New Zealand First to reconsider its policy against drug testing pills at festivals

Young New Zealand First has forced the party's caucus to reevaluate its policy on drug testing at festivals. 

The party's youth wing successfully pushed for a debate at the NZ First conference in Christchurch, and won the vote. 

Young NZ First chair William Woodward opened the debate saying, "This is not an endorsement of drug use, but this is a no-brainer.

"This is about truly protecting young people from preventable harm."

But NZ First MP Darroch Ball says it normalises illegal drug use not only at festivals, but at university campuses. 

His caucus colleague Clayton Mitchell agrees, saying it does legitimise drug use - and he was concerned about what happens if the drugs are tested and aren't safe. 

"What happens to that drug? They can choose to on-sell it or take it. We have debated this in caucus because we believe [the current policy is] a practical pragmatic approach."

Robert Gore.
Robert Gore. Photo credit: Newshub.

Young NZ First former chair Robert Gore challenged the party membership: "Do you want that person to take that pill with no safeguards, with no one to talk to, no one to educate them - and they die?"

Robert Griffith, another youth wing member from Dunedin, implored the party to "reconsider because parties like Labour are just going to do it anyway, but this is about being part of the conversation and ensuring things like monitors at stations who can warn about the harms of drug use".

"I've seen my friends destroy their lives over it, I actually want to help them and think pill testing is a good thing."

NZ First MP Tracey Martin also spoke in support of the remit.

"I pride myself on NZ First being practical, reasonable and responsible. This is not going to stop some people taking illicit drugs but Young NZ First has asked to be included in the conversation.

"I believe there's a middle road here. What if NZ First decided if it tests bad we'll give you the printout, but not going to give you the drug back? We've saved a life." 

Martin also argued it would be an opportunity to educate young people and collect data for police.