Contamination from methamphetamine has been found in seven of eight Housing New Zealand properties tested in Napier.
The houses, suspected of contamination, were part of a nationwide sweep of 196 addresses last year, of which 101 were found to have traces of the drug commonly known as P. Readings could be caused by anything from use of the drug inside to a fully fledged P lab set-up.
Only Auckland, with 43, and Tauranga, with nine, had more houses test "positive", according to Housing NZ [HNZ], which has about 68,000 homes throughout the country. There was no reason to test any Hastings properties.
Taxpayers forked out $1.3 million on cleaning up HNZ homes last year which were found to have readings of 0.5mcg per 100cm2 or greater, including all seven addresses in Napier.
HNZ general manager of property services Marcus Bosch said the "vast majority" of HNZ tenants were good neighbours and respect their tenancies.
The number of properties testing positive was a huge jump from just eight in 2013 but Mr Bosch said there was now better communication and new processes for detecting drugs.
Staff are trained to recognise signs of possible meth use or manufacture but they were also notified by police investigations, information from the public or maintenance contractors. However, it wasn't feasible to regularly check every home.
"It would cost between $600 and $1800 per house to test all of our properties, which wouldn't be prudent use of taxpayer money," Mr Bosch said.
There are two phases of testing - the first is pre-emptive and determines whether P is present. If positive, more comprehensive testing is done. That provides detail about the level of contamination. An accredited provider will then recommend how to remediate the property. If P is detected tenancy is immediately terminated and the tenant is not eligible to reapply for up to 12 months.
"We do not tolerate criminal activity in our homes. As a social landlord and an employer, the wellbeing of staff, tenants and their neighbours is [our] highest priority."
In 2014, HNZ ended 200 tenancies due to antisocial behaviour or illegal activity - they do not specifically record methamphetamine-related offences.
A Hastings District Council spokeswoman said notifications of possible contamination came to them via police and were dealt with by the environmental health team. "They investigate and decide on the appropriate action, such as serving the building owner with a notice to clean," she said. "The information is recorded on the property's file."
An environmental officer confirmed HDC had not received a notification for "several years".
Hawke's Bay Police confirmed a proportion of the houses where search warrants were carried out were owned by HNZ.
"We do come across them [meth labs] in HNZ houses in the Eastern District but it's not a major for us in Hawke's Bay," Eastern District Communications Manager Kris McGehan said.
HNZ said they would never knowingly place a methamphetamine affected property on the market. Despite this, homelegal.co.nz advised buyers to be aware of the issue and ask questions when looking to purchase an ex-state home. They also recommend including a condition in the agreement for sale and purchase requiring vendors to have testing done, get a copy of the report, complete retesting if levels exceed Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines and arrange professional clean-up before taking possession.
Anyone with concerns about methamphetamine contamination at a Housing New Zealand property should phone the customer services centre on 0800 801 601.