Topics: Health, Politics

HNZ to compensate 800 tenants wrongly evicted post-meth tests

By Talisa Kupenga

Tenants who were wrongly kicked out of their homes for meth contamination will receive a formal apology and up to $3,000 compensation from Housing New Zealand (HNZ).

The agency admits misusing a Ministry of Health meth testing guideline which cost $100mil in unnecessary tests and decontamination.

HNZ Chief Executive Andrew McKenzie says the agency is “deeply sorry for the hardship and disruption” it has caused.

“We plan to put things right and that means not just looking to rehouse those tenants … but to provide other forms of assistance.”

Around 800 households have suffered by either losing their tenancies, possessions and not being rehoused, as well as experiencing negative effects to credit ratings.

275 of these tenants were suspended from being housed by the agency for a year.

McKenzie says because most homes have more occupants in addition to the primary tenant he estimates around 2,400 people could be affected.

McKenzie was unclear where all these tenants were, how many as a result have become homeless or how many came from Māori or Pasifika backgrounds.

“Around two-thirds of our tenants are Māori or Pasifika so again using the same proportional basis it may well be that we have that level of the same proportion.”

Housing Minister Phil Twyford blames the former National-led government.

“This has been a collective systemic failure across government and today HNZ is putting up it's hand and saying 'we got it wrong'."

National’s housing spokesperson Judith Collins says, "They [HNZ] need to find a spine actually and stand up for the fact that NZ taxpayers don't want to be providing houses for people to commit illegal activities in."

HNZ is offering assistance options including discretionary grants for household items and moving costs, cancellation of all meth-related debt and refunds for any monies paid. 

It will also re-home those who used to be HNZ tenants but were moved.

A report released today shows between July 2013 and May 2018 nearly 5,000 HNZ properties were meth tested of which more than half tested positive for the too-low standard at the time.

Twyford is calling for former Housing Minister Paula Bennett and others to personally apologise for the “fiasco”, but Collins disagrees.

"Children were at risk in these contaminated houses and the guidelines she was given were being used internationally.  I see no reason why she should apologise." 

Around $7mil in damages was charged to 542 tenants.  Less than two percent was recovered before HNZ stopped recovery action and then wiped the debt.

McKenzie says HNZ will be actively reaching out to people.

“We'll be working with other agencies that have details on people to find their addresses and contact details but it could take anything up to six to nine months to have everyone come or find everyone- possibly longer."

So far, 68 tenants have been rehoused and 159 are on the state housing waiting list.

If you or someone you know was affected contact HNZ on METH LINE 0800 006 077 or email meth.enquires@hnzc.co.nz