'People will continue to die': Warning to Govt over New Zealand's synthetics crisis

Newshub can reveal the Government's been warned it can't police its way out of the synthetics crisis - urgent action is needed with a focus on health.

After a spike in deaths linked to synthetics, the Government promised to crack down - but months have passed and nothing's been done.

Local rough sleepers in central Auckland say lots of people are using synthetics because they're cheap and available. But they're also deadly.

Erika Perkinson knows how bad it gets, as her own son was addicted.

"Having convulsions, vomiting blood - he couldn't eat or drink for prolonged periods of time," she recounted.

The Drug Foundation says successive governments have been far too slow to act.

"While we've got Government debating things on the margin, people will continue to die," says director Ross Bell.

In July, it was revealed 45 deaths over the last year were linked to synthetics.

The Government promised a major crackdown and then to reclassify synthetics as class A drugs. But that decision hasn't even made it to Cabinet.

"Reclassification would increase maximum penalties," says Health Minister David Clark.

"The primary motivator for reclassification would be to ensure that we have those wider search and surveillance powers so that we can interrupt supply."

Documents released to Newshub under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Health was trying to get that reclassification done as soon as possible.

"Why didn't we see that quick response, that sense of urgency when it comes to getting resources out to those communities that are really struggling?" says Mr Bell.

The documents also raise doubts over the approach of simply locking people up, with the Ministry of Health warning there's no evidence that increased penalties deter use and supply.

Police gave the same warning, who said "we will not enforce our way out of this problem".

"The health approach starts with making sure that those people who are addicted and seeking help have the ability to get help," says Mr Clark.

The Minister said he would be reclassifying synthetics as class A drugs a month ago. There's still a wait while the mental health inquiry looks at synthetics, and any recommendations will also take time.

It's a lot of waiting while people continue to die.