Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

$500k bill for meth labs in state houses

Crystal methamphetamine. Photo / Greg Bowker
Crystal methamphetamine. Photo / Greg Bowker

State houses converted into P labs have cost the taxpayer more than $500,000 in the past five years and at least two tenants face arson charges.

Throughout New Zealand, 26 state houses or flats have been used to manufacture methamphetamine, Housing NZ Corp says.

Extensive damage to Government property has resulted in the state chasing its drug-making tenants for compensation after some places were ruined beyond repair.

David Whitburn, head of the Auckland Property Investors Association, called for meth monitors to be installed in all state houses.

Housing NZ should be more vigilant and inspect state houses more frequently, enabling meth-makers to be evicted and some of the 8044 needy cases on the state's waiting list to be housed, he said.

"However, I would praise Housing NZ for their increasingly vigilant approach to ending tenancies where there is clear evidence of fraud and over-staying when tenants don't meet the criteria. Under this Government, Housing NZ has evicted 235 people in the year to June, 2011, 114 in the 2010 year, compared with only 42 in the 2009 year," Mr Whitburn said.

Miles Stratford, director of MethMinder, said the Government declared a War on P and made it an election issue last time around yet did not take enough action. "If the Government had a truly congruent anti-meth policy, given 75 per cent of all meth labs are found in rental accommodation, wouldn't its own property manager be leading by example and aggressively tackling this issue?" Mr Stratford asked.

Even Transpower has been hit: one of the properties it bought for its big Waikato pylon project upgrade to Auckland's electrical system was used as a meth lab, a spokeswoman said.

Housing NZ revealed one case where the tables were turned and it was forced to fork out more money on a damaged Christchurch property where a caravan at the rear of a section was being secretly used to make P.

Instead of recouping income, Housing NZ had to pay to store a tenant's possessions in a separate unit at the property to allow that person access to their belongings, the state agency has admitted. That was because it had to abide by a Tenancy Tribunal ruling.

Two adjoining Grey Lynn state houses were burnt after they were used as methampehetamine laboratories, causing more than $231,000 of damage and resulting in charges being laid against the state tenants.

"The former tenants involved in the two Grey Lynn cases have recently been formally charged on two counts: attempting to manufacture methamphetamine and arson. Housing New Zealand will be pursuing the costs of replacement and testing through the court case," a Housing NZ spokeswoman said.

Since January last year, Housing NZ has forked out $32,860 testing and cleaning up P labs in houses meant to be havens for society's poorest and most disadvantaged. The most expensive case was at Bader, Hamilton, where contamination was so extensive the state had to demolish and rebuild, costing $254,805.

In some cases, records indicate children were living at the addresses.

TOP HITS

P lab state house cases:

* 26 properties uncovered since 2006.

* Testing and decontamination carried out.

* Hamilton: house demolished, $254,806.

* Grey Lynn: fire damage, $121,739.

* Grey Lynn: fire damage, $92,627.

- NZ Herald

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