The Housing Minister says while he admits landlords have been "absolutely rorted" by incorrect meth safety standards, he won't give any thought to offering them compensation.
A new Government report has found there's no evidence linking methamphetamine residue from smoking to health impacts - contrary to what former guidelines suggested.
It means Housing New Zealand may have pointlessly emptied several hundred state houses and wasted a good chunk of $100m on cleaning houses in which meth was smoked but not manufactured.
- State houses needlessly emptied where meth previously smoked
- Meth tester already knew 'contaminated' houses had little health impact
On Wednesday Phil Twyford told The AM Show the report, authored by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, suggests the "whole area has been completely out of whack".
"Many hundreds of houses - I think about 900 state houses, but we don't know in the private market, how many houses have been taken out of circulation.
"One hundred million dollars spent on remediation, countless hundreds of houses in the private sector."
Housing New Zealand (HNZ) will now use a new standard of 15 micrograms of meth detected per 100 square centimetres after cleaning, expecting to save $30m a year in remediation and testing. That's 10 times the current limit of 1.5 micrograms. It used to be 0.5 micrograms after cleaning.
But Mr Twyford says despite this, landlords who adhered to the previous guidelines won't be compensated for it.
"I haven't given any thought to compensation and I don't intend to.
"The standard that was set last year is not a mandatory thing. It's a good practice guideline. And everybody - landlords, tenants, make their own business decisions based on the best available information.
"I can understand why people are upset about this, and angry, and feel they've been let down. It is unfair. But we are sorting this out so that in the future moving forward this disaster wont' happen again."
After the report was released the Drug Foundation's Ross Bell called meth testing the "biggest scam New Zealand has ever seen". He says the previous Government was warned meth contamination fears were overblown, but "chose to take no action."
That's refuted by National's social services spokesperson Paula Bennett, who told Newshub she and former Prime Minister Bill English were asking Housing NZ "a whole lot of questions" about the testing.
"To be honest, I fought back pretty hard and was at time told it was inappropriate to be trying to direct Housing NZ as a Crown Agency [that] as a consequence have to work independently," Ms Bennett told Newshub.
"I'm pleased with today's result. There's no way we wanted empty houses that didn't have to be empty."
Mr Twyford admits "a bit of scientific rigour" in the policy process early on "would have made a big difference".
"It's an issue that had been worrying me for a long time... I thought that the standard didn't seem quite right. There was a lot of independent scientific commentary around that the threshold was way too low. And a lot of people were being kicked out of their homes, a lot of remediation was being done, a lot of money was being spent, for no good reason."