Thursday, June 7, 2018

We were only following orders

If you were to try and forecast what future historians might consider the legacy of the previous government to be, you'd be tempted to consider its efforts to increase our carbon emissions for short-term economic gain while running scams to pretend it was meeting our emissions reduction commitments, or its assisting the growth of a massive housing crisis. 

However, I suspect the legacy that will last most in people's minds is that, during that massive housing crisis, it operated a deliberate policy of making families homeless, declaring perfectly good state houses "uninhabitable" and charging the already-destitute large sums for a "decontamination" process that was patently a scam. That has to be among the lowest things done by a NZ government since kicking Māori off their land went out of fashion.

Now that the jig is up, of course, the guilty parties claim to have had no such policy.  They had no idea (Judith Collins), they were badly advised (Simon Bridges), they knew but were powerless to do anything about it (Paula Bennett). For once though, Bill English told the truth.  In August 2016, RNZ reported: 

Mr English said the current regime was set up for lab testing, and was not fit for purpose.

And yet:

Mr English said Housing New Zealand would continue testing for meth under the current guidelines until the new ones were in force.
Occasionally, Bill does let you see the real him.

The various National ex-ministers and the Housing NZ chief, Andrew "How the fuck does this guy still have a job?" McKenzie, all claim that their hands were tied by unspecified "advice" that there was a Ministry of Health guideline requiring them to make people homeless, to make houses unavailable during a housing crisis and to pursue tenants through the courts to make them fund the drug testing companies' "decontamination" scam. 

They are lying, pure and simple. The supposed MoH guideline they were adhering to is called "Guidelines for the Remediation of Clandestine Methamphetamine Laboratory Sites." It says "meth lab" right there in the fucking title, for Christ's sake!  Even if the government and HNZ were too stupid and incompetent to notice that the guideline was for cleaning up meth labs, not for assessing houses in general, they were having that fact pointed out to them at the time by many people, not least the fucking Ministry of Health

I'm willing to assume a very high level of stupidity and incompetence from National governments, but not even I think they're that stupid and incompetent.  This was deliberate and malicious.

If you doubt it, consider this: when there were reports of actually-dangerous contamination of state houses with black mould, HNZ's and the government's responses were variations on "We're not made of money" and "For fuck's sake, buy some Handy Andy and wipe it off." However, when faced with a non-existent contamination that involved no threat to health but nevertheless offered an opportunity to trumpet the government's war on P, blame the poor for their plight and further deplete the government's state housing stock, both HNZ and National suddenly found an interest in health and safety. That is going to be their legacy, and it couldn't happen to better-suited people.

And for the current government: Andrew "How the fuck does this guy still have a job?" McKenzie still has a job.  You should be doing something about that, unless you want to take a share in this unenviable legacy.

UPDATE:
As usual, Danyl Mclachlan says it better than I do:

15 comments:

The Veteran said...

PM ... semi hysterical post (but I can understand you trying to divert attention from the oil and gas fiasco and the intention to give free rein to crims) but really, you would have it that one morning the National government woke up and over coffee someone posed the question ... 'how can we fuck up HNZ tenants today ... I know ... let's accept the official advice that homes showing traces of meth contamination above 0.5 micrograms per 100cm2 should vacated and decontaminated'.

This was the best advice available to government at that time. It acted. And from HNZ just two days ago ... "The issue of whether HNZ should have followed the former Ministry of Health Guidelines and then the NZ Standard is plain. HNZ followed the only official public health advice available to all landlords in New Zealand at the time".

We now know that advice was not fit for purpose but let's turn that around. What say the advice had been accurate and government had decided to ignore it and do nothing ... PM, you would, quite rightly, be calling for heads to role.

Clearly this was a case of overkill. You rightly point out that English back in 2016 foreshadowed that the then guidelines were not fit for purpose and that they were being reviewed. A fair question to ask is why that review took the best part of two years.

But to argue that National took some perverse delight in kicking HCNZ tenants out of their homes and leaving them empty at a time of increase demand, forgoing rent and copping a huge clean-up bill is so nonsensical as to beggar belief.

Good attempt to divert ... fail.

Psycho Milt said...

