28 Oct 2016

Govt agencies unable to agree on meth warnings

8:43 pm on 28 October 2016

Two government agencies are at loggerheads over the meth testing of state homes.

The Ministry of Health is adamant it repeatedly told Housing New Zealand its methamphetamine guidelines were only suitable for cleaning-up meth labs, but the housing agency says that is completely untrue.

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Photo: RNZ

The housing agency has been using the ministry's meth lab clean-up guidelines to justify evicting its tenants from homes where it is believed the drug might have been smoked.

And many of those tenants have been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in clean-up costs.

New guidelines were released this week, showing there was no risk to health at the threshold the agency had been using to evict tenants either for personal use or from homes where the drug might have been smoked.

Ministry of Health director Stewart Jessamine told RNZ the ministry had repeatedly told Housing New Zealand its guidelines were only valid in homes that were former meth labs.

"The guidelines are very clear that they are only for use in houses where methamphetamine has been manufactured.

"We have, as I say, pointed out and communicated [to Housing New Zealand] that these guidelines are clearly for the use in houses where methamphetamine has been manufactured," Dr Jessamine said.

Housing New Zealand manager of chemical programmes Charlie Mitchell said that was completely wrong.

"That's not true and that's not correct - I can certainly tell you that that's not the conversations that were had with us."

Mr Mitchell said Housing New Zealand had never had any advice it was misusing the guidelines.

"We've been very clear in our conversations with the Ministry of Health that the guidelines that were previously out, that [the ministry] owned, were incomplete and that from our perspective there was work to be done to make them better," Mr Mitchell said.

Nevertheless, Mr Mitchell said it would have been "irresponsible" not to use the meth lab guidelines.

In response, the Ministry of Health released a statement in Dr Jessamine's name, saying its staff had repeatedly met with housing agency officials on the matter.

"Underpinning those conversations has always been the ministry's view that the ministry's guidelines only cover clandestine laboratories and this has been routinely pointed out," the statement said.

The statement also pointed to the name of the 2010 guidelines: "Guidelines for the Remediation of Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratory Sites".

The Law Society has called for Housing New Zealand to review every case in which it has evicted a tenant from homes where it thought methamphetamine might have been smoked.

Mr Mitchell told RNZ the agency would not do that.

"We were applying the one source of guidance available to us at the time, which is the Ministry of Health guidelines."

Today, the former Māori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia told RNZ that families were being [ http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/316695/meth-test-misuse-'tearing-families-apart'-turia

torn apart by Housing New Zealand's deliberate misuse of methamphetamine testing].

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