Concerns over abnormally high levels of MDMA, of up to triple doses in one pill, were abundant over the festival season. New Zealand drug testing service KnowYourStuffNZ announced that the high dose pill “have been identified in our testing so far this summer season, and are likely to be found around the country over the holiday period” cautioning users of the dangers of overdose. Last year, drugs laced with pesticides and paint were found at Rhythm and Vines.
Despite this, Wānaka festival Rhythm and Alps, didn’t drug test this year with Alex Turnbull, R&A Director, saying “because the legislation’s not passed, the local health board, St Johns and Police are not in favour of it.” The legislation Turnbull refers to is the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act, which makes it illegal for organisers to knowingly permit drug use or allow recreational drugs on their premise. The testing of drugs thus creates an awkward legal grey area. That being said, drug testing does occur around New Zealand, such as in Dunedin’s Orientation week for students.
All parties except New Zealand First support a change in legislation, with the Ministry of Health recently giving $59,000 to a study on the effect of drug testing at festivals. If that change were to occur, then Turnbull says R&A would offer the drug testing service, saying: “We’ve been leading the charge on it for years and it’s not a matter of doing it, anyone can do it, but there needs to be certain things put in place first” noting that local police, St Johns and health board would have to be comfortable with the service, but hopes a change can be made within 12 months. If successful, “we need to find a proper company to do it and we’re still looking for that company, it’s probably gonna be an offshore company,” Turnbull notes.
Despite no drug-testing this year, R&A enjoyed a problem-free festival with good weather and up to 10,000 attendants. A Police spokesperson confirmed that “no issues were reported at Rhythm and Alps this year. Behaviour at New Year's music festivals across the country this year has generally been good, with a small number of arrests. Primarily these were for disorder-related incidents rather than drugs.”