Russell Blackstock

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

Council admits error in P-contaminated home

Kim Gouk had to strip her house.  Photo / Doug Sherring
Kim Gouk had to strip her house. Photo / Doug Sherring

Properties seized by police will be more rigorously checked in the Waikato after a house auction was halted by a claim of P contamination.

The Herald on Sunday reported last week the sale of the three-bedroom home on Whatawhata Rd on November 28 was cancelled as the auction was about to start after a forensic consultant announced the house had tested positive for P.

The property, listed with a capital value of $435,000, was seized under proceeds-of-crime laws because its owner was convicted on serious drugs charges.

The Waikato District Council had believed no non-habitation or cleansing orders had been issued because a 2009 police report indicated chemicals and equipment were removed from a garage attached to the house. The report said it was unlikely manufacturing of prohibited substances had occurred inside the garage or the house, the council added.

This week however, council environmental health manager Alan Parkes said there had been further contact by Waikato police to confirm the house should have been tested for P before being put on the market.

"We had been automatically issuing cleansing orders for properties the police graded as an A or B [in terms of suspected drugs issues]," Parkes said. "The Whatawhata Rd house had been given a lower D grading.

"However, the police never intended these gradings to be used as an assessment tool for environmental work."

Parkes said the council had since changed its procedures for handling properties confiscated in drug raids and they would be more thoroughly checked. Currently, decontamination was only carried out if police recommend it. Nationwide, more than 100 houses have been taken off criminals.

A spokesman for Waikato police said crime lab officers were "surprised" their findings had not been included on the property's LIM report.

The auction was stopped when forensic consultant Todd Sheppard announced he'd tested the house during an open home day and found traces of P. He said his findings had now been "vindicated". New tests are being done.

"I would like to see a separate government department set up to keep a public and easily accessible record of properties that have been used for making P," Sheppard said.

Miles Stratford, from the Auckland Regional Methamphetamine Working Group, reckoned there could be more than 20,000 properties in New Zealand tainted by P. He said the Waikato property highlighted the "systematic failure of the present system".

"This is a growing and serious issue. It makes sense for a purchase pack to be put together by the seller to prove a property is not contaminated by dangerous chemicals used in the making of drugs," Stratford said.

Tenant's friend had P lab

Landlady Kim Gouk has spent two years and $40,000 trying to get her investment property habitable again after a man was arrested for making P on the premises.

She says her three-bedroom bungalow at Te Hoe, near Huntly in the Waikato, is a shell after the friend of a former tenant was busted there.

"I remortgaged my own home to pay for all the testing and cleaning," Gouk says. "The rental house was so contaminated it had to be ripped apart."

Gouk has paid almost $40,000 for specialised decontamination work. On top of that, she has also lost about $25,000 in rent.

"New laws need to be introduced urgently to protect landlords and home buyers from drug dealers," Gouk says. "It took me ages to get the tenant out, even though his friend was charged with making P there. The tenant was then free to take his contaminated possessions to a new address with no comeback, while I was left with the mess and the big bills."

Gouk says she will have even more expenditure before the rural property will be fit to rent.

- Herald on Sunday

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