ACT leader David Seymour throws support behind drug testing at music festivals

07/10/2019

ACT Party leader David Seymour says the Government needs to get out of the way and allow drug testing at music festivals.

The hospitalisation of four people who consumed illicit substances at Friday's Listen In music festival has prompted debate about whether volunteer organisations should be allowed to provide drug testing services at festivals.

Know Your Stuff NZ provides free drug checking services at events around the country, but it exists in a legal grey area. While the service is legal, it's a crime for event organisers to knowingly provide a venue for taking illicit drugs. That means having the organisation at the event could be an admission the event organisers know about drugs. 

The organisation wants the law clarified and for the services to be allowed at New Zealand's largest festivals.

Police Minister Stuart Nash supports the idea and wanted to get a law change across the line before summer, but he has faced pushback from Labour's coalition partner New Zealand First. The party's law and order spokesperson Darroch Ball says the drug checking would send the wrong message and could legitimise or encourage the drug use.

But Seymour told The AM Show the debate was worth having as the testing would help reduce harm and educate people about what they're putting into their bodies. 

"This is not about the Government getting involved or encouraging people or testing their drugs, this is about the Government stopping a volunteer organisation from offering the service for free," he said.

"I understand the argument that well if this is allowed, then it will encourage people to take drugs. I think the flip side is, what sort of Government deliberately endangers people by preventing volunteers from helping each other?"

David Seymour. Photo credit: The AM Show.

He's challenging Nash and Prime Minister Ardern to force the issue to be voted upon.

"You got a whole summer coming up and the chances are that somebody somewhere is going to do something stupid and somebody will die as a result, so let's get the Government out of the way and let people help each other," Seymour said.

"I would say to Stuart Nash and Jacinda Ardern, summer is coming, you know what is going to happen, show some leadership, put a Bill up in the House, challenge everybody to vote it down."

He said people often forget "Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister, not Winston Peters" and she has a "right" to force the vote and see which way New Zealand First goes.

"Jacinda should put it up in the House next Tuesday when we are back and say 'if you guys want to vote this down, that's fine, but just bear in mind what you are doing'."

The Green Party also has a petition to "legalise drug checking to save lives this summer".

"Drug checking saves lives and makes risky behaviour safer by allowing people to check what is in their drugs before they take them. Right now, it's not widely available because drug checkers could be criminalised for providing that service," the party says. 

It stresses, however, that no drug is safe and it is best not to take drugs at all.

Stuart Nash. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

In January, drugs confiscated the at the Rhythm and Vines music festival were revealed to contain pesticides, paint and antibiotics.

Nash told RadioLIVE at the time that we needed to admit drugs were being taken to festivals and it was time to tackle the issue. 

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor