National Wastewater Testing Programme Quarter 1 2019

National Wastewater Testing Programme Quarter 1 2019

Date Published: 
April 2019

Results are now available for the first three months of nationwide wastewater testing, which covers around 80% of New Zealand’s population.

The drugs that have been tested for are methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, MDMA and fentanyl.

Key findings – November 2018 - January 2019

  • Average weekly use of the detected drugs has an estimated street value of $9.6 million. This is estimated to generate approximately $500 million of criminal profit annually. 


  • Methamphetamine remains the most commonly detected illicit drug nationwide, with approximately 16kgs consumed on average each week.
  • Detected average methamphetamine use translates to an estimated 20 million dollars ($20,606,002) per week in social harm. Annually, this could equate to more than one billion dollars ($1,071,512,099).
  • Methamphetamine use is most prevalent per capita in the Northland Police District, followed by Eastern District (Hawke’s Bay).


  • MDMA was the second most commonly detected illicit drug across the country, with an estimated consumption rate of 4kg on average each week.
  • MDMA use is most prevalent in Canterbury District, closely followed by Southern District (Southland). 


  • Cocaine was detected in low quantities, approximately 700g on average each week. This indicates a much smaller user base and likely reflects less demand and supply associated with the drug.
  • Cocaine use is significantly more prevalent in the Auckland region (per capita) than anywhere else in the country. 


  • Overall Fentanyl consumption averaged less than 3g per week.
  • The apparent prevalence of fentanyl in Northland District, compared to other districts, must be viewed with caution as detected average usage across all testing sites is extremely low.
  • The aim of testing for fentanyl is to establish a baseline of consumption so, over time, Police and the Ministry of Health can determine any fluctuations in the consumption. A baseline for consumption remains unclear at present.
  • As fentanyl has only been tested for very recently, it is too early to draw conclusions about what proportion of the fentanyl in wastewater is illicit. 


  • Heroin was not detected at any of the testing sites between November 2018 and January 2019. This is consistent with other indicators that the opiate user population in New Zealand is very low.