Social housing providers are forking out tens of thousands of dollars to decontaminate properties that have tested positive for methamphetamine residue.
Sixty-five Housing New Zealand (HNZ) properties in the Christchurch, Nelson and Marlborough regions have tested positive for P, and the number of affected houses across the country is increasing. On average, it costs HNZ more than $14,000 to test and decontaminate each unit.
A spokesman said people who contaminated homes by abusing P deprived others of a home. "It is unfair on both those waiting for a state house, who have to wait longer for a house to become available, and on innocent families who may need to move out of their state house if it is contaminated from a previous tenancy." It could take several weeks or, in the worst cases, several months, to fully decontaminate a property. The rise in P contamination was attributed in part to a "greater focus on identifying homes where P may be used, or may have been used in the past [rather than manufactured]", he said.
Christchurch Methodist Mission executive director Jill Hawkey said methamphetamine contamination posed the "greatest risk" to social housing programmes. The Mission spent $80,000 to test and decontaminate a property in 2015. The tenants were evicted prior to the test, and jib, carpet, kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and anything that absorbed the P had to be ripped out. "You have a few of those and you end up in a position where you can no longer provide social housing. You can't get insurance, and in terms of funding you get from the Ministry of Social Development for housing . . . it's certainly not included in the amount of funding you get for that." The huge cost to decontaminate the property set previous plans for social housing repairs and improvements back a year. Hawkey said the true extent of meth use was yet to be uncovered. "The question is, do we have enough programmes to help people with their addiction."
Standards New Zealand began working in June to create the first national standard for meth testing and decontamination in houses. At the time the project was announced, Insurance Council operations manager Terry Jordan said the standard was due because there was a degree of "paranoia" about the safety of meth-contaminated property. National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep earlier said those living in a laboratory environment were at risk of adverse cardiovascular, respiratory and dermal effects. Those living in a house where previous tenants smoke methamphetamine had low risks of toxicity though.
In the last financial year, the Christchurch City Council spent $50,000 cleaning up three units contaminated with the drug, known as P. Christchurch City Council head of housing Carolyn Gallagher said the costs had an impact on already constrained budgets and social housing wait times. Money to clean up the properties was not drawn from rates, but from the rent that social housing tenants paid.
Residue Testing NZ franchise owner Nicola Clark had tested 60 private rentals since entering the meth-testing profession in April. Of the units tested, 25 per cent were positive for methamphetamine and two were suspected P labs. Clark said in 90 per cent of the cases, children had been living in the homes.
Christchurch City Missioner Michael Gorman said staff had reported a concerning rise in the number of meth-users seeking support services. He suspected meth addiction affected people "across the board". Where children were exposed to meth use, it was a matter of child abuse, he said.
METH USE INDICATORS:
- Brown stains on walls and red or yellow staining on the floors.
- Chemical stains around the kitchen sink, laundry, toilet or stormwater drains; oily residue on surfaces.
- Unusual chemical smells, blocked drains, missing light bulbs, numerous chemical containers, stained glass equipment and cookware, and cold tablets packages (in the rubbish or lying around).
- Drug paraphernalia including glass pipes and needles on the property.
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.