Bridges still complaining about compensating meth house victims

No one has suggested that drug dealers should be given any money when it was announced that people evicted from state houses over the meth contamination panic – see Housing NZ to compensate 800 tenants over bogus meth testing

The apology and offer to compensate kicked-out tenants by between $2500 and $3000 comes as a report into the agency’s meth testing regime was finally released on Thursday morning.

It found that between July 2013 and May 2018 nearly 5000 Housing New Zealand (HNZ) properties were tested for meth contamination, with about half of these tests testing positive for the too-low standard at the time.

Just one in five primary tenants were rehoused. The majority, just under 800, were found responsible and were kicked out of their properties, and 275 tenants were suspended from being housed by the agency for a period of one year.

Just one fifth of the tested properties would fail the new standard set in May, which is ten times higher than the previous extremely low trigger.

Given most homes have more than one person but just a single primary tenants, around 2400 people were likely affected.

Furthermore, about $7m in damages was charged to 542 tenants. But less than two per cent of this was actually recovered before HNZ stopped seeking them earlier in 2017, and that debt has now been cancelled.

But that’s the line of attack that National leader Simon Bridges took last week:

Remarkable Bridges is continuing his opposition to “what Phil Twyford is doing” this morning.

Bridges agrees with compensation but is barking at a passing Twyford regardless.

Jones is happy to see Bridges making a mess of leading the Opposition.

Phil Twyford has run in after Bridges’ interview making it clear that no ex state tenant convicted of meth manufacture or dealing will get compensation.

Bridges is not only barking at a passing car, he is inventing the car.

Meth house madness trashed people’s lives

The impact of the meth house scam on some people has been awful.

Stuff – Meth house myth: Why hundreds of safe homes were left empty in middle of a housing crisis

Rosemary Rudolph was in her late 80s when the Government told her she was going to die.

It wasn’t cancer, old age, or anything her doctor said at all. It came from a Housing New Zealand (HNZ) staffer, who said the place Rudolph called home for more than 60 years was poisoning her – she had to move out quick.

“They said I would die if I stayed there. I’ll tell you what, I’ve been dying ever since – I’m a shadow of what I once was,” Rudolph said.

One of Rudolph’s 16 grandchildren had smoked some methamphetamine on the property and HNZ had caught wind of this, she said, admitting she was “pretty naive”.

HNZ demanded the 87-year-old leave the property in Avondale, Auckland, so that it could be tested. They were also worried after her house had been fired upon by a suspected gang attacker. The tests came back positive – and that was it. She was out, moved to a far smaller unit right by a busy road.

“They said you have to move out, and because it’s not your fault, we’ll give you a little place somewhere.”

“I wasn’t allowed to bring my blankets or anything. I just walked out in the clothes that I had. The few that I had had to be washed three times … My possessions were taken away from me. People came off the street and ransacked the place.”

Rudolph said HNZ charged her $3000 for the testing. An HNZ spokesperson said the agency is “currently reviewing any costs associated with this matter”.

Not only was she kicked out, she was billed $3000 for meth testing!

That whole Stuff article is very good coverage of the scam.

RNZ: Man still repaying debt from unnecessary HNZ meth eviction

A man who received an apology from the housing minister for being evicted from his state house is still being forced to pay back the government for emergency accommodation.

Robert Eruiti was evicted from his Housing New Zealand (HNZ) home after testing for methamphetamine on surfaces in eight rooms revealed he was 0.09 over the 0.5 limit using a scientific method that has been since discredited.

Although it was not believed he was responsible for the contamination, because his name was on the tenancy agreement he was evicted.

His daughter Casey McCarry told Checkpoint her father was still being forced to pay back some of the $44,000 it cost to house him for over a year in emergency accommodation.

“We also believe that should be waived, that he should not have to pay that money,” she said.

“It still feels like yesterday my dad was evicted because it was such a stressful process for myself and my family.

“I’m very angry and disappointed.”

A lot of his furniture and belongings had to be thrown away as there was nowhere to store them.

There’s still a lot of questions to be answered and financial damaged repaired on this issue.

Also from RNZ: Housing NZ chair refuses to step down after meth revelations

Housing New Zealand’s (HNZ) chair Adrienne Young Cooper would not be interviewed but said she will not resign.

