9 Dec 2017

Better drug and alcohol treatment key to new HNZ policy

9:20 pm on 9 December 2017

A properly resourced mental health system will be crucial to a number of reforms the government hopes to get underway, the Drug Foundation says.

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Photo: RNZ/Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Yesterday the Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the government was scrapping a policy of evicting state house tenants if their homes tested positive for methamphetamine.

Instead, support for drug and alcohol addiction would be given.

The Drug Foundation's chief executive Ross Bell said a fully-resourced system was crucial, not just for Housing New Zealand tenants, but to the success of other restorative systems.

"This is the crux of this issue, you're going to have not just in the housing space but with Corrections, criminal justice reform, with even the new regional development policy, all these reforms that the government wants to make are going to be heavily dependent on a properly resourced drug and alcohol addiction treatment sector."

Mr Bell said he was confident that the promise would be backed up and said an overhaul of the policy had been on the cards for a while.

"We've been talking to Housing New Zealand behind the scenes for some time now. We've known for decades that that's a sector that's been under-resourced so the government has said they're going to invest more in this area and I think they're going to be surprised at the level of investment that's going to be needed."

The current policy allows the government to evict tenants if miniscule traces of methamphetamine are detected in the property.

It has meant hundreds of state houses have remained empty due to contamination fears and millions of dollars spent on cleaning up the drug.

Mr Bell said he was glad this would no longer be the case.

"The kinds of people who get housed by Housing New Zealand have complicated and tricky lives, often have mental health issues, will often have drug and alcohol dependency and other sort of social issues."

Mr Bell said it was still early days but the Health Ministry's promised mental health and addiction enquiry was the starting point.

"I think that's probably going to be the vehicle that a lot of us are going to use to highlight the inter-connectedness of all these problems and where some of the pressures are on the system and where resources are going to be needed so I think a lot of New Zealanders need to get engaged in that mental health enquiry.

"They need to get that right, and then really quickly they need to get resources out into the community."