10 Oct 2018

Drug tests on wastewater to be carried out across NZ

3:51 pm on 10 October 2018

Police drug testing of wastewater will soon be be rolled out across the country.


File photo. Photo: RNZ

Testing for methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, MDMA and fentanyl will be performed by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) at 38 sites from Kerikeri to Invercargill, covering 80 percent of New Zealand's population.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the testing was crucial to understanding drug consumption.

The increased testing follows a successful pilot of three sites in Auckland, Christchurch and Whāngarei during the past 18 months.

"Expanding the programme to regional New Zealand and other major centres will help us continue to build a better picture of the prevalence of illicit drug use in New Zealand communities as well as the subsequent social harm," Mr Bush said.

The pilot programme has already provided information on the country's drug problems.

"Over the past 18 months, 1.5kg of methamphetamine was estimated to have been consumed on average each week across the three test sites," Mr Bush said.

"This translates to an estimated $2 million a week in social harm.

"Expanding the number of sample locations will help us identify differences in drug use between geographic regions and will act as an early warning system for emerging risks."

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A map of wastewater drug testing locations across New Zealand. Photo: NZ police

Testing began at four sites in Tāmaki Makaurau on 1 October and is expected to start at the other sites by the end of the month.

Cannabis testing will be introduced in Northland and across Tāmaki Makaurau, while checks for ephedrine and pseudoephedrine will be added to all sites.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said wastewater testing would provide a measure of illegal drug consumption that was cost effective and non-intrusive.

"Expanding the programme will allow agencies to accurately assess the levels of drug consumption in our major centres and provincial communities to build a better picture of the harm these substances are causing," Mr Nash said.

"Some of our provincial areas are the most vulnerable to the scourge of methamphetamine and are being preyed upon by organised criminals who supply it.

"I am pleased that the use of illicit substances will be analysed in these areas, so police and other agencies will be able to make informed decisions on education, prevention and enforcement initiatives."

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