approach is applied elsewhere and it's just crazy and it doesn't work," he says.

Some interviewed felt random drug testing was "targeted" with some staff "protected" from being caught.

Others believed "raising a drug problem" was a one-way ticket to being discharged and they couldn't ask for help.

"There is a heavy reliance on a punishment approach and we've argued their needs to be a more balanced approach," says the NZ Drug Foundation's Ross Bell.

Staff interviewed also described using psychoactive drugs and synthetic cannabis on work breaks before they were banned. However the report did find NZDF has less drug use compared to the total population.

Mr Bott says he's welcoming changes.

"When you have people who have a drug addiction in life what you want to do is help them get rid of it, and address the problem," he says.

The organisation's promising to implement new policy over the next three years.

It won't reveal what changes it plans to implement just yet but suggestions random drug testing be dropped have fallen on deaf ears.

For the meantime, that's here to stay.