P contamination crisis could rival leaky homes disaster

By Jimmy Ellingham, Catherine Gaffney

An industry specialist says 40 per cent of homes he tests contain traces of methamphetamine, known as P. Photo / Dean Purcell
An industry specialist says 40 per cent of homes he tests contain traces of methamphetamine, known as P. Photo / Dean Purcell

• Meth labs ruining thousands of NZ homes
• Millions forked out to clean up contamination
• Some of country's top addresses affected
• Real estate agents must tell buyers about house "P" history

Homeowners are forking out millions of dollars to decontaminate P-riddled properties in a crisis that could rival the leaky homes disaster.

In the worst cases, contaminated houses are destroyed. An industry specialist says 40 per cent of homes he tests contain traces of methamphetamine, known as P.

HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED? EMAIL THE HERALD

This week it was revealed almost a quarter of the 19 dwellings in a Christchurch state housing development had been contaminated in the nine months since they were built.

READ MORE:
Babies living in P contaminated houses

Housing NZ spends about $12 million to $13 million a year on remedial work. Five of its properties were demolished in the 2015 financial year because they were damaged beyond repair.

But the problem isn't confined to poorer areas and has seeped into even the most exclusive streets.


A property on the market in a high-end suburb of Auckland was contaminated during a chemical explosion from a suspected P lab in the garage in 2005.

Two years later the large and luxurious property was sold. Agents are again looking for new owners. It has a capital value of $2.25 million.

The property's listing agent, who did not want to be named, said he would disclose details of the property's history to any buyers who expressed interest. "We're totally transparent about it," he said.

"It's not the first thing we tell people when they walk in the house, but if buyers show keen interest we provide them as much detail as we can."

Agents are obliged to disclose to potential buyers any knowledge or suspicions they might have about possible contamination.

Property lawyer Adina Thorn said landlords should tell tenants of such instances and they were legally obliged to clean contamination.

Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray said he knew of six homes that cost about $250,000 to decontaminate.

The problem would likely cost homeowners millions each year to fix, plus other costs, including to people's health. In one case, a woman developed tongue cancer, which was attributed to the P contamination she was exposed to.

"It's the emotional damage it does too, because clearly people are not able to live in these houses while it's contaminated," Mr Gray said.

MethSolutions director Miles Stratford has been testing houses for 3 years. Over that time, the number tested by his company had grown from a "handful" to more than 200 a month, nationwide.

But the proportion testing positive had remained at 40 per cent.

"That's everything from a little bit of use through to significant manufacture," Mr Stratford said.

"It's just like with cigarette smoke. That can get stuck in walls. It's the same as the vapour left over from meth smoking."

Clean-up ranges from $1000 to a few hundred thousand, with hefty replacement costs for furnishings, curtains and wall coverings too.

Ministry of Health guidelines say any 10sq cm area with a P concentration of 0.5 micrograms or above is not safe and readings in the worst-case scenarios can hit thousands of micrograms.

Mr Stratford encouraged prospective home owners to get a base-line test for a couple of hundred dollars as part of their due diligence, if they had any reason to suspect a property.

Also, chat to neighbours, as they would know a property's history.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 02 Jul 2016 02:25:51 Processing Time: 517ms