New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the party hopes to decide whether to change it's opposition to pill testing at music festivals "before the season of concern", with festivals generally held during the summer months.
Mr Peters' comments come in an interview with TVNZ's Q+A tonight and follow a remit from the party's youth wing to review its policy on pill testing at festivals.
NZ First has so far stalled a plan by its coalition partners to allow pill testing at festivals, and the weekend conference in Christchurch passed the remit from Young New Zealand First after vigorous debate.
"There was a seriously sound debate. It's a complex problem and frankly there's many sides to it," Mr Peters says in tonight's interview.
"But what we want is some serious empirical research, not just rumour and gossip, but some serious research as to what on Earth's going on here," he says.
"And so we'd like to commission that, go forward and make a decision as a result of that information."
Asked how long the research is likely to take, Mr Peters says, "Well, it's got to be much sooner rather than later, before Christmas."
A decision will be made after that, he says.
"We hope to have that decision made well before the season of concern that gave rise to the Young New Zealand First remit in the first place."
Mr Peters would not give his position on the issue at this stage.
“Well I'd like to see the evidence, and I think so would the whole party. And indeed I think so would the whole country,” he says.
At the party conference, Robert Griffith of Young NZ First said the question of pill testing is “a very different issue when you are living with peers who are taking drugs every day”.
The issue is highlighting a progressive arm within the traditionally conservative caucus, with several of the party’s MPs voicing their concerns on the issue.
“What will happen to some young person’s body when they consume something that is full of drain cleaner,” Jenny Marcroft told the conference.
Clayton Mitchell said: “I know the intent to have these pill testing stations is not to legitimise the use of drugs but in a way it does."
MP Tracey Martin added: “I believe there is a middle road here and that’s part of the conversation we need to have."
* Q+A is on TVNZ1 on Mondays at 9.30pm, and the episode is then available on TVNZ OnDemand and as a podcast in all the usual places.