...you would have it that one morning the National government woke up and over coffee someone posed the question ... 'how can we fuck up HNZ tenants today ... I know ... let's accept the official advice that homes showing traces of meth contamination above 0.5 micrograms per 100cm2 should vacated and decontaminated'.

I would have it that the government was content to ignore or dismiss out of hand a genuine health threat in state houses (black mould), but immediately seized on one that supported its demonisation of the poor, its efforts to reduce state housing stock and its supposed 'war on P,' despite abundant evidence that the supposed threat was a scam by drug-testing companies.

This was the best advice available to government at that time.

It was the best advice to the government on how to deal with houses that had been used as meth labs, and still is. At issue is why the government decided this advice should be used for a different, unsuitable purpose that involved inflicting cruelty and hardship on its tenants.

What say the advice had been accurate and government had decided to ignore it and do nothing ...

Well, the advice was and is accurate: houses that have been used as meth labs are dangerous and should be cleaned to a very high standard. At issue in my post is whether the government and HNZ's egregious misuse of that accurate advice was deliberate or not. For my money, you only need to compare the warnings issued at the time with Paula Bennett's boasting about zero tolerance for drug use to be able to answer that question.

macdoctor said...

The standard for meth contamination everywhere else in the world is still 0.5mcg/100sqcm (except California, where it is 1.5mcg). The current government is planning on ignoring the standard and going with the more lax "health standard" definition - which is how much Meth you can be exposed to without clinically significant health effect. There are two major problems with this.

Firstly, the Health standard value is only used for things that naturally occur in the environment (like lead) or for things that are toxic but useful (glyphosate, for instance). Meth does not fit into these categories and therefore should be dealt with with the stricter standard. Secondly, the heath contamination standard is for adults. Small toddlers will almost certainly be exposed to surfaces far more than adults, and the cumulative dose will be far higher. They also have developing brains. Twyford's dismissive remark about toddlers having to lick the floor of the entire house is nonsense. A toddler with wet hands ( that's pretty much all of them) crawling around, will pick up significant quantities of Methamphetamine.

As usual, the Socialists take chances with children's health in order to save a few bucks and avoid the very real problem of Meth addicts in State Houses.

Paranormal said...

PM, you are being disingenuous at best trying to split hairs on contamination from labs being different in some way from contamination to the same level from smoking. Vet above is correct, if the government at the time had done nothing there would have been an outcry from the same people who are currently railing on about it. That would be you.

You raise the straw man of black mould. At the time advice was that meth contamination required stripping and rebuilding homes. Black mould is simply killed with a handy andy: https://www.howtoremoveblackmold.com/how-to-kill-black-mold/ It turns out you can do the same with Meth Contamination. I am aware of homes being taken from contamination readings over 6.0 down to below the required .05 by thorough washing with simple green. But that is only in the last twelve months.

Thing is, if this was simply the government doing it to State tenants then maybe you would have some substance. However the private sector has been doing exactly the same thing as the government for exactly the same reasons. Don't tell me it's just part of your conspiracy theory because they hate their tenants as well - that's just your fevered mind working overtime....

BTW, why did we have a housing crisis again? Oh that's right, the Clark Liabour government brought in the 2004 building act that reduced building activity. Stop shedding your hypocritical crocodile tears.

Psycho Milt said...

The standard for meth contamination everywhere else in the world is still 0.5mcg/100sqcm (except California, where it is 1.5mcg).

You're still peddling the same lie. The standard isn't for "meth contamination," it's the standard that a house that's been used as a meth lab should be cleaned to, so as to ensure that any toxic chemicals involved in the manufacturing process are harmless. The methamphetamine itself poses no risk to health and is used simply as a proxy for the various genuinely toxic chemicals that might have been involved.

That is why, as Gluckman pointed out, no other country in the world has a meth-testing industry - it's a completely unnecessary industry and so far the previous government is the only one on the planet to have been sucked in by it.

Psycho Milt said...

PM, you are being disingenuous at best trying to split hairs on contamination from labs being different in some way from contamination to the same level from smoking.

Pointing out obvious, well-known, scientifically-verified facts isn't "splitting hairs." Meth labs are a health threat, houses where meth has been smoked arent (well, not from the meth at least).

