Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

P risk stops auction of house

Forensic consultant Todd Sheppard. Photo / Stephen Barker
Forensic consultant Todd Sheppard. Photo / Stephen Barker

A house sale was halted during a packed auction after a forensic consultant announced the property was contaminated by P making.

The cancelled sale of the three-bedroom home on Whatawhata Rd in the Waikato on November 28 has led to calls for seized properties to be checked more thoroughly before sale. More than 100 properties have been taken off criminals.

The house, listed with a capital value of $435,000, had been seized by the Government under proceeds-of-crime laws because its owner was convicted on serious drugs charges. But police didn't recommend to the local council that it be tested for drug residue and it was only withdrawn just before the auction when Waikato-based forensic consultant Todd Sheppard announced he had tested it himself and found a positive result for P.

"More than 100 people were there and I felt obligated to tell them I had tested the place for a client during an open home day and traces of P had shown up in the garage and the bathroom sink," Sheppard told the Herald on Sunday.

"It is time new rules were introduced that require a property be entirely decontaminated before it is offered for sale to the public by the Crown. Some of these places are serious health hazards." Currently, decontamination is only carried out if police recommend it.

Philip Macalister, publisher of NZ Property Investor magazine, said there was concern over the number of seized drug houses being put on the market and called for all such properties to be checked properly.

Richard Lindsay, from Lodge Real Estate in Hamilton, said the house was withdrawn on advice from the solicitor selling it for the Government. "There was nothing from the council or the police to indicate the place required testing and it was clearly marked on the documentation who it was being sold by."

Police confirmed the property was forfeited in relation to the conviction of a 35-year-old man on methamphetamine and firearms charges. It was reported a police raid nabbed him "red-handed" baking pseudoephedrine pills in his oven. About 33g of methamphetamine was found with utensils used in the manufacture of P.

But the Waikato District Council insisted no non-habitation or cleansing orders had been issued because a police report indicated chemicals and equipment were removed from the garage attached to the house. The report said it was unlikely manufacturing of prohibited substances had occurred inside the garage or the house.

Crown solicitor Nicola Graham said she erred on the side of caution after concerns were raised at the auction, and the property was now being tested for P.

Police Minister Anne Tolley last night said: "I would expect all agencies would work together to make sure all necessary checks have taken place to ensure public safety."

- Herald on Sunday

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