The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) welcomes Housing New Zealand’s (HNZ) decision to clear the debts of those who have been wrongfully evicted for alleged methamphetamine contamination at their homes.
It is now clear that the threshold for identifying methamphetamine contamination was far too low and HNZ’s policy regarding the health risks of third-hand exposure based on faulty metrics.
The consequences of these mistakes have been significant: hundreds of tenancies ended, and as Housing Minister Phil Twyford has acknowledged, hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds were wasted.
Those evicted were often taken to tenancy tribunal, forced to take on heavy repayment responsibilities and blacklisted from accessing social housing, with severe repercussions for their lives and those of any dependants. In some cases, according to Auckland Action Against Poverty, people lost access to their children.
While the corrective action being taken at the present time is welcome, it is long overdue, and incommensurate with the damage caused to victims.
The Association believes that
the level of suffering and public cost brought about by the
hysteria over contamination risks should be an object lesson
in what to avoid in the future where it comes to future
policy related to public housing and suspected drug use.