You raise the straw man of black mould. At the time advice was that meth contamination required stripping and rebuilding homes.

At the time, advice from the companies running the scam was that hiring them to do very intensive and expensive work was absolutely necessary to fix the problem, yes. If only the companies that clean up mould had given the same advice, they could be coining it...

The Veteran said...

PM ... at least do me the courtesy of reading my post and the quote from HNZ website in their PR of 4 June 2108. 'They' (meaning HNZ/government) followed the only official public health advice available at the time.

You are engaged in a beat up based on hindsight. I suspect if your mob had been in government at the time they would have exactly the same.

Psycho Milt said...

I did read your comment and the self-serving quote from HNZ that was quoted in it. HNZ says:

"The issue of whether HNZ should have followed the former Ministry of Health Guidelines and then the NZ Standard is plain. HNZ followed the only official public health advice available to all landlords in New Zealand at the time".

No-one is disputing that. However, the guidelines and the standard were about cleaning up clan labs, not about some made-up health threat from a house that's had people smoking in it. If I wreck carving by trying to use a spanner as a chisel and try to excuse myself by saying "Well, it was the only tool available to me at the time," people would be entitled to call me a dumb cunt who shouldn't be using tools in the first place. Same applies in this case.

And this instance is even worse than that. Who sought advice on this imaginary health threat in the first place, and why? I've yet to see any answer to that question. They're all saying "Well it was the only tool available" with no reference to whether there was a job that needed someone to be using a tool on it in the first place.

You call my anger about this semi-hysterical and a beat-up, but we're talking here about people who were evicted and made homeless, destitute people blacklisted by HNZ and pursued for non-existent damages, state houses falsely declared uninhabitable at a time when families were living in cars and homeless people freezing to death on the street. Anyone who's not angry about this must have had human empathy by-pass surgery.

Lolitas brother said...

I'm not scared of Meth. I wanted to get some young blokes into the cleaning business [ as he says handy andy and enamlel paint ] but there was a minefield of bureaucracy to go through.
PM is not[Semi] hysterical.

The Veteran said...

PM ... you have a right to be angry at both the human and monetary cost of this apparently useless exercise ... and so am I. But it is an anger based on the benefit of hindsight and I suggest to you that clearly, at the time, those involved in the decision making acted on the best possible advice. Equally clearly the advice was wrong. What do you want ... a witch hunt to determine who gave the advice and a public lynching of those involved. Sometimes shit happens and this was one of those occasions.

Gerald said...

5 evicted for meth contamination.
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11737621

Psycho Milt said...

Benefit of hindsight my arse. I made all the below comments on Kiwiblog back in 2016 and I'm not noted for having astonishing powers of prescience:

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/05/taxpayer_funded_motels.html/comment-page-1#comment-1720179

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/05/taxpayer_funded_motels.html/comment-page-1#comment-1720208

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/05/taxpayer_funded_motels.html/comment-page-1#comment-1720262

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/06/486_state_houses_empty_due_to_meth_contamination.html/comment-page-1#comment-1728786

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/08/65_more_state_houses_test_positive_for_p.html#comment-1757509

David said...

There is no sense in having a residual from a clan lab any more stringent than the residual from smoking this killer substance. How else would you set a cleanliness status other than that set for rehabilitating a lab house? The logic does not compute that it is Ok to have contamination from one source as multiple times that of the “safe level” from another source of contamination. PM - nice try at loosing squirrels but your argument does not fly.

Psycho Milt said...

I can see why you'd say that, because an important piece of information hasn't been widely publicised in news reports about this.

The safety concern re a clan lab is not the methamphetamine, which poses no danger to human health in the amounts we're talking about. The concern is with the various highly toxic chemicals that can be used in manufacturing methamphetamine. The chemicals used can vary, so the guidelines use measurement of meth residue as a proxy for the other chemicals that might be present (because meth is the one chemical that you know for sure is going to be present), and they set a very low amount as the point to aim for when cleaning the lab, so as to be sure the actually-toxic chemicals are cleaned up.

So, that means there are two big reasons not to use those guidelines the way HNZ was using them:

1. Houses that haven