A property owner whose home is in the corridor identified for the Levin expressway route is puzzled about a requirement to have it tested for methamphetamine before purchase by the NZ Transport Agency, and she's concerned over the professionalism of the testing process.

Judy Ashworth, an Arapaepae Rd homeowner, was told her home and the rental home on the same property would be tested as standard practice by an NZTA-appointed contractor as they had been approved for advance purchase, while other homes in the corridor are not yet being purchased by the Crown.

She was also concerned the testing was being carried out before a final valuation for the property had been agreed by both parties.

The test came back positive, which left Ashworth "gobsmacked" and concerned over cross-contamination and the processes used by the tester.


"I was gutted and had no faith in this test's results," she said.

"The lady that came to do the testing for NZTA was a cleaning lady, with two dogs in the back of her van and all her cleaning gear, and was on her way home after a day's work. She didn't wash her hands before she started testing - what did she have on her hands, following a day's cleaning or handling cleaning products?"

Ashworth said the tester took swabs and put them into a plastic bag which were then couriered for testing.

She said there was no way they or their tenant had contaminated either house with methamphetamine and they were even strongly opposed to cigarette smoking.

"We had the same tenant in our rental for a little over five years and she lived there with her young son," the owner said.

"She was a non smoker, the boy was too young to smoke. We live in our cottage on the same section, which [we] built. I'm very anti smoking."

Ashworth then paid for another independent tester, who found no contamination.

"He carried out a full recognised test wearing sterilised overalls and gloves and produced results showing no evidence at all of methamphetamine," she said.

Judy Ashworth at her home, which is in the path of the Levin expressway section.
Judy Ashworth at her home, which is in the path of the Levin expressway section.

NZTA also retested the property but could not confirm if there would be a charge to the property owner for this. The results of that test were not yet known.

"Why was it not done properly the first time?" Ashworth said.

A tester wearing white overalls and gloves was at the property last week. He confirmed he worked for a company contracted by NZTA, but did not want to comment.

NZTA Senior Manager System Design Kevin Reid said many properties the agency purchases through the advance purchase process are tenanted, and testing for contamination by methamphetamine was standard practice.

"We use approved suppliers to carry out this work, in accordance with standard NZS 8510," he said.

"Where a test result is above acceptable levels, another more invasive methamphetamine test is carried out to check the first result and locate within a property where any higher levels of contamination are found."

NZTA's Kevin Reid. Photo / Mark McKeown.
NZTA's Kevin Reid. Photo / Mark McKeown.

Reid said any charges to the homeowner for additional testing are considered once the outcome of the re-test is known.

He would not comment on the specifics of the Arapaepae Rd property or whether the test results would have any bearing on NZTA's proposed valuation of the property.

Ashworth said the first test should have been carried out properly.

"Why waste time?" she said. "If they've got policies and procedures [about test quality] they should follow them."

She said the meth testing issues had been another layer of stress in an already highly stressful situation.

The advance purchase had been agreed to by NZTA due to a hardship application she and her husband had made, and the uncertainty of the expressway route designation had left the couple living in limbo.

It had been very detrimental to their mental health, she said, with her husband already spending much of his time in a different district to avoid the stress of living at the property as it was affecting his health.

Reid said NZTA recognised the uncertainty the expressway project had caused for property owners.

"Where advance purchase is sought, property consultants work with property owners to explain the application process and keep them informed on progress," he said.

"While we aren't actively purchasing properties for the project currently, we are working with a number of property owners in special circumstances who have requested we purchase their properties under our advance purchase policy."

However, for other property owners who do not fit requirements for advance purchase, it could still be a number of years before they find out if their homes will required for purchase - and property values and the freedom to make lifestyle choices may be severely affected.

NZTA Director of Regional Relationships Emma Speight said subject to funding approval, NZTA intended to progress work on the road's final route between now and early 2020.

"We will then obtain Resource Management Act approvals, including having the land designated to provide for the construction and operation of the project," she said.

"Once funding is approved, we will work towards having a designation in place within approximately two to three years."