HNZ chief executive Andrew McKenzie also again refused to be interviewed.

A report this week from Sir Peter Gluckman found no real health risk to humans from living in a house where meth had previously only been smoked.

That meant hundreds of tenants were wrongly booted out of state houses and millions of dollars wasted on clean-ups.

Sir Peter said there had been an inexplicable leap in logic resulting in clean-up standards for meth labs being used as a measure for passive exposure.

It’s hard to understand how this ever happened.

It’s well known that methamphetamine is an insidious and widely used drug.

But what is the risk to second hand use? Like, getting a whiff when someone else is using it? I haven’t heard of any.

But the meth house scam was based on what is referred to as third hand use – the slight possibility someone will be exposed to traces of meth weeks or months after it was used. Even if there is exposure there has been no reports of any  adverse effects.

Twyford rules out meth house apology, then apologises

Phil Twyford was criticised yesterday for failing to be apologetic over the meth house debacle, but his seems to have changed is approach overnight.

RNZ: Twyford rules out apology over meth tests

Phil Twyford has ruled out any compensation or an apology to the victims despite having relentlessly championed their cause when he was in opposition.

When Mr Twyford became housing minister last year he immediately asked the country’s top scientist to review the country’s meth contamination standards.

Sir Peter Gluckman’s report was released this week – and revealed the country has been gripped by a moral panic – and meth residue posed no risk to health at all.

Mr Twyford said hundreds of tenants were needlessly evicted by Housing New Zealand and it wasted more than $100 million on unnecessary decontamination.

His colleague, Justice Minister Andrew Little, last night said an apology was warranted.

“If Housing New Zealand or any landlord has kicked out a tenant on the basis of testing that we now know to be bogus … and has totally uprooted an innocent person’s life then at the very least they are owed an apology,” Mr Little said.

Mr Twyford would not be interviewed today, but in a statement said there would be no apology or compensation from the government.

But this morning:

Meth house dangers debunked

I find it hard to understand how expensive meth house clean up practices were used for so long when science suggests most of the mayhem was not backed by science.

There has been questions asked about the over reaction to possible contamination of houses in much meth had been used (as opposed to manufactured), and the length of time it has taken to analyse the science.

The National Government made a big deal about science and data backed decisions, but really seem to have botched this one. They say they were working on a new standard, but that took too long.

In October 2016: 558 state houses left empty based on dodgy P testing

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett needs to explain whether the 558 state houses the Government has left vacant due to methamphetamine residue are in fact contaminated in light of revelations Housing NZ has messed up the testing procedures, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.

“In the middle of a housing crisis when families are living in cars it would be negligent of the Government to leave hundreds of homes empty if it turns out there is no residue that poses any risk to the health of tenants.

“Paula Bennett needs to front up. It is sheer arrogance for her to hide from the taxpayers who not only pay her salary but also coughed up the $22 million she has wasted against Ministry of Health advice.

“After months of warnings by scientists and now Ministry of Health officials, Housing NZ still haven’t owned up to their mistakes and acknowledged that they have wasted $22 million in taxpayer’s money.

“Housing NZ have evicted tenants on the basis of dodgy testing procedures that do not distinguish between methamphetamine contamination caused by state houses being used as P labs and meth consumption which leaves no dangerous residue in the houses.

“If those 558 houses are not contaminated, and do not pose a health risk to the tenants then there are hundreds of Kiwi families desperate for an affordable rental home that sure could use them,” says Phil Twyford.

Last December: Twyford slams ‘moral panic’ on meth testing state houses

Housing Minister Phil Twyford isn’t ruling out compensation for Housing New Zealand tenants judged to have been wrongly evicted because traces of methamphetamine were detected in their home.

He said the Government priority was to sort out a testing standard and set clear guidelines to give landlords in the private and public sector some certainty.

“There has been a moral panic around this whole issue that I think was a result of the vacuum in political leadership under the former government.”

He also said drug detection companies were partly to blame for the “moral panic”.

Twyford said about 900 state houses had been vacated in the midst of a housing crisis because of a meth contamination standard that could not adequately tell if a property posed a risk, or if there was an infinitesimally small residue that posed no risk at all.

