Housing New Zealand chief executive Andrew McKenzie has apologised to state housing tenants whose lives were disrupted by evictions based on bogus methamphetamine levels.
He also said Housing New Zealand's (HNZ's) blacklist of tenants banned from going into state houses has been wiped clean, and tenants who incurred costs should be paid back.
"We really regret the way this has played out and we certainly apologise to all those people who had their lives disputed as we've shifted them out of their homes," McKenzie told Radio New Zealand today.
McKenzie acknowledged that some people had been moved out of their homes based on meth levels now deemed safe.
Last week, chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman released a report that said there was no evidence that meth residue in homes was harmful to health. The report said the meth level had been set too low.
McKenzie estimated about 300 HNZ tenants in three years had been evicted where meth had been a factor. Some had been rehoused but others were not.
In cases where tenants owed money, HNZ would no longer pursue that, and if people had already paid money, they should be repaid.
"We have taken people who don't have a whole lot of money, and we have caused them cost. We absolutely accept that part of our responsibility is to make sure that where it is fair and reasonable we put them right."
Previously, people who were evicted from a state house for meth use could be banned from HNZ homes. McKenzie didn't know how many people had been affected but said the blacklist had been wiped.
"We have removed all people off what was called a suspension list: people suspended from living in our homes for 12 months. We've wiped that clean."
McKenzie said HNZ was operating to the only guidelines that were available: Ministry of Health guidelines intended for meth manufacture rather than use.
"We went to the Ministry of Health and said to them 'tell us what is a safe level of contamination for a home'. The only guidelines they could provide were those."
He admitted that the previous HNZ approach in which people were evicted from homes that tested positive for meth without a baseline test before they moved in was wrong.
"That's my personal view. It was wrong."
McKenzie said no one would lose their jobs, although HNZ took responsibility for its failings.
"That's why we're going to report back on how it is, where possible, we put things right."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ the Government had not decided whether tenants who were out of pocket for meth testing or remediation would be repaid.
"We need to look closely at what's happened for some of those individual cases."
Ardern ruled out automatic preferential treatment for tenants previously evicted over meth by putting them at the top of the housing waiting list.
"If they're without a house, then they immediately are given that treatment because those who are without shelter are prioritised. We have to make sure we're putting at the top of the list those with the highest housing needs."
Ardern said compensation had not been ruled out.
"We're waiting to see what comes back from the individual work Housing New Zealand's doing to check on the circumstances under which some of these people were evicted."