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Our strategy

A new approach to harm reduction:

He aronga hou mō te whakaiti pāmamae:

decolonise, depoliticise, destigmatise, mobilise

he purenga ihomatua, he purenga tōrangapū, he purenga taunu, he whakaoreore

People use a range of psychoactive substances, licit and illicit, for pleasure, socialising, therapeutic reasons and in response to trauma (e.g., childhood trauma). Illicit drugs are traded through an unregulated market, which inherently lacks quality or safety controls.  Meanwhile the illicit drug market globally, and in New Zealand, is becoming more volatile in terms of the substances that people are using.

In the current environment, people who use drugs can experience a range of outcomes: from no harm at all, chronic harm from ongoing use, acute harm from an incident (such as overdose or an accident), problematic use, through to addiction.

The legal frameworks we have compound harms instead of alleviating them, and create an environment of secrecy and shame, which prevents people from being able to seek help. Criminal sanctions, or punishments from workplace, organisational or school policies, fail to deter use, and can exacerbate or add harms for people who use drugs, their whānau and communities.

We are caught in a political gridlock that is a by-product of stigma and misinformation of the ‘war of drugs’, and our own existing legislative framework. Breaking the gridlock will enable a range of improvements, although alone it is not enough to realise our vision.

Colonisation, racism, poverty, discrimination, homelessness, mental distress and disconnection further compound the harms of drug use for those impacted by them. These societal factors also underpin some of our historical drug policies in Aotearoa.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation is a catalyst for change, creating or partnering in ground-breaking interventions and policies that reduce harm and demonstrate the change we want to see. This strategy describes our new approach to harm reduction, through decolonisation, destigmatisation and depoliticisation.



An Aotearoa free from drug harm.

Kia purea a Aotearoa i te pāmamae nā te kai whakapiri.



He Whakatakanga

To transform the way Aotearoa New Zealand addresses drug issues.

Kia panonihia te aronga o Aotearoa Niu Tireni mō ngā take kai whakapiri.

We influence this through our leadership, by supporting communities and inspiring action that promotes wellbeing, is mana enhancing and prevents drug harm.

Ka whakaaweawe mātou i tēnei mā tō mātou ārahitanga, mā te tautoko i ngā hapori, mā te whakaohooho hoki kia tokona ake ai te toiora, ka hāpaitia ai te mana, kia āraitia ai hoki te pāmamae o te kai whakapiri. 


He Uara

For over 30 years, we have remained true to the values expressed by our founding Trustees – Professor Sir John Scott, Dr Irihapeti Ramsden and Dr Eru Pomare – which include a commitment to science and evidence, fearless public health advocacy, and a responsibility to reflect the principles of partnership embodied in the Treaty of Waitangi.

Added to this is our commitment to health promotion approaches embodied in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986) (and contemporary iterations of this) and Te Pae Māhutonga: A model for Māori Health Promotion (1999). The Foundation is also a signatory to the Māori Manifesto: A framework for change (2018).

During the life of this new statement of strategic direction our work will continue to be guided by the following values:

Commit ourselves to health equity for Māori and meeting Māori health aspirations 

Kia mau mātou ki te hauora mana taurite o ngāi Māori, ki te whakatutuki hoki i ngā whāinga hauora o ngāi Māori

This is why we fearlessly advocate for system change and law reform that addresses health inequalities and inequity through the lens of social, cultural, economic and environmental determinants of health.

Create kind, compassionate and people-centred responses to drug harm reduction 

Kia waihanga urupare atawhai, mākoha hoki e hāngai pū ana ki te tangata hei whakaiti i te pāmamae kai whakapiri

This is why the way we work is centred on those who experience the most harm from drugs and drug laws and policy.

Support communities to create solutions for themselves 

Kia tautoko i ngā hapori ki te waihanga whakautu mō rātou anō

This is why partnerships, collaboration and communities of practice are important to us.

Respect the power of evidence to inform our own work and our advocacy 

Whakamanahia te taunakitanga hei tuku whakamōhiotanga mō ā mātou mahi, mō tā mātou mahi hapahapai hoki

This is why we draw heavily on the best evidence and practice in all we do, and work with researchers to translate knowledge into action.


He whakaputanga

  • People who use drugs, along the spectrum of use, experience hauora and reduce drug-related risks & harms.
  • Drug laws enhance well-being of people who use drugs
  • People who use drugs, and the sector who work for and with them, have their dignity and mana restored or enhanced.
  • Everyone in Aotearoa is supported to have a safe and healthy relationship with substances. 

