The Drug Foundation’s Executive Director Ross Bell says it is time to address an unjust side effect of the latest meth housing scare.
I am calling bullshit on the current hysteria about meth-contaminated houses.
It’s an overcooked issue resulting in punishment for people already in precarious social circumstances.
Let’s quickly clear something up.
I’m talking about so-called contamination from meth use – not from manufacture.
That’s a different issue involving volatile and toxic substances nobody should? be around.
But what are the exposure risks in a home where meth has just been smoked?
Our good friend and National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep says the risks are actually minimal – similar for people who live in a house that had previous dwellers who smoked cigarettes or cannabis.
The fear around real risks from meth labs has exploded onto meth use and testing companies are exploiting this to scare up business.
Housing New Zealand (HNZ) has jumped on this bandwagon – happily wasting taxpayer dollars.
I’m less fussed about the money (testing and remediation represents about 5 percent of the total HNZ maintenance budget) but I’m seriously concerned about the social impacts of evicting a family based on unreliable testing and overstated risk assessments.
Recently for example a mother and her eight children were evicted from their HNZ home after a positive meth test.
Their emergency accommodation was costing her $1200 per week on top of her existing $60,000 debt to Work and Income.
I’m not condoning her meth use – nor will I judge her – but there is nothing right about this picture.
Punishing the most vulnerable seems to be a new national sport.
You would think that when it comes to vulnerable families HNZ would employ some procedural rigour before terminating a tenancy.
You’d be wrong.
There are no formal meth testing standards and any cowboy’s shonky ‘evidence’ can be used to evict tenants – leave them with massive cleaning bills or even demolish their houses.
HNZ’s heartless response compares poorly with the Government’s National Drug Policy which calls instead for compassion.
(ed:..why are there not questions being asked about this in parliament..?..)