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Wiping of debt for HNZ tenants step towards justice

17/04/2019

AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Wiping of debt for HNZ meth testing tenants step towards justice


The Government's announcement that it will wipe the Ministry of Social Development debt accumulated as a result of wrongful evictions because of methamphetamine contamination policies is a step towards justice. Auckland Action Against Poverty welcomes this move, as it is something that we have been calling for since the initial compensation was announced. Additionally, we encourage the Government to take a wide-ranging approach to how they categorise debt relating to the evictions.

"The punitive and flawed meth test regime from the National Government left thousands of people homeless, with no personal belongings and crippling debt with both the Government and private institutions. The clearing of debt relating to the evictions by the Ministry of Social Development is a just the start towards making amends for the cruel war on drugs ongoing administrations", says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.

"The Ministry of Social Development needs to take a generous and compassionate approach when determining the debt that relates to the wrongful evictions. The financial costs of being homeless as a result of being evicted is wide reaching, since most were made to dispose of all their belongings since they were deemed contaminated. Former HNZ tenants would have required assistance for transport, new furniture, bonds for new tenancies or rent arrear assistance from having to move to private rentals they could not afford.

"Additionally, the Government should look at compensation for the private debt incurred as a result of these wrongful evictions. While affected tenants would have had to look for assistance from the Ministry of Social Development, many who were unable to access adequate support would have needed to take on additional credit card debt, bank loans or fallen prey to shark loans. If true justice is to be delivered to the tenants affected by the meth testing regime, then compensation needs to account for all the financial costs incurred, not just the ones directly with the Ministry of Social Development.

"Questions remain about the approach the Government will take in order to identify tenants affected. With Housing New Zealand admitting it did not keep a record of who was still homeless as a result, and the process of compensation being slow, we have concerns that many of the affected tenants may not be reached by the Ministry of Social Development due to poor record keeping. "We look forward to this Government delivering true justice to those affected by the ongoing war on drugs, which is also the war on the poor.

ENDS

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