As we at Habitat Property Services – meth testing houses in Auckland – have been blogging about for years,
there is, or especially was, lots of unnecessary work going on.
Not so much the initial Field Composite meth testing – most people would like to know any meth levels in a house they want to buy or live in, but more in some follow up Detailed meth testing, and especially with expensive meth clean-ups.
Originally in NZ Herald reporting on government spending on meth cleanups. No one can spend money like the government can!
Recent news article
Community housing provider Accessible Properties has been paid more than $5.7 million by the taxpayer for methamphetamine testing and clean-up in former state houses in the Western Bay.
But under the new meth testing guidelines a lot of that money has been wasted, with 122 properties unnecessarily fixed up and residents moved out.
Like Housing New Zealand (HNZ) and many private landlords, Accessible was following the standard that was in place at the time.
However, an Official Information Act response by HNZ has revealed that just 25 homes would have tested above the recommended level under the new meth contamination threshold.
That’s about 2 per cent of the 1138 houses sold to Accessible Properties by HNZ on April 1 last year. (April fools day)
Yet 147 of those properties – about 13 per cent of the total – have had or are having decontamination and remediation work done on them, for which Accessible has claimed an estimated $5,707,181 from HNZ.
Conflict of interest?
It has also claimed $533,148.01 in testing costs, making the total to $6,240,329.01.
HNZ has paid $5,767,705.15 of that as at September 24.
Under the Sale and Purchase Agreement, Accessible could claim for structural damage, methamphetamine contamination, and testing costs where a comprehensive (Field Composite or Detailed?) test confirmed levels above 1.5mcg.
A HNZ report on its previous approach to meth contamination in its houses, released last week, showed tenants were kicked out for meth contamination and 542 were charged nearly $7m in total for meth contamination between 2013 and 2018.
Massive cost to taxpayers
HNZ also spent $120m on decontaminating and restoring properties, and demolished 40, while using a meth standard now found to be inaccurate.
Tommy Wilson, director of Support Services Trust, told the Bay of Plenty Times that the debacle had created “false hysteria” and “unnecessary, opportunistic greed”.
The NZ Standard 2017 recommends decontamination of rooms where levels above 1.5mcg/100cm2 were found, irrespective of the use or manufacturing of meth.
Accessible Properties’ multi-million-dollar claims relate to the costs involved with testing, decontaminating and remediating the rooms in each property that were identified as exceeding 1.5mcg. (That must be from Detailed testing)
However, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman’s Chief Science Adviser (CSA) Report, released in May this year, changed everything.
The report said there was no evidence that third-hand exposure from methamphetamine smoking caused adverse health effects.
It said levels over 1.5mcg should not signal a health risk and exposure 10 times higher (15mcg) would also be unlikely to have any adverse effects.
Habitat Property Services meth testing has been blogging for years that the level was too low. See our old website https://www.habitatpropertyservicesnz.com/blog
The Gluckman report also found remediation in most cases was needed only in homes that had been former clandestine labs producing the drugs and where meth had been heavily used.
HNZ said only 25 of the homes would have tested above 15mcg – the new recommended threshold.
Accessible Properties said while no methamphetamine labs were confirmed, “a number of properties showed levels of contamination well above that usually associated with smoking”.
Last week, HNZ said it would formally apologise to tenants affected by its previous approach to meth contamination and would reimburse them for the costs they incurred.
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend asked Accessible Properties whether it would do the same, but did not receive a definitive answer.
Chief executive Greg Orchard said in a statement that the organisation had tested all 1138 HNZ properties “under the required 2017 standard”.
He said a total of 147 properties tested positive for meth contamination “above the limit that was considered safe at that time”.
“We ended three of these tenancies based on solid evidence that tenants were either found to be using or selling methamphetamine in their homes. One of these tenants has since been re-housed with us, with appropriate support in place,” Orchard said.
“The vast majority of tenants who were in these homes continue to be housed by us, as we very rarely seek to evict tenants.”
Earlier this year, following the release of the Gluckman report, both HNZ and Accessible Properties adopted the new testing standards.
Technically they’re not standards are they? NZ Standards for meth testing etc have not changed. It was just an announcement on TV from Housing Minister Twyford.
“The CSA report is now the best advice we have, and we will use the findings and recommendations to revise our policies and practice,” Accessible said in June.
It said with “this new information” it would review its cases.
Meanwhile, the decontamination and remediation work on the 147 properties is still not complete.
“This investment has had a positive impact on the overall standard of the portfolio,” Orchard said.
None of the 147 houses deemed unsafe at the time had been demolished.