National Wastewater Testing Programme Quarter 3 2019

National Wastewater Testing Programme Quarter 3 2019

Date Published: 
October 2019

Results are now available for the third quarter 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 – May 2019 - July 2019

  • Average weekly use of the detected drugs in Q3 has an estimated street value of $8.9 million. This is estimated to generate approximately $464 million of criminal profit annually.


  • Methamphetamine remains the most commonly detected illicit drug nationwide, with approximately 15kgs consumed on average each week.
  • Detected average methamphetamine use translates to an estimated 19 million dollars ($19,328,400) per week in social harm. Annually, this could equate to more than $1 billion ($1,005,076,800).
  • 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 7.9kg on average each week.
  • MDMA use is most prevalent in Southern District (Southland) closely followed by Tamaki Makaurau.


  • Cocaine was detected in low quantities, approximately 907g 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 1g per week.
  • The apparent prevalence of fentanyl in Northland Districts, compared to other districts, must be viewed with caution as the 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 July 2019. This is consistent with other indicators that the opiate user population in New Zealand is very low.