• New housing minister talks tough on ending ‘moral panic’ after potential millions wasted on testing and cleaning
  • 2018 could be the beginning of the end for many in the meth testing industry

At last! Someone with power and influence has the guts to come out say what we have been arguing for a long, long time. The ‘moral panic’ caused by certain Meth testing companies was instigated to make a quick dollar according to new Housing Minister Phil Twyford. Here at Real-iQ, we wholeheartedly agree.

Although we acknowledge that there are many reputable companies operating under IANZ Accreditation, many companies have been set up to try and cash in on the ‘moral panic’.

Back in early 2016, we held a webinar highlighting the alarming amount of companies being set up to carry out Meth testing, warning that the industry was nothing more than a money making scam.

Is Phil Twyford right? Have your say.

Over the last few years, millions upon millions of dollars has been spent within the private and public sector on testing and cleaning properties without any evidence to suggest that low levels of meth are a risk to occupants.

In the public sector alone, $73 million has been spent on testing and decontamination whilst 900 families have been evicted from their homes.

We argue that the millions of dollars that have been fleeced out of unsuspecting landlords have probably caused more health issues. This is due to stress caused by the financial burden of dealing with the fallout of a positive Meth test. This is compared to that of a tenant living in a property with low levels of Meth contamination.

And what about the tenants? Many have probably been accused, unnecessarily so, of damaging properties. Many have been evicted out of properties when there is no actual evidence to suggest that living in the property is causing damage to their health. Instead, they find themselves being removed from a property, having to deal with the upheaval of a move which in itself takes its toll of tenants, especially those with young children.

Who benefits? Follow the dollar

In retrospect, the new guidelines of 1.5 micrograms are nothing more than a sham. With the working group of 21 who developed the standards, nearly half of this group had a financial interest in keeping the standards as low as possible. It wasn’t until the 11th hour that REINZ came onto the committee and even this was after late petitioning. Dr Nick Kim, the person who seems to have the most knowledge on the subject, with absolutely no financial gain or conflict of interest in regards to the setting of standards was not even invited onto the committee.

We have seen a dramatic increase of Methamphetamine cases going to Tribunal over the last 3 years. In January 2015 there were 3 cases increasing to 38 in November 2017

Number of meth related cases

Number of cases involving Methamphetamine have increased by nearly 100% over the last two years. In 2017 1.96% of Tribunal Cases were Meth related compared to 0.99% in 2015

Dr Kim of Massey University has long argued that the guidelines, originally written for Meth labs, which are different to where a property has had Meth smoked only, are ‘incredibly conservative’. His comments state that readings of 12 micrograms are more realistic. Dr Kim went on to say that even the lowest dose recorded to have a pharmaceutical effect is still 500 times higher than this 12-microgram figure, or over 3000 times higher than the 1.5 level set in the new standard.

What will happen next?

It appears that Mr Twyford is set to overhaul the new guidelines after stating that what has been set is not ‘fit for purpose’. Judging by the way the new minister has started, he is not going to waste time. I for one, applaud him for doing so.

Expect to see a new, smaller committee who have no conflict of interest set up to reassess what new standards should be. I would not be surprised to see Dr Kim being invited to share his views on what the standards should be.

They will then report back to the minister with readvised standards put in place much higher than what we currently have to deal with.

Sugar soap and elbow grease should do the job of removing low levels of Meth residue according to Dr Nick Kim.

Insurance companies also suffer

At the recent LPMNZ Conference in Queenstown, Real Landlord Insurance Director Diane Nelson was equally condemning of the Meth Testing industry and gave a fascinating insight into the financial burden that insurance companies have been hit with. She even hinted that insurance companies may no longer cover Meth claims.

No matter what way you look at this, the only benefactors from this sorry state are the companies who make money from testing and cleaning. Everybody else is forced to pay, whether it is landlords, tenants or the taxpayer paying for HNZ properties to be tested and remediated.

The original guidelines had been set up for Meth labs however clever ‘spin doctoring’ has successfully scared us all into believing that we are living in ‘Meth Armageddon’. Every house touched by a trace of Meth will cause us all to have health issues. However, have standards been set around ‘ second-hand smoke’ from tobacco? No they haven’t.

We believe that finally, people with influence are waking up to what this truly is. Scaremongering, playing of peoples fears whether it be through health concerns or fear of litigation.

Although we may not agree with everything Mr Twyford says and does, we are behind him 100% on this. The sad thing is, many a landlord and tenant have probably already suffered hardship both financially and mentally, probably unnecessarily so.