New Zealand to pay out millions after thousands wrongly evicted for drug use

By Delia · Sep 20, 2018 · ·
  1. Delia
    Overzealous meth testing regime unnecessarily made some public housing tenants homeless

    [​IMG]Thousands of public housing tenants in New Zealand will receive millions of dollars in compensation and an apology from the government for being wrongly evicted after incorrect meth testing of their homes.

    Under the previous government, Housing New Zealand (HNZ) ended more than 800 tenancies on the basis that the houses could be contaminated because methamphetamine had been cooked or smoked on the premises.

    Evicted tenants were advised to leave all their possessions behind, and were often barred from accessing state housing again, meaning they had to foot the bill for new homes, bonds, furniture, clothing and household goods.

    Some evicted tenants became homeless as a result of their evictions.

    HNZ described its old policy as a “conservative and risk-adverse approach” . A May report by the chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckmen, deemed HNZ’s low threshold for contamination overzealous and unnecessary. The testing was so stringent that in some cases, tenants were evicted as a result of the drug use of previous tenants.

    Gluckman’s report in May concluded the meth tests used were largely unnecessary, unless a house was suspected of being a meth lab, and advised raising the threshold for initial screening tenfold, to 15 mcg per 100 square centimetres.

    “There is currently no evidence that methamphetamine levels typically resulting from third-hand exposure to smoking residues on household surfaces can elicit an adverse health effect,” Gluckman concluded. “This means that, because the risk of encountering methamphetamine on residential surfaces at levels that might cause harm is extremely low, testing is not warranted in most cases.”

    In a statement HNZ apologised to the thousands of people it evicted since June 2013, and said it was “dismayed at the scale of the human impact of the zero-tolerance policy” and was working to be a more compassionate organisation.

    Tenants who were evicted from their homes – regardless of whether they had smoked methamphetamine or not – would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, HNZ said. The tenant holder would receive up to NZ$3,000 (£1,500) in compensation, which would include costs associated with moving, securing new accommodation and buying new furniture and household goods.

    On average there are approximately three people living in each HNZ property.

    Many tenants who were evicted under the previous standards are still in debt to HNZ for the cost of decontaminating their homes. Under the new agreement, these debts would be wiped, and prior debts that had already been paid refunded.

    ‘The scale of this is just huge’
    Ross Bell from the New Zealand Drug Foundation said the compensation was too little given the devastation wrought, and said the housing minister, Phil Twyford, had indicated to him more money would be made available soon.

    “The country got caught up in this widespread hysteria regarding meth contamination that drove all of the decision making. When experts tried to inject some science and rational thinking, they were ignored,” said Bell, who added that state housing stock that was urgently needed during the housing crisis was also unavailable due to ill-founded contamination fears.

    “A lot of people just left their house with all the stuff in in because they were so fearful that everything was contaminated. The scale of this is just huge.”

    Twyford acknowledged the hardship experienced by vulnerable tenants unfairly evicted as a result of the policies of the previous National government, and said: “The meth debacle was a systemic failure of government that hurt a lot of people.”

    “The approach to methamphetamine from 2013 by the government of the day was a moral and fiscal failure … this led to the wellbeing of tenants being ignored,” he said in a statement.

    “Even as evidence grew that the meth standard was too low, and ministers acknowledged it wasn’t ‘fit for purpose’, the former government continued to demonise its tenants. At any time they could have called for independent advice. Our government is choosing to do the right thing.”

    Judith Collins, the opposition spokesperson for housing, called Twyford a “fool” for compensating tenants.

    “We’ve got people he’s wanting to give compensation to, tax-payers dollars, to people who have allowed their property to be used for methamphetamine smoking or have been doing it themselves or even used it too cook up meth. He is creating a problem,” she told NewstalkZB.

    “This was an issue where the methamphetamine epidemic, which is getting worse not better, it was clearly putting some of these people at risk and their children.”

    Original Source

    Written by: Eleanor Ainge Roy, Sep 21, 2018, The Guardian

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Recent User Reviews

  1. ladywolf2012
    "Appalling Story!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 20, 2018
    This is a totally horrifying story. I knew that things were getting bad here in the US with the FDA and the DEA, but had no idea that things were that bad in other nations as well. At least someone caught on to the truth and did something about it, but I am sure that a lot of irrevocable damage has been done. How very sad, and totally unjustified!
  2. Diverboone
    "New Zealand isn’t alone"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Nov 15, 2018
    This article brings to light another drug warrior tactic. Tactics that are based upon fear but not backed by science.
    This article leaves one to question the real cost to drug war tactics such as this. What’s more damaging, a homeless family or an unknown risk of adverse health effects?
    Gnostic13 and Delia like this.


  1. Diverboone
    This same pseudo scare/fear tactic has been played out in the U.S. but against private home owners and landlords. Costing them thousands in decontamination fees. When the science was just not there. Politicians and the general public were riding a wave of fear.
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