He believed most of those houses would be found to be perfectly safe.

He had asked officials for advice on whether the current standard or threshold for contamination was set at the right level.

In December Twyford  commissioned the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman to assess all the available scientific and medical literature about the risks of exposure to meth residue. A report was released this week.

Report into meth contaminated homes released

A new report into methamphetamine smoking residue on household surfaces has found there is no evidence third-hand exposure causes adverse health effects, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford says.

“In December 2017 I commissioned Sir Peter to assess all the available scientific and medical literature about the risks of exposure to meth residue,” Phil Twyford says.

“There has been a widely held perception that the presence of even low levels of meth residue in a house poses a health risk to occupants. As a result, remediation to eliminate contamination has been an extremely costly business for landlords and an upheaval for tenants being evicted at short notice.

“No one is underplaying the social damage caused by meth, but there should be a scientific basis for what are acceptable levels of meth in the current New Zealand context; and remediation of houses should be proportional to the established health risks.

“The report is a comprehensive, up-to-date and plain English understanding about the risks of meth exposure for people living in houses where meth was manufactured, and for those in which meth was smoked,” Phil Twyford says.

Sir Peter’s report found that remediation according to the NZS 8510: 2017 standard is appropriate only for identified former meth labs and properties where heavy meth use has been determined.

Along with NZS 8510: 2017, it will contribute to any regulations that may be made under the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2), soon to have its second reading in the House.

“I expect, pending Cabinet agreement, that there will be a public consultation document on meth regulations later this year,” Phil Twyford says.

The report can be found at:

Ross Bell of the New Zealand Drug Foundation writes: Meth myth was allowed to go on for too long

As we let the scale of the problem sink in, it’s useful to cast an eye back to understand how things got so out of hand, and why lacklustre efforts to rein in the industry came to nothing.

This whole sorry saga could have been cut off at the pass at many junctures. Guidelines for the remediation of properties used as a laboratory for the manufacture of methamphetamine were released by the Ministry of Health in 2010. They contain nothing whatsoever about the dangers of third-hand exposure in dwellings where methamphetamine has been smoked.

The burgeoning clean-up industry seized on the guidelines to promote its services and raised the spectre of widespread “contamination”. The ministry was silent on this misappropriation of the guidelines. Having not been put right, the industry stole a march.

As reports surfaced that Housing NZ tenants were being evicted after the presence of methamphetamine was detected in their rental homes, the agency stood its ground. Any illegal behaviour would not be tolerated. When asked about this, Bill English, Housing New Zealand Minister at the time, and Housing Minister Paula Bennett both endorsed the hard-line approach.

By early 2016 the dubious practices of testing companies and astronomical figures for remediation were being called into question. Horror stories abounded. In the face of public concern, Building Minister Nick Smith accepted the need for tighter rules for testing businesses. Standards NZ embarked on a review of existing guidelines. With a committee stacked with industry representatives and a limited remit, it was no surprise the resulting standards were barely different from the existing ones.

The decision by Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi to review the process is welcome.

But how did they get the science so wrong?

A number of independent scientists, and even the Fair Go team, made efforts to debunk the myths perpetuated by the industry. When scientists pushed back with facts at hand, they were portrayed merely as a competing voice.

The ministers at the time failed to give due weight to the science, and their decisions seemed to be clouded by the interests of industry. Calls for regulations fell on deaf ears. This happened at a time when the government proudly launched its own drug policy in 2015 founded on the principles of compassion, innovation and proportion.

As the dust settles on this, it’s impossible not to reflect on how things could have been very different if scientific rigour free from the vested interests of commercial operations had been injected much sooner. How much distress could have been avoided? And countless millions saved? From this point forward it’s vital that evidence guides the way we address complex drug-policy issues.

Successive governments have been guilty of ignoring science and facts on a range of drug issues, and have failed to keep up with international trends.

So Twyford deserves credit for ordering the report and debunking the ridiculous and expensive over-reaction meth house clean-ups.

The Labour led Government has been criticised for how many reports and inquiries and working groups they have set up, but this report on meth houses was justified, and has resulted in reasonably prompt remedial action.