How NZ First's youth wing overturned the party's pill-testing policy

The head of New Zealand First's youth wing has revealed how he got the party to rethink its policy on pill-testing. 

NZ First has been against letting drug users get their substances tested at festivals to make sure they're the real thing, saying it encourages further drug use.

But that policy was overturned at its recent annual conference after Young NZ First president William Woodward and others challenged their elders.

"This is not an endorsement of drug use, but this is a no-brainer," he said last week. "This is about truly protecting young people from preventable harm."

Appearing on Newshub Nation on Saturday, Woodward said the party hadn't consulted with its youth wing before coming out against pill-testing.

"I wouldn't say we broke ranks necessarily - we broke the current position," he told host Simon Shepherd. "But we did have a good amount of support from our MPs. That really shines light on the fact that we are a party that's really looking to our youth to start the conversation."

Woodward acknowledged some of the party's MPs - such as Darroch Ball - don't agree with them.

"It really came down to what our principles were, and that's looking out for the young people of New Zealand. 

"In terms of how we got the vote through, it was a matter of putting it into perspective for a lot of people - this could be your children, your grandchildren and so forth. That really made it a lot more realistic argument for people to understand, specifically people who don't live around the reality of drugs."

Young NZ First president William Woodward, Young Greens co-convener Kelsey Lee and Young Nationals president Sam Stead with Newshub Nation host Simon Shepherd.
Young NZ First president William Woodward, Young Greens co-convener Kelsey Lee and Young Nationals president Sam Stead with Newshub Nation host Simon Shepherd. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Woodward said party leader Winston Peters didn't give his personal views, as he was chairing the meeting.

Peters told TVNZ last weekend the party will make a decision before the "season of concern", referring to the summer when many music festivals take place.

"I'd like to see the evidence, and I think so would the whole party. And indeed I think so would the whole country."

NZ First is commonly seen as a party for the elderly, with Peters long being a champion for the over-65s and its socially conservative views appealing to older voters. But Woodward said that's a wrong way to view the party.

"The biggest issue we face is the cliche that we're an old people's youth wing. That is a perception. We're 100 percent inclusive - we want to have the most diverse and the best people in our executives around the country, from Kaitaia to Southland."

Young NZ First president William Woodward, Young Greens co-convener Kelsey Lee and Young Nationals president Sam Stead.
Young NZ First president William Woodward, Young Greens co-convener Kelsey Lee and Young Nationals president Sam Stead. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

As for next year's referendum on legalising recreational cannabis use, Woodward said he could "see the merit in it", but would wait to see the actual legislation before deciding which way he'd vote.

"Personally, I'm leaning towards a yes."

Also appearing on Newshub Nation were Young Nationals president Sam Stead, who also said he'd be waiting to see the proposed legislation, and Young Greens co-convenor Kelsey Lee, who said she'd definitely be voting in favour.

"It's about harm reduction, right? Our current system, we know it's harmful for young people, and for Māori."

The referendum will take place at next year's general election.

Young Labour was also invited to take part in the chat, but declined.

Newshub.

 

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