Excessive meth testing due to ‘sloppy, confusing science’

Morning Talk 30/05/2018
State housing. Photo: Auckland.

Landlords have been "absolutely rorted" by incorrect meth safety standards, according to Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

A new Government report has found there's no evidence linking methamphetamine residue from smoking to health impacts, contrary to what former guidelines suggested.

Moral panic around meth has seen state houses emptied, said the report's author, the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman.

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) will now use a new standard of 15 micrograms of meth detected per 100 square centimetres after cleaning. That's 10 times the current limit of 1.5 micrograms. It used to be 0.5 micrograms after cleaning.

A cleaning of a house that tests positive can cost anything between $2000 and $50,000. The new standards expect to save $30m a year in remediation and testing.

Sir Peter told RadioLIVE that the need for “excessive testing” of meth residue is not necessary for public safety, even as a precautionary approach.

“I hope this is a good example to my successor and to the governments of the future of the importance of independent science advice.”

He said this particular report illustrates a combination of moral panic and “sloppy confusing science” that was taken advantage of.

Meth cleaning can cost up to $50,000. Photo: Newshub.

The NZ Drug Foundation’s Ross Bell called the report’s finding the “biggest scam New Zealand has ever seen” and that Kiwis should be outraged.

Mr Bell said the former National-led Government had been warned meth contamination fears were overblown, but "chose to take no action." 

But social services spokesperson Paula Bennett said at the time, Housing NZ was increasingly concerned about the dangers of meth so the agency decided to "put health and safety first and veer on the side of the conservative".

MethSolutions chief executive Miles Stratford doesn’t totally accept the report’s suggestions.

“It reaches conclusions that no other scientists have reached. And it omits data supplied to Dr Gluckman’s office,” he told Mark Sainsbury.

Mr Stratford suggests that Sir Peter signed off on a report put in front of him without the full scope of facts. 

Listen to the full interview with Sir Peter Gluckman and Miles Stratford above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.