Pubdate: Mon, 01 Feb 2016
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 New Zealand Herald


Agency considers routine check for drug upon vacancy after huge jump
in affected homes

All state houses may be tested for methamphetamine contamination when
they become vacant, after a huge jump in affected houses in two years.

Housing NZ says it found only 28 meth-contaminated state homes in the
year to June 2014, but 229 in the year to June 2015 and 279 in the
second half of the year.

Chief operating officer Paul Commons said testing all state houses
upon vacancy was "under consideration as we constantly review our
procedures". But a decision will not be made quickly as the agency has
only recently changed its focus from looking for P labs, where houses
were used to make the drug, to testing homes where anyone was
suspected of using it.

Auckland regional manager Diane Te Nana said the agency had a
zero-tolerance approach to methamphetamine.

"If we have suspicion, we test, and that will be a reason for ending
the tenancy," a spokesman said.

The jump in the number of contaminated houses appears to be largely
due to increased testing, although there are some signs Kiwis' use of
the drug may be rising again.

Health Ministry surveys found meth use peaked at 2.7 per cent of the
population in 2003, declining to 2.2 per cent in 2007-08 and around 1
per cent in each of the past four surveys from 2011-12 to 2014-15.

Dr Chris Wilkins of Massey University, who surveys illicit drug users
annually, said his latest survey, due out next month, would show some
signs of increased use.

"Overall the levels of methamphetamine seem to be fairly stable, but
we have found consistent increases in availability in Christchurch
over the last 18 months or so."

Forensic scientist Dr Nick Powell said any meth contamination above
0.5mcg per 100sq m of surface risked headaches, coughs and
sleeplessness, and poorer appetite and infant brain growth.

He has found traces of the drug in half of the many motel rooms he has
visited in the North Island and Australia and in a third of motels
where he has slept in the South Island.

Housing NZ said it cost about $2750 to test for the drug, $10,000 to
clean up and $1600 to test for an all-clear.