Housing NZ is spending almost $1 million a month on testing and cleaning up state homes contaminated with methamphetamine (P) - a bill that is growing rapidly.
Figures released to Newshub under the Official Information Act show a massive increase on previous years, with more than $5.8 million dollars spent in the seven months to January.
That’s more than eight times the amount spent in an entire year cleaning up P in state houses just two years ago.
Auckland has the biggest number of state houses - and the biggest problem. Cleaning up after P-using Auckland tenants since the beginning of July last year has come with a bill of more than $3 million dollars.
By comparison, decontaminating homes in the Wellington region cost Housing NZ only a tenth of that, just over $300,000. The clean-up for all South Island tenants so far this financial year is a fraction over $450,000.
The corporation is considering testing every home for P between tenancies to ensure they’re safe to reoccupy.
A Housing NZ spokeswoman says staff is increasingly focused on identifying homes where P is being used or manufactured.
Tenants found to have contaminated their home with meth are evicted and can’t reapply for another state house for one year. They’re also pursued in court for clean-up costs.
The social housing provider’s chief operating officer, Paul Commons, says all front-line staff are “trained to recognise signs of possible methamphetamine manufacture and use.”
“Contamination from P use prevents vulnerable people on the social housing register from getting access to a home as cleaning and remediation can take up to three months in serious situations.”
Decontamination costs around $10,000 per property, while testing a property for P is more than $2,700.
Mr Commons said P use is “not just a Housing NZ problem”.
“Methamphetamine use in New Zealand is non-discriminatory – it is used by people of all ages, backgrounds and social standing.”
Victor Boyd from Contaminated Site Solutions in Auckland says P clean ups are also increasing among rental property owners, as awareness of the issue grows.
“These properties are all over the place, they don’t necessarily have to be a Housing NZ property.”
“We get them in Remuera, Orakei, Herne Bay - they’re all over the place. Most of the time it’s not a P Lab, it’s people smoking the stuff.”