Government releases standard confirming how much P there needs to be in a property for it to be considered contaminated, and how you need to get rid of it

The Government has released an official standard detailing the amount of methamphetamine there needs to be in a house, car or caravan for it to be considered “contaminated”.

The standard, Testing and decontamination of methamphetamine-contaminated properties, also explains how to test and decontaminate a property.  

It will become legally enforceable when the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill (No 2) is passed later in the year. The Bill gives landlords the right to test for meth and enables tenancy agreements to be terminated when levels are unsafe.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith says: “The new standard is a huge step forward in helping home owners and tenants deal with the risks of methamphetamine contamination. It will give people greater confidence and certainty, will result in hundreds fewer properties having to be vacated and save millions in unnecessary decontamination work."

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean adds: “These new standards are an important new addition to consumer protections. They will help clean up an industry that has had problems over inconsistent tests and excessive decontamination costs.”

Under the standard, properties with more than 1.5 micrograms of meth per 100 cm2 in high-use areas such as bedrooms, living areas, kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, sheds/garages need to be decontaminated.

For limited-use areas, “such as crawl spaces likely to be accessed only by adults for short periods of time”, the level is 3.8 micrograms per 100 cm2.

Under a 2010 Ministry of Health guideline, the level sat much lower at 0.5 micrograms. However this standard was only ever intended to be applied to meth labs.

Standards New Zealand says it has decided not to set a separate level for meth labs in its official standard, as it’s difficult to detect whether a property has been used as a lab by doing surface sampling. Furthermore, what constitutes a lab may change as production techniques change.

Standard to reduce scaremongering and 'cowboy' clean up companies 

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand welcomes the standard.  

Its CEO Bindi Norwell says: “Until now, there has been no standard across the country for methamphetamine testing or decontamination, which has resulted in some scaremongering and mis-information for members of the public around these processes.

“For example, it was not uncommon for a purchaser and vendor to test the same property but receive entirely different results.”

The Insurance Council of New Zealand's operations manager Terry Jordan raises the point: “With the requirement in the new standard for sampling and remediation companies to be independent from each other... there will be less room in the market for the “cowboy” clean up companies that prey on the fears of tenants and landlords."

He says claims for meth contaminated properties have been steadily rising in recent years and are now estimated to cost insurers in excess of $30 million per year or 100 properties per month. 

New Zealand’s largest general insurer, IAG, which sells its products through the likes of State, AMI, NZI, and ASB, says it spent $14 million on meth contamination claims last year, having received around 60 claims a month.

In March it warned landlords should expect their annual premiums to increase by $40 to $130 a year to make up for some of these costs.

Most insurers have within the last year made changes to their policies, so they’re more prescriptive around what they cover and what property owners need to do to ensure they qualify for cover.

Jordan says some don't provide any cover for meth contamination, while others have increased their excesses and put limits on cover. Those that provide full cover are likely to require landlords to check tenants and do regular property inspections. 

He says property owners need to tell their insurers if they find out their properties are contaminated. 

See this detailed comparison interest.co.nz did in March, to see how different insurers approach meth.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.

35 Comments

I may have missed it but i don't recall seeing anything in hear about holding the contaminators to account.

This is NZ, we don't identify the cause and solve it. We add band aids, more band aids, and some sticky tape.

Remember that NZ is ambulance at the bottom of the cliff society

No, we are more the Government report about why the ambulance wasn't available to be at the bottom of the cliff.

Mandatory jail sentences for P cooks and contaminators and deportation for those importing and dealing .

If you do this in a State house that you have been given to live in , then you go to jail , do not pass go and collect the benefit .

We cannot allow the destruction of publicly owned assets that are there for the good of all of us

It time to get ruthless with this scourge and blight on on our society by this seemingly ever growing underclass

It should also remove all future ability to get a state house.

And if you were to treat P use as a health problem?

What! How dare you treat Addiction as a health issue!

Punish those poor wretches! They don't deserve to impinge my capital gains!

Then they can be locked up somewhere safe where they wont contaminate valuable living space for others.

Yes lock up people with health issues ...what a great idea?

Like it or not we do already. Some health issues just don't mix well with the general public.

Yup. Your rights stop where mine start

Why be soft on meth users and those who contaminate State Houses

I have smoked (ordinary tobacco) for years, but always stepped out of the house to have my smoke, because the after-smell inside a house is awful and stains all the white-work around the windows and window-sills and ceilings and impregnates itself in carpets and drapes and curtains and fabrics. But, it was my own house so I tried to look after it. Never smoked in the car either.

If it's not a hardship for me to step outside then it should not be a hardship for meth-users

Should be testing for cigarette smoking contamination, as their are thousands of known carcinogens in every puff, probably more dangerous than meth; I have never seen the level of harm caused by meth contamination defined or quantified anywhere.

Couldn't agree more. Time to get tough and our voices heard.

>"Mandatory jail sentences for P cooks and contaminators and deportation for those importing and dealing ."

Agree, and make them long.

I would also couple this with legalising marijuana (which I've never used, btw, so this is not personal). Better to have widely available alternatives that are nowhere near as bad (basically equivalent to alcohol but without the violence) and to remove the criminal element from its production and distribution.

