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New Zealand Drug Experts Slam Australian Government’s Response To Music Festival Deaths

Last week, New Zealand’s health minister confirmed that the NZ Government will permanently legalise pill-testing at music festival’s across the country, in a move praised by health experts, like pill-testing organisation Know Your Stuff NZ.

The harm minimisation strategy has been trialled at a few Aussie festivals, including Groovin’ The Moo in Canberra back in 2019. Seven festival goers presented pills containing a potentially deadly substance. All but one of those whose drugs were tested decided to dump their pills. Despite the trial being hailed a success, ACT to this day remains the only state in Australia that allows pill-testing at festivals.

In conversation with triple j’s Hack, KYSNZ’s managing director Wendy Allison said they looked to Australia’s management (or lack thereof) of the unfolding health crisis in order to formulate new regulations.

“We looked at Australia before we started doing this and we went sniffer dogs, strip searches, dead kids we’re not doing that,” she said.

Hack also reported that in December, right before the summer festival season, NZ passed a temporary law granting festivals across the country the legal right to implement pill-testing.

Prior to this, festivals operated in a “legal grey zone”, where they opened themselves up to prosecution if pill-testing were to go ahead.

Out of 24 NZ festivals that took place in 2020, KYSNZ attended 16 last year – “There’s no way we can cover them all,” she said. At one festival, they conducted approximately 400 tests.

“If it is a dangerous substance and they do still choose to take it, we can advise them things like don’t take it with other drugs, avoid alcohol, make sure somebody knows what you’re doing, take less of it,” Allison said.

NZ health minister Andrew Little also raised a good point, saying that testing festival goer’s drugs makes the job of health officials easier in the case of overdosing “because they know what they’re dealing with”.

Both the Victorian and NSW Coroners have strongly recommended that their respective government’s immediately implement pill testing.

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