While cocaine consumption hit a record high across the country in 2023, data suggests that usage of multiple drugs has increased in Masterton, with methamphetamine seeing its highest levels since 2021.
Times-Age obtained five years of wastewater test results from New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute – the Institute of Environmental Science and Research [ESR] – which samples wastewater nationwide and gives the police real-time intelligence about what drugs are used in New Zealand’s towns and cities.
Methamphetamine remains the most frequently detected drug across New Zealand, but June 2023 also saw an average weekly cocaine consumption of 2.3 kilograms nationwide.
In Masterton, wastewater data shows 14 milligrams of cocaine per 1000 people were detected per day in June 2023 compared to the previous measurement in April 2023, which only saw 4mg.
Methamphetamine levels had skyrocketed since the previous measurement, jumping from 254mg in April 2023 to 1076mg in June.
Levels of methamphetamine over 1000mg hadn’t previously been seen in Masterton since August 2021.
Usage of MDMA remained relatively the same over the same period, only increasing from 142mg in April to 145mg in June.
Police are aware of the heightened drug use in Wairarapa and consider the levels of drug usage in the region to be higher than would generally be expected of a rural and semi-rural landscape.
Wairarapa Police Area Prevention Manager Senior Sergeant Gill Flower said Wairarapa’s semi-central location between Wellington and Hawke’s Bay has made it a transit route for people ferrying drugs between regions.
“Our last biggest bust was a courier that ran from police, and we ended up finding the drugs,” she said.
Smaller amounts of Class A substances had been found throughout the region, along with Class C drugs like cannabis.
“We’ve had smaller amounts [of cannabis] found in a vehicle that we stopped; it was probably about 20 grams,” Flower said, referencing a bust from a few weeks ago.
“There are a lot of people that just use it for themselves; we haven’t had a big grow [cannabis cultivation] for about six months,” she said.
The procedure for smaller amounts of cannabis for personal use is to seize and destroy it, with some people getting away with a warning.
Flower confirmed that no warnings would be issued for possession of Class A substances.
“You just don’t give warnings for those, but generally, we’ve tried to do something else with those people,” she said, listing various referral programmes linked with local rehabilitation centres.
There has been speculation that the record amounts of cocaine consumption in New Zealand are linked to overseas cartels and motorcycle gangs flooding the drug market, especially motorcycle gangs with strong international ties like the Comancheros and Mongols.
Flower confirmed the Comancheros are present in Wellington but have not set up a base in Wairarapa.
However, police know several instances where known Comancheros have travelled between Wellington and Wairarapa.