A report into how New Zealand houses are tested for methamphetamine has delivered some stunning results. For years it has been thought that a house contaminated with methamphetamine would need to be gutted and everything in it thrown out. But, with the report suggesting that those in the methamphetamine testing and clean up industry knowing that the houses were safe all along, it is either game over for the industry or time for a complete overhaul of how it works.
The results are stunning. The Government Chief Scientist Peter Gluckman’s report has found no evidence that there is any third hand risk to tenants in houses where methamphetamine has been consumed. In the years that this has been known, but not admitted, possibly several thousand houses in New Zealand that could have been used for housing some of our neediest and most vulnerable people have been unnecessarily off limits, pending gutting or complete demolition. It has been suggested that there may be as many as 670 houses that are actually not contaminated by methamphetamine in the perceived way that led to them being shut down.
Not suprisingly advocates for tenants evicted as a result of the methamphetamine are insisting on compensation. Their reasoning stems from the fact that the tenants would have lost their possessions in being forced to move out from contaminated property and are therefore justified in seeking some sort of reparation.
The financial cost of getting a house tested is just the start. A basic test to determine whether methamphetamine has used in the house might set one back $200. Depending on the materials used in the houses construction and decoration it might cost anywhere between $7,500 and $40,000 to get the methamphetamine removed from any suspect houses.
But from whom will this reparation come? The Government has already suggested that it will not be offering any – a standpoint that I think may be challenged in a court of law in good time. The methamphetamine testing industry may have suffered a fatal blow with this report, which insiders admitted they knew was going to come sooner or later and that many were aware that the testing regime had set a very low threshhold.
So, who is to blame for the lack of oversight that might have prevented this happening in the first place? Judith Collins, National spokesperson for Housing says that the previous Government was acting on advice from experts familiar with methamphetamine. Yet when interviewed on Breakfast by Jack Tame, Ms Collins said she did not know who these experts were. Ms Collins also said that many agencies used the information supplied to make decisions and the decisions made at the time were justified on the basis that if one supposed that it had been ignored and risk turned out to be true, then the conversation would be about negligence.
Negligence or not, the testing industry needs to be held to account before it can be trusted to do any more work.