Methamphetamine testing – hoax or threat?

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In mid-2018,  there was a big media buzz regarding methamphetamine testing, and whether the risks of meth contamination had been widely overblown. Was the New Zealand public tricked over the threats on methamphetamine contamination or is the threat still real?

What happened?

Top New Zealand scientist Sir Peter Gluckman exposed that there has never been a case of someone getting sick from third hand meth exposure and that the country had been sucked into mass methamphetamine hysteria. While for many years methamphetamine contamination had been considered to be a serious risk to your health, Gluckman’s report pointed out that this information was widely misinformed and was for the most part, fake news. What Gluckman did state however is that if you believe your house has previously been used as a methamphetamine lab then this would cause concern, and be a valid reason for a meth test.

The past approach

It had originally been Housing New Zealand who had adopted a zero tolerance approach, with any tenant living in a property which had meth detected inside of it, being automatically evicted. As a result of this many potential home owners in New Zealand opted to make any house purchase conditional on a meth test. If the result of this meth test was over a certain threshold the property would be considered to be “contaminated”. Many homeowners were also left with a house that was then considered to be contaminated and were left with little choice but to undergo costly repairs.

Where to now?

Over the last year, things have settled down somewhat. While the meth testing industry has certainly seen its share of cowboys exploiting people’s fear, there is still a place for meth testing as part of your due diligence when buying a property, especially if there have been tenants living in the property.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, in consultation with the Ministry of Health & others,  has updated the standards for “acceptable/contaminated levels” for methamphetamine (refer NZ Standards NZS8510:2017) with the acceptable limit/level now being 1.5µg/100cm2 in high use areas.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 took effect on 27 August 2019 so that there are now procedures and guidelines in relation to tenancies and meth testing.

Housing New Zealand have now also updated their zero-tolerance requirement and also refer to the guidelines.

Separate clauses are required in Sale and Purchase Agreements regarding meth testing, as this does not fall under the Building Report/Inspection clause/condition.

If you are looking to purchase a property in the near future, or you suspect your own property may have an issue, please give our property team a call or contact your usual WRMK advisor. We’ll be happy to advise you on some sensible next steps.

This article was first published in June 2018 and revised in August 2019.

Our thanks to Julie Roland for writing this article.