Demand’ for workplace drug tests in Queenstown

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A major player in workplace drug-testing is moving into Queenstown to meet what it says is a growing demand. 

The New Zealand Drug Detection Agency opened an office at Frankton’s Glenda Drive last week. 

The private company carries out workplace drug and alcohol testing and also pre-employment drug testing. 

“There is absolutely a demand for a Queenstown branch,” NZDDA’s Otago/South­land general manager John Galliven says. 

Galliven states the centre will help all employers meet their obligations under the Health and Safety Act. 

The centre’s opening coincides with mounting Government concern about drug-taking in the adventure tourism industry. 

Prime Minister John Key, who’s also Tourism Minister, last month said his Government had investigated mandatory testing after cannabis was found in the blood systems of a skydiving jumpmaster and a balloon pilot in fatal accidents at Fox Glacier and in the Wairarapa, respectively. 

While drugs weren’t responsible for either accident, it wasn’t acceptable either and risked the country’s outdoors safety reputation, Key told a Tourism Industry Association summit. 

Key said the Government had backed off imposing mandatory drug testing. 

But he warned that a tougher line would be taken if the adventure tourism sector didn’t have a zero tolerance attitude to substance abuse. 

Galliven says the new branch, supplemented by 24/7 mobile testing units, will also service the Wanaka, Alexandra and Cromwell areas. 

Drugs the NZDDA will test for are amphetamines, benzodiazapines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and synthetic cannabinoids. 

Galliven says the use of synthetic cannabinoids is on the rise. 

“This can profoundly affect a person’s judgement, particularly in safety-sensitive industries such as tourism.” 

Local occupational health nurse Debbie Swain-Rewi, who’s carried out workplace drug testing for five years, questions whether there’s a big enough demand for a new centre. 

“A lot of people say jokingly ‘If we tested we’d have no employees’. 

“But the reality is, people who do test tend to have applicants who are not users.” 

Queenstown-based tourism giant Real Journeys – which operates the Earnslaw steamer and Milford coaches and launches – introduced workplace drug testing in 2007. 

The policy applies to office workers as well as skippers and coach drivers. 

Then-boss Dave Hawkey said at the time: “It’s very difficult to determine what a safety-sensitive area is. 

Somebody working in the office might go and help tie up a boat.” 

New boss Richard Lauder says: “As an organisation, competence is critical – one of those competencies is not to be incapacitated in some way.”