The 2023 Act strengthens the management of drug and alcohol-related risks in the commercial aviation sector. It introduces drug and alcohol management plans (DAMPs) for certain organisations and allows the Director of Civil Aviation to conduct drug and alcohol testing.

NPRM and draft AC online

Giving effect to the Act requires a new Rule Part (Part 99). The draft rules were online for public consultation from 26 March 2024 to 10 May 2024.

You can still view the draft Notice for Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) and accompanying draft Advisory Circular. The draft AC explains the rules in Part 99 for drug and alcohol management plans (DAMPs) and testing, including who is a DAMP operator, and provides a draft template for operators to use.

The submissions are currently being reviewed. They will be summarised and published on the CAA website, along with CAA’s response, before Rule Part 99, as part of the process of finalising the rules.

What the Act does

The Civil Aviation Act 2023 sets up a consistent system for testing drug and alcohol use in the aviation sector. This includes:

  • Introducing drug and alcohol management plans (DAMPs), which involve random testing for workers doing safety-sensitive activities.
  • Setting requirements for DAMP operators around what should be in their DAMPs, random testing and reporting to CAA.
  • Requiring new aviation rules to clarify who will be DAMP operators.
  • Consequences if a test is not negative, tampering is suspected, or a worker refuses to be tested.
  • Giving the CAA the authority to carry out unannounced testing ('Director testing').

Rules required to implement the new Act provisions

New rules are required to give effect to the Act and these are now available for comment. Rules and guidance are required to:

  • Define which certified aviation organisations will be DAMP operators.
  • Provide clarity on what are safety-sensitive activities.
  • Establish reporting requirements.
  • Develop a process for approving drug and alcohol management plans.

There are NZQA standards for collecting urine and oral fluid samples and for screening these samples to check for drugs. Additionally, AS/NZ Standards cover various processes like collecting, handling, transporting (if further laboratory testing is needed), laboratory testing itself, disposal, and safety measures.

The CAA has also created guidance which explains:

  • Which commercial operators are likely to be involved in the new drug and alcohol management plan regime, and what their responsibilities would be.
  • What substances, besides alcohol, should be tested – using the existing Australian/New Zealand standards for urine and saliva testing.
  • How often and in what form random testing should be carried out.
  • The Act requirements if a test shows the presence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Use of terms such as 'non-negative' test – meaning anything other than a negative test.

What is operator random testing?

Random testing is testing of a safety-sensitive worker in a way that's not predictable or discriminatory. It's done without giving any advance notice. An organisation (the DAMP operator), or their agent, would conduct the random testing.

Safety-sensitive activity is an activity carried out by a person that could seriously impact the health or safety of anyone on an aircraft. Guidance will help clarify the Act definition. For example, activities like being a pilot, would fall under this definition.

How to test and the response plan

The specific drugs to be tested for, permitted levels, and how the testing is done will be outlined by the DAMP operators in their DAMPs. The DAMPs also need to include a response plan which covers what will happen if a worker tests non-negative, refuses to be tested, or tampering is suspected (for example, sending them home, doing follow-up testing, and deciding when it's safe for them to return to work).

Industry impact

Our aim at the CAA is to create processes that reduce the administrative workload (and costs) for both the aviation industry and us. Here's how we are doing it:

  • By offering a template plan and guidance to help operators get started.
  • By applying the experience of companies that already conduct drug and alcohol testing.
  • Planning to use existing reporting systems rather than creating new ones.
  • Paying special attention to the needs of small and remote operators.

Director testing

The Act allows the Director of Civil Aviation to carry out unannounced drug and alcohol testing (Director testing).

Director testing will be an important element in maintaining oversight of the DAMP system. It will not commence until operator drug and alcohol plans are in place – after 5 April 2027.

When the CAA conducts Director testing, it will follow the same scope and standards outlined in the operator's DAMP.

Where there is a non-negative test result, refusal to test or suspected tampering, the responsibility would then shift to the operator who would follow the response plan they had outlined in their DAMP.


Up to Act Commencement - 5 April 2025

  • Public consultation – Consultation on the draft rules and associated draft Advisory Circular as part of a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) from 26 March 2024 to 10 May 2024.
  • Certified organisations determine whether they will be DAMP operators or not.

Transition period from 5 April 2025 to 5 April 2027

The Act has a built-in transition period for the development of DAMPs from 5 April 2025 to 4 April 2027.

During the transition period:

  • Organisations that have determined that they are DAMP operators will develop or complete their DAMPs and submit them to the CAA for approval. This process will be staggered to allow the submission and approval processes to be undertaken smoothly.
  • Director testing operational decisions – The CAA will make the necessary decisions to enable Director testing to be implemented from 5 April 2027.

5 April 2027 onwards – DAMP regime in place

The Act’s drug and alcohol provisions will be in place from 5 April 2027.  This will include:

  • Operator random testing – DAMP operators will undertake random testing of workers involved in safety-sensitive activities as a normal part of their operations and as set out in their DAMPs.
  • The provisions in the Act for notifying CAA and responding to non-negatives tests apply.
  • New applicants for certification who meet the conditions of being a DAMP operator will be required to include a drug and alcohol management plan in their expositions.

Next steps (as at June 2024)

Now that the draft rules and associated guidance in an Advisory Circular are undergoing review after public consultation, the CAA’s next steps are:

  • Review feedback, refine the draft Rules, Advisory Circular, and template, and work with the Ministry of Transport to attain the Minister’s approval for the draft rules to become finalised.
  • Interact with sector participants and work across CAA to prepare for development of DAMPS from 5 April 2025.