Housing NZ to apologise for meth testing debacle

Housing NZ (HNZ) will formally apologise to affected tenants for its "wrong" use of meth testing, which resulted in 800 households being negatively affected.

That could be a total of 2400 people directly affected, as HNZ said an average of three people live under each tenancy. On top of that, hundreds of homes were left empty, resulting in people unneccessarily on the wait list.

HNZ's flawed used of meth contamination standards resulted in tenants losing their tenancies and/or possessions, being suspended from the state housing waiting list and having their credit ratings negatively affected, a new HNZ report into the incorrect use of methamphetamine contamination testing has found. Some were made homeless.

HNZ spent $100 million on the mostly unnecessary testing and 'decontamination'.

The report is damning. It says HNZ failed to follow principles of natural justice, and the "policy of zero tolerance" to illegal activity in its homes was wrong.

"We plan to put things right," HNZ said, at the release of its report into the incorrect use of methamphetamine contamination testing.

Affected tenants will be reimbursed, and provided "other forms of assistance", HNZ chief executive Andrew McKenzie said.

HNZ expects payments to "be in the order of $2500 to $3000 per tenancy."

Tenants will not be reimbused for emtional strain. The Greens stay they should be. Co-leader Marama Davidson said she's pushing to make sure compensation is "fair and sufficient, and acknowledges emotional distress caused."

The HNZ report was prompted after the former Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman found health risk of living in a house where meth has previously been smoked is so low that he "can't see the point of testing, full stop".

Housing NZ promises a 'new approach'

Tenancies where drug use has occurred will no longer be terminated, unless there is evidence of drug manufacture.

HNZ, the country's biggest landlord, says in houses where contamination has occured due to drug use, that will now be considered a drug addiction issue and tenants will be helped into rehabilitation services.

No action will be taken where meth is present at levels below 15mcg/100cm2  - the level recommended by the Chief Science Advisor.

Mr McKenzie said it's Housing NZ's goal to "give people in need a warm, dry, safe home".

"On behalf of Housing NZ, we are deeply sorry for the disruption this caused," Mr McKenzie said.

"Housing NZ wants to be a compassionate landlord… it's why we are here."

Phil Twyford - the Government's approach was wrong

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says there is no evidence third-hand exposure to meth poses a health risk.

The Government's approach in 2013 was a "moral and fiscal failure", Mr Twyford said.

Mr Twyford said the people he holds most accountable have "lost their jobs already - they are no longer ministers".

"Paula Bennett was gloating in the media about the eviction of tenants", Mr Twyford said.

Mr Twyford said there should be a "personal apology from Paula Bennett and her fellow ministers who allowed this fiasco to take place."

Concerns over standard

Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi has concerns about the process for setting standards.

The 1.5mcg/100cm2 limit followed by Housing NZ was set by Standards NZ in 2017. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) reviewed the standard, finding the process complied with the Act.

Mr Faafoi has asked the Prime Minister's new Chief Science Advisor Juliet Gerrard to work with MBIE to ensure the standard-setting process is robust, and to "remove any cloud of uncertainty in regard to both the setting of the meth standard, and the use of science in standard-setting."


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