Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Meth contamination a growing problem in Rotorua and Bay of Plenty

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Traces of methamphetamine, commonly known as P, are being detected in more homes in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty. PHOTO/FILE
Traces of methamphetamine, commonly known as P, are being detected in more homes in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty. PHOTO/FILE

Figures obtained from a major meth testing company and Housing New Zealand show that the number of P-tainted homes in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty region is growing.

Data collected by MethSolutions Ltd showed that of the 380 homes in the Rotorua and Whakatane areas checked in the past four years, 40 per cent tested positive in Rotorua and 37 per cent in Whakatane district.

MethSolutions company director Miles Stratford said the number of rental properties being tested for P were increasing each month.

"It saddens me that the rate of positive tests is not dropping and this shows that the extent of the problem is widespread, " he said.

"I think most people think it only happens to other people but it's vitally important that people do appreciate the real risk of buying a property. We all know the saying 'buyer beware'."

Mr Stratford said it cost about $200 for a test while clean-up costs could range from $1000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A Housing New Zealand representative told the Rotorua Daily Post three Housing NZ rental properties in Bay of Plenty had been demolished in the past five years due to extremely high P-contamination levels.

Two were in Rotorua in June 2013, and the third was a Tauranga property in December 2013.

The organisation's latest data showed, as at June 30, there were 11 P-contaminated vacant homes in the Rotorua district, two each in Opokiti, Kawerau and Taupo, and another four in Whakatane.

Ministry of Health guidelines say any 10sq cmarea with a P concentration of 0.5 micrograms or above is not safe.

"To protect the health and wellbeing of our tenants, Housing New Zealand will test for P contamination when we have reason to suspect a property is contaminated, or if we are going to sell a property," the representative said.

Eves and Bayleys Real Estate chief executive Ross Stanway said he was not surprised by the high levels of positive tests given that P was a major problem, not just in the Bay of Plenty region, but New Zealand-wide.

Mr Stanway said it was becoming more common for potential property buyers to conduct a meth test even when there was no reason to suspect the property was contaminated.

"The reality is that there is no one type of home or area, nor value of property that potentially could be at risk as P is a classless drug," he said.

But Rotorua Rentals co-director Richard Evans said he had only encountered one property that had a P problem, but encouraged landlords to get their rentals checked.

"The problem is you don't know who has done it because traces of it can hang about for five to 10 years.

"We are encouraging landlords to have properties tested between tenancies."

He said new national guidelines were expected out next year and until that happened the whole process was a minefield.

"I talk to experts around the country about this. One lawyer will say properties need to be inspected every time you change tenants, another says that's not necessary.

"Health and safety recommend we do get them done.

"It really is a minefield and that's a shame because it is a serious issue. We need proper codes and regulations backed up by strong scientific evidence."

- Additional reporting Matthew Martin

P in the Bay:
- Three Housing NZ rental properties demolished in the past five years due to high P-contamination levels
- Two in Rotorua, one in Tauranga
- 11 P-contaminated vacant homes in the Rotorua district
- Two each in Opokiti, Kawerau and Taupo, and another four in Whakatane

- Rotorua Daily Post

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