6 Jun 2018

Meth evictions: 'Those without shelter are prioritised' - PM

6:43 pm on 6 June 2018

The government will be looking closely at individual meth test evictions from state housing to decide on repayments and compensation, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

In his first interview since the scandal broke, Housing New Zealand chief executive Andrew McKenzie told Morning Report people who were kicked out of their homes over flawed methamphetamine tests may be repaid for the costs of their evictions.

The country's top scientists last month found no real health risk to people living in a house where meth had previously only been smoked, and recommended people not to test their homes for meth unless there was reason to think they'd been used as a meth lab.

Mr McKenzie said today about 300 people had been evicted in cases where meth was a factor.

The agency had wiped clean its blacklist of tenants banned on the basis of the flawed testing regime and was no longer trying to collect money from tenants under the meth testing policy.

Housing NZ would report back to the Housing Minister Phil Twyford on the fair approach to those who had paid, and that could involve repayment, he said.

Ms Ardern told Morning Report the government hadn't ruled anything in or out on repayment or compensation to tenants.

"I'm not predetermining - I do think we need to look closely at what's happened for some of those individual cases."

Some eviction cases may be complicated and include things like remedial work or antisocial behaviour, others may be straightforward, Ms Ardern said.

"We need to look at all those circumstances and find a solution that's workable for Housing New Zealand and us."

If tenants formerly on a blacklist were without housing they'd automatically be given priority "because those without shelter are prioritised", she said.

"My understanding is that the minister is interested in making sure those people are housed.

"They should be housed, we should be checking on their circumstances, making sure they're accommodated, but at the same time we've also got extraordinary waiting lists where some people won't have shelter at all. We've got to bring all those factors in together."

Fair pay plans not a blast from the past

Meanwhile, Ms Ardern also told Morning Report fears that new workplace agreements could return New Zealand to 1970s-style industrial relations were misplaced.

Employers and the National Party are warned the government's plan to introduce Fair Pay Agreements was a step backwards.

But Ms Ardern said talk of a return to the 1970s was merely a slogan and lazy language.

"There are employers themselves who've come forward and said to the minister 'we're interested in this kind of standard being applied to our area of work'."

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