National Wastewater Testing Programme - Quarter 4 2019

National Wastewater Testing Programme - Quarter 4 2019

Date Published: 
February 2020

Results are now available for the fourth 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 – August 2019 - October 2019

  • Average weekly use of the detected drugs in Q4 has an estimated street value of $8.3 million.


  • Although methamphetamine remains the most commonly detected illicit drug nationwide, consumption during Q4 is the lowest recorded since national testing began. Average weekly consumption is now approximately 13.7kgs on average each week.
  • Of interest is that during the Q4 period, NZ Police and NZ Customs Service seized a combined total of approximately 1,046 kg of methamphetamine.
  • Detected average methamphetamine use during the Q4 period translates to an estimated 17 million dollars ($16,974,300) per week in social harm. Annually, this could equate to almost $900 million ($882,663,600).
  • Methamphetamine use is most prevalent per capita in the Northland Police District, followed by Waikato.


  • MDMA was the second most commonly detected illicit drug across the country and has shown an upward consumption trend throughout 2019. Average weekly consumption is now estimated at 8.2kg on average each week.
  • MDMA use is most prevalent in Southern District followed by Canterbury.


  • Cocaine was detected in low quantities, approximately 1kg 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 2g per week.
  • The identification 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 October 2019. This is consistent with other indicators that the opiate user population in New Zealand is very low.