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Housing NZ under fire over meth testing

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/10/2016

Housing New Zealand is facing intense criticism over the way it has been testing state homes for methamphetamine contamination.

The agency has been using the test for meth lab contamination in houses where the drug has been smoked, resulting in hundreds of unnecessary evictions.

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday said the test for lab contamination - which is much more serious - should not be used to determine the safety of houses where the drug had been smoked.

It says HNZ was told repeatedly it was misusing the test, which the agency has denied.

Labour's housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, says it shows "a staggering level of incompetence".

"They have repeatedly and consistently misapplied the procedures, failing to distinguish between the manufacturer of meth and consumption of it," he told RNZ on Friday.

"They seem to have evicted dozens, possibly hundreds, of tenants on the basis of dodgy testing."

Mr Twyford thinks HNZ was been "caught up in some sort of moral panic".

Former government minister and Maori Party founder Dame Tariana Turia says she knows of a case where children were taken away from a family on the basis of a meth test in their home.

"From what we could gather the house had not been tested before the family move into it," she said.

"They not only punished the family, they also reported them to Child Youth and Family and their two children were removed from their care."

Dame Tariana says that happened despite the family vigorously denying anyone had made or smoked meth in the house.

HNZ's testing has also resulted in a proliferation of testing companies, which have been charging high fees - money HNZ is reportedly trying to claim back from tenants.

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