24 Sep 2018

Bridges slammed for 'meth crook' comments

8:14 pm on 24 September 2018

The Green Party says National leader Simon Bridges' isn't fit to run a political party after he described state tenants who were kicked out of their homes as "meth crooks".

National Party Leader, Simon Bridges.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Housing New Zealand released a report last week admitting it shouldn't have turfed out tenants based on methamphetamine contamination guidelines which have since been found to be misused.

The period was dubbed 'meth hysteria' - during which hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent unnecessarily on stripping out homes, and hundreds of state tenants kicked out.

The Greens say National is now amplifying that hysteria, by calling those finally up for some recompense, crooks.

"Continuing to put harmful stigma against people, including families with children, elderly people, who were uprooted, had to find new homes and new communities, lost a lot of their possessions - whole lives were impacted on - and what does Simon Bridges choose to do? He chooses to keep whipping them," said co-leader Marama Davidson.

"So I think that's a clear choice for New Zealanders about what direction he would actually take our country. He's not at all fit to be, ever, leading this country, let alone a political party."

Mr Bridges made the comment on Twitter last week and backed up his comment on RNZ this morning.

"Paying people where Housing New Zealand has determined they have smoked or cooked P - those tenants have - I'm sorry, that is wrong, that is money that should not be going to them," he told Morning Report.

But Housing Minister Minister Phil Twyford made it clear when Housing NZ released its report that it would not be blanket compensation.

"There will be quite an in-depth and case-by-case assessment of each instance where a tenant had their tenancy terminated because of meth contamination," he said.

"In instances where there was contamination above the Gluckman threshold, they will not be eligible for financial assistance. In cases where tenants were involved with manufacturing or dealing, and where there is evidence to support that contention - so there is a level of natural justice at play - they will also not be eligible for compensation."

The Gluckman threshold is based on the report by Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's former chief science advisor. His assessment debunked the myth that exposure to low levels of methamphetamine contamination is harmful to people's health.

The level of contamination, his report said, could be 10 times higher than the level people were kicked out of their homes for, and even then there is only a low risk to health.

Its release in May led to apologies from top officials, including the new Housing Minister and the head of Housing NZ.

Mr Bridges also apologised for getting "dud advice".

"Yeah, I'm sorry that the advice we got was wrong, and it's made this situation what it is," he told Morning Report in June.

Fronting post-Cabinet on Monday, deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said Mr Bridges was merely making cheapskate allegations in an attempt to take the heat off the previous government's mishandling of the matter.

"If there is proof of criminality, of course they won't get compensation. And I'm ashamed that someone who's got a legal background - or supposedly has one - is making that allegation."

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