The initiative for starting a poisons centre in New Zealand came following the return of Dr JC Dacre to the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy from a period of study leave in the US. The idea was taken up by the Professor of Clinical Pharmacology Garth McQueen with the help of Associate Professor Fred Fastier.
The idea was then accepted by the Department of Health in April 1964, and the National Poisons Centre service started in Dunedin in December 1964.
The service operated from the Emergency Department at Dunedin Hospital and initially dealt only with emergency poisonings.
In 1990 (when call numbers reached 5,000 per year) enquiries started to be answered from the administrative centre from 9 am to 5 pm during the week with the emergency department continuing to handle calls outside these hours.
In 1991, this was extended from 8.30 am to 11 pm with full 24hour coverage being provided by the Centre in 1995.
In October 2001, the National Poisons Centre launched its 0800 number (0800 POISON) making it free to call the Centre from anywhere in New Zealand.
The Centre currently answers around 30,000 telephone enquires each year.