Strategy: Decolonise, depoliticise, destigmatise and mobilise


He Purenga Ihomatua

We embrace Te Tiriti and work in partnership with Māori.

There is disproportionate harm for Māori, and underlying inequalities and limited access to support are an impact of colonisation. Therefore:

    1. Te Tiriti is central in the way we work, and we recognise that all of our work must seek to enhance the mana of tangata whenua.
    2. Where our input is welcome and adds value, we will form partnerships with iwi, hapū and Māori health organisations, sharing ownership of work and solutions.
    3. We acknowledge that colonisation and racism is/has created trauma that exacerbates the harm for Māori from drug use, and that that harm is further compounded by unjust and racist drug policies, laws and law enforcement. We will commission work to explore the concepts of mana, mauri, ihu, wehi in relation to drug use, with a focus on understanding where mauri and wairua fit in our harm reduction approach.


He Purenga Tōrangapū

We work to depoliticise the issues and bring about reform  based on evidence and best practice, to bring in law changes that will  benefit all communities, including people who use drugs.

For decades, there has been inaction on improving our drug laws, policies and interventions because drug policy is highly politicised. Therefore:

    1. We will work to achieve decriminalisation of use and the regulation of all drugs. This will include: the regulated supply of some drugs, legalisation of harm reduction activities, enactment of a good Samaritan clause, proportionate punishments and clean slate legislation.
    2. We will support law that enhances the wellbeing of tangata whenua and is based on science.
    3. We will contribute to international work to bring about international conventions that enhance our domestic settings, instead of hampering.
    4. Our work will promote workplace and school drug policies that enhance well-being instead of punishment and exclusion. 


He Purenga Taunu

We work to enhance the mana of people who use drugs  and support the development of our sector.

People who use drugs and/or experience addiction face stigma, discrimination, and prejudice, which is compounded by criminalisation of drug use. This in turn erodes the mana of the sector. Therefore, we will:

    1. Tell the stories of people who use drugs.
    2. Share information about the reasons people use illicit substances, including for therapeutic benefits, unmet health needs, pleasure, in response to trauma and risk-taking.
    3. Increase the voice/leadership and involvement of people who use drugs in our work, including people along the spectrum of use, and their whānau and communities.
    4. Seed and support a proactive grassroots and mass media campaign to reduce discrimination and stigma and shift moral framework from judgement to compassion.
    5. Provide harm reduction advice & information, which is freely available, evidence-based, accessible, culturally inclusive and non-judgemental to the diversity of people who use drugs across the spectrum of use.
    6. Build towards proactive social marketing to influence behaviour change
    7. Contribute to the development and support of a harm reduction workforce, including people with living and lived experience, to enable the work to be undertaken effectively.
    8. Reconsider the language we use, in relation to stigma and harm reduction
    9. Build an understanding of the therapeutic uses for substances currently scheduled under the Misuse of Drugs Act and build support for people being able to access those substances for medicinal purposes, or better alternatives where they exist.
    10. Build better research and data about people’s drug use and experiences of drug use.


He Whakaoreore

We gain additional territory by innovating and demonstrating new ways of working, pushing legal reform and then stepping into that newly gained space to start this process again.

To do this we will:

    1. Work to improve personal, whānau, school and employer skills to improve decision-making and strengthen ‘natural/existing supports’ and advice for people who use drugs.
    2. Equip young people with critical thinking skills and knowledge to be able to make informed decisions about drugs.
    3. Consider the role of taxation and levies in a regulated market to fund health and harm reduction interventions and bring about wider economic benefits.
    4. Work alongside iwi Māori and Māori health organisations to strengthen and inform approaches – e.g., with specific drug knowledge.
    5. Media work, lobbying, advocacy and campaigning.
    6. Providing off-the-shelf policy, legal and harm reduction solutions.
    7. Innovate to create harm reduction and health interventions, iterate, provide proof of concept and support them to implementation.
    8. Radical collaboration with or supporting others to work towards realising tino rangatiratanga, creating relevant harm reduction interventions and addressing determinants of health, including inequity, poverty, homelessness, trauma.
    9. Direct interventions and provide networks between/with community & DIANZ to prevent acute harms.
    10. International participation in the small ground-breaking community of harm reduction and drug policy activists & scientists.