How often defence force staff tested positive for illegal drugs

Four members of the New Zealand Defence Force have tested positive for illegal drugs in the Bay of Plenty since 2019.

Nationwide, 62 members of the NZDF tested positive for class A, B, or C drugs and some a combination of illegal drugs after more than 8000 tests were taken between 2019 and December 14, 2021.

Punishments ranged from fines, detentions, reductions in ranks, and in five cases, dismissal.

Details from an Official Information Act request to the NZDF revealed the service, location, class of drug and punishment of each member who tested positive.

In 2019, an army member in Tauranga tested positive for a class B drug and received 16 days’ detention as punishment.

In 2020, an army member in Rotorua tested positive for a class C drug and received a $250 fine and 14 days’ detention.

And in 2021, two army members in Pāpāmoa tested positive for a class B drug, with one receiving a $1304.10 fine and reprimand and the other 18 days’ detention.

Class A drugs are considered very high-risk and include methamphetamine, magic mushrooms, cocaine, heroin and LSD (acid).

Class B drugs are high-risk and include cannabis oil, hashish, morphine, opium, ecstasy and many amphetamine-type substances.

Class C drugs, meanwhile, are moderate risk and include cannabis plant, cannabis seed and codeine.

Five people were dismissed from the NZDF over the three-year period after testing positive for illegal drugs.

• An airforce member in 2019 tested positive for a class B drug at Ohakea and received 126 days’ detention and dismissal.

• Another airforce member at Ohakea in 2019 tested positive for class A, B, and C drugs. They received a punishment of 365 days’ detention, reduction in rank and dismissal.

• Two members of the navy in 2020 were dismissed after they tested positive for a class B drug on HMNZS Philomel. One received 12 months’ detention and dismissal while the other got 11 months’ detention and dismissal.

• And an air force member who tested positive for a class B drug with a location of Feilding, Wellington and Blenheim received 85 days’ detention and dismissal.

The NZDF did not provide information on what specific drugs members tested positive for and said in a written statement it would “require substantial research” to provide that information, which is contained within individual investigation files.

Founded in 1909, the NZDF consists of three services: the Royal New Zealand Navy, the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

In the written statement, an NZDF spokesperson said when members are retained, treatment and support was tailored to meet individual needs and circumstances.

There were also no grounds for testing such as pre-deployment testing and up to 5 per cent of the workforce were tested randomly each year.

Punishments were set following the military justice system and sentences were decided with reference to the Sentencing Guidelines produced by the Armed Forces Discipline Committee pursuant to section 163 of the Armed Forces Discipline Act.

As a requirement of the guidelines, the particular circumstances of the offending, as well as the circumstances of the offender, need to be assessed, the spokesperson said.

Detentions may be served in a detention quarter, in service custody or in certain circumstances as field punishment.

“The Service Corrective Establishment [SCE] is located at Burnham Military Camp. It is staffed by military personnel and has a rehabilitative focus,” the spokesperson said.

Fines are deducted from a member’s pay and go to the Government.

The NZDF spokesperson said it was committed to employing a range of different ways to deal with the harm caused by drugs.

“The New Zealand Defence Force is one of the largest organisations in New Zealand, comprising more than 14,000 people, and it is not immune to substance misuse harm that is present in wider society.

“As such, NZDF uses a variety of different methods to tackle the issues that substance misuse can have on individuals and workplaces.

“Whilst there are safety and discipline issues with some aspects of drug misuse, there are also important health concerns.”

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