Cocaine use on the rise as ski season approaches

3 minutes read
Posted 17 May, 2024
coke v3

Police are warning of a significant rise in the use and sale of cocaine in the region, with ongoing dealing and use of synthetic party drugs like MDMA and ketamine.

Otago Lakes Organised Crime lead Detective Sergeant Regan Boucher is urging people to avoid taking recreational drugs and warns of an increasing risk that they may not be buying what they think.  

Southern Police made one of the largest cocaine seizures in Queenstown in December, worth a street value estimated at $88,000 as part of a clamp down on recreational drug use through the area.

The biggest haul was in Queenstown where Boucher also said that higher levels were being detected in the wastewater.

Since then, an increase in drug usage has continued to rise locally. Not even the current tougher economic times appear to be impacting dealer profits. A recent New Zealand Drug Foundation report found cocaine use has almost doubled in New Zealand in the last two years.

Police say that while Queenstown’s a transient place, it’s not just the visitors coming to the region who are caught up in it but residents too.

Boucher says Police will be targeting recreational drug use and with the ski party season almost here he’s warning not to take the risks and avoid all recreational drugs.

“Unfortunately, with chemically produced substances people taking the drug do not and cannot know what they’re putting into their systems,” he says. “Often what’s being offered for sale isn’t in fact what’s being sold, and this can have devastating, sometimes fatal, consequences.”

Illicit drugs are manufactured and/or imported by people “who put profit above all else and don’t consider the health and wellbeing of the end user”. “Our advice is quite simple. Don’t do it. However, to keep yourself safe, never accept drugs that you haven't personally bought yourself, especially from strangers,” he says. “Ensure you look after each other and don’t mix with alcohol or other illicit substances.”

“Police will continue to target and hold those to account who harm our communities while ensuring we will be providing support to those who need it to keep our communities safe.”

The recent NZ Drug Foundation report found the volume of cocaine consumption increased 93% in 2022/23, compared with the previous three years’ average. Executive director Sarah Helm puts the increase down to a significant increase in international cocaine production and supply, which is concerning because it has a higher risk of addiction than more common drugs like MDMA.

Boucher is also urging people to drink responsibly with the ski season approaching and more visitors enjoying eateries and bars.

“Most importantly, never leave your drink unattended, or accept drinks you haven't personally seen poured, especially from strangers or someone you’ve just met,” he says. “Look after yourselves and look after your mates.”

He’s got a strong message for those who may consider “taking advantage of vulnerable or intoxicated people. “DON’T, and I urge anyone who has concerns, or witnesses this type of behaviour occurring to call it out,” he says. “Sexual assault is unacceptable. It’s never the victim’s fault and will not be tolerated.” Police will respond to, and investigate, every incident reported to them.

Call 111 in an emergency, or if you’re observing something illegal or suspicious, he says. If an incident has already occurred people are urged to provide information via the Police non-emergency number – call 105 or go online at


Tips to keep safe while out drinking:

Eat something substantial before you go.
Have a glass of water between drinks.
Take a fully charged phone.
Don’t mix alcohol with other substances.
Agree where to meet if friends get separated.
Regularly check on your mates if they seem to be overdoing it.
Have a plan to get home.
Prearrange a sober driver or be prepared to get an Uber or taxi.
Never walk home alone.


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