NZ cocaine use 'unpredictable'

Is New Zealand the land of the long white line? Well, not really.

The market for cocaine in New Zealand is small and unpredictable.

The police had seized fluctuating amounts of cocaine over the past 20 years, said Detective Inspector Stuart Mills, of the National Drug Intelligence Bureau.

"While there are cocaine users in New Zealand, they appear to primarily be professionals who are most likely to consume the drug in social or recreational settings and rarely come to law-enforcement attention," he said.

Police believe the street price is now about $350 a gram, down from $500 in 2011.


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The changing market is illustrated in Massey University's Illegal Drug Monitoring System (IDMS), which reported that more than 38 kilograms of the drug was seized in 2006 but only 25g the next year and 4.1kg in 2011.

Cost, the short "high" duration (20 to 60 minutes), the availability of other stimulants and the uncertain quality of the product contributed to the low levels of cocaine use in New Zealand, Mills said.

Cocaine is hard to come by, with 84 per cent of regular cocaine users describing it to the IDMS researchers as "difficult" or "very difficult" to obtain in 2011.

Mills said that while New Zealand was often the final destination for some cocaine shipments, Australia was considered the most likely intended destination.

"Australia has a larger population, a higher demand and provides a profitable market for traffickers," he said.

Massey University illegal-drug researcher Chris Wilkins said the cocaine market in New Zealand was small, and most drug users opted for methamphetamine instead.

"The police don't seize much cocaine in New Zealand as it is more a stopping point to try to get it into Sydney," he said.

"There is some anecdotal evidence that users are jet-setters and high-income earners, but that has never really been confirmed because there are so few users."

Drug price index:

Cannabis – Tinnie (1 to 3 grams): $20. Mature plant: $1000.

Cocaine (powder) – Gram: $350. Ounce (28g): $9000.

Ecstasy – Tablet: $40 to $50.

LSD – Tab: $40.

Methamphetamine (P) – Point (0.1g): $100. Gram: $800. Half-ounce (14g): $6500.

Source: New Zealand Police.

Fairfax Media