Hundreds of Housing New Zealand properties have been left empty and millions squandered on methamphetamine testing, Housing Minister Phil Twyford says.
Mr Twyford apologised on Checkpoint with John Campbell today for the treatment of a man who spent 58 weeks in emergency housing in a motel - costing the government $44,000, after traces of methamphetamine were found in his home.
Mr Twyford pledged to make changes to the existing regime.
Last night Checkpoint reported that Robert Erueti was evicted from his state house where he lived for more than 15 years in February last year.
Mr Twyford said yesterday Mr Erueti should never have been evicted from his HNZ home.
"I wanted to tell him that Housing New Zealand are changing their policy and they are moving to a new approach for dealing with this issue that I think is more compassionate and more considered."
The minister said if methamphetamine traces were found now support, not eviction, would be the first approach.
"Over the last three years Housing New Zealand, on behalf of the tax payer, has spent $75 million on testing and remediating houses that are or were allegedly contaminated."
Mr Twyford said this had left hundreds of properties empty.
"Some 900 properties have been left vacant in the middle of a housing crisis on the basis of a methamphetamine contamination standard that cannot distinguish between a place that is genuinely contaminated from the manufacture of methamphetamine, and would endanger the health of someone living in that house, and an infinitesimally small residue that would pose no risk."
He said a kind of moral panic over methamphetamine had taken hold.
"I think that has been drummed up and exploited by a meth testing industry that saw an opportunity to make a dollar.
"Put that together with the fact we had a standard that was patently not fit for purpose."
Mr Twyford met Mr Erueti and his daughter Casey in Auckland and apologised.
"The eviction of Robert made his life immeasurably more difficult … I apologised to them on behalf of the government."