Yes the war on drugs is working well - (except alcohol not a drug apparently)

This reminds me of the moisture meter debacle when the leaky home syndrome initially hit. Anyone with eyes and a 150 dollar meter was an expert.
The bulk of meth is imported from what I hear, cooking is being replaced by imports, further worsening our balance of payments.

That's been happening for a long time.

If there's a real crack-down on meth, there goes one of the major sources of cash to prop up the housing market. Meth profits have been pouring into real estate for 20 years.

Yes, you could import a house in a hand-bag or back-pack

So who's letting this meth crap in at the border? All the staff, all the xrays, all the sniffer dogs and other such equipment and this crap still gets through......so who's not doing their job? Are some of these border control people on the take? Makes one think we should do away with all the border controls and let them bring their crap in so we can see it and then catch them and put them in headbails in the nearest public park!

Most of it turns up in shipping containers. And the thing with that is that the whole system depends on moving them through the system unopened. Search everything, and legitimate business lose money because the efficiency of moving goods in containers is lost. Border Security and Customs could open everything, but they'd need a hell of a lot more people, and it would cripple trade. How many containers a day do you reckon are coming over the border, and how many people would you need to check them all within a reasonable time-frame, without perishables rotting or becoming unsellable, or legitimate business losing money through their goods being delayed? Can't stop everything unless every box or packet in every container is opened and searched, and every inch of every incoming vessel searched, including cavities in the hold, every package and letter opened, every inch of coastline covered 24/7, every suitcase opened and searched.

Add to that, legally the enforcement people can only go so far without having reasonable grounds for suspicion. Is that something you'd object to? Seems reasonable to me that they can't check your bags or body cavities without having a reason to think you're up to no good. Checks and balances are a good thing.

It is called Sigint. Signal Intelligence. Most of these idiots blabber on mobile phones.
The only good mobile is one that is 6 feet underwater.

Means jack shit on its own. Chatter is just chatter without verification, and there's a hell of a lot of it. Still need to have grounds to intercept and use evidentially, and have major resources to commit to investigation and prosecution. How many detectives does NZ have? Who will be able to spend a couple of years fully devoted to investigating an importation syndicate without being diverted to homicides or armed robberies? Not nearly enough to lock up all the meth importers. They're heavily outnumbered, and don't forget that their budget has been frozen for years.

It's easy to say lock up all the meth syndicates and deport them and end the scourge, but it takes a bit more to achieve that than wishful thinking and magic. Get down to the practical nitty-gritty of getting it done within the law, and it's not so simple.

It is called connecting the dots. But you are right. It's not simple.

Oh for goodness sake !

Cooking meth is NOT a health issue , its an illegal way to generate money that causes health issues that we have to spend a fortune sorting out

People cooking and/ or importing P are unlikely to be addicts , and more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash , driving flash cars and not paying tax

They should be jailed and if they are not citizens , deported and not allowed to return

People cooking and/ or importing P are unlikely to be addicts - In my experience this is absolutely 100% incorrect.

Sounds a lot like big pharma, tobacco, alcohol and weapons industries. The only difference being legality.

Deport the whole family I say. Not just for P. Any criminal activity by immigrants and get rid of the whole family.
For example that Afgan immigrant who likes to rape. If he doesn't do it again for another 5 yrs he is allowed to stay NZ permanently. WTF?

I still wouldn't buy a house with any level of contamination if I was to live in it, and would want a significant discount if was buying one that had any, as a rental. An illegal activity took place in the house which resulted in that problem , so why should people have to put up with any level as a result of this.
The levels appear to be based on the amount of time someone maybe occupying the space for, if they can allow a higher level in a crawl space, which IMO isn't great. Some people spend more than the average amount of time in their home, such as working from home, so I presume they will likely be more affected than someone who only eats and sleeps there.

Is it really any worse than the carbon monoxide we all inhale walking down the street ? Long term habitual meth users are still amongst the living, I'm pretty sure sucking it from the pipe is a few thousand times worse than licking the wallpaper of a house where it has been smoked.

yep probably no worse than the volatile organics compounds that come from a new carpet. I'd be interested to know if these low levels could be reduced below threshold with some elbow grease and sugar soap - rather than complete $100K+ remediation. Someones making a pile of cash and not just the meth dealers

I guess the whole unproductive industry stimulates GDP so it must be good right!

Some firms are charging up to $2000 for meth testing. What a gravy train. The tests are not even accurate!

I have just updated the story with a response from the Insurance Council of New Zealand... 

As a tenant, I asked if our current rental had been meth tested. It had and the agent was happy to provide certification. I'm not sure if the new legislation will provide for it but I'd like to also see this as being something a tenant can insist on being done prior to taking on a lease. that way both parties can be protected and be sure of any contamination before, during and after the tenancy ends. Reading the article seems to leave it to the discretion of the landlord, and I suspect there are more than a few of them who DON'T want to test in case it means they have to remediate the issue. Personally I would never rent a contaminated house no matter what the levels. Like it or not contaminated houses will have a stigma attached to them for sellers, and as more people with higher incomes rent they will gradually insist on higher standards for quality tenants.