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NZ government to fund research into music festival pill testing

NZ government to fund research into music festival pill testing

A new research project is set to examine the effectiveness of drug-checking programmes at music festivals in New Zealand.

NZ government to fund research into music festival pill testing

The research will be carried out by a criminology team from Victoria University of Wellington, and will determine whether drug-checking programmes make a difference in harm minimisation.

The study will cost $59,000 and will be funded by the Ministry of Health.

Scientists will monitor pill testing at festivals over the summer, with non-government drug testing service KnowYourStuffNZ to be involved in the research.

KnowYourStuffNZ tested more than 800 pills at 13 events last summer, which saw many festival-goers destroy illicit drugs that did not contain what they initially thought, including dangerous chemicals.

Health Minister Dr David Clark says the research is necessary considering how common drug use continues to be at festivals despite being illegal.

“There’s no way to make illegal drug use completely safe – all drugs come with risk. But we can and must reduce harm wherever possible,” he said.

If data gathered from the study reveals drug-testing programmes are effective, it will be used to develop a permanent testing strategy.

The potential to legalise drug testing has been met with opposition from New Zealand First due to fears the practice would legitimise and encourage drug use.

However, following a close vote at its annual party conference in November in favour of testing, the caucus may accept an interim testing regime.

National is firmly against harm reduction policies such as drug testing, with the party’s drug law spokesperson Brett Hudson saying the measure will be used as evidence to suggest drug-taking is okay.

Four people at Auckland’s Listen In concert were hospitalised in October this year, three in a critical condition, after consuming what was believed to have been ecstasy.

Meanwhile in Australia, the drug-related deaths of six young people at NSW music festivals over two summers prompted a coronial inquest, from which Deputy NSW Coroner Harriet Grahame recommended the use of pill testing.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has firmly ruled out drug testing, saying it would give festival-goers a “false sense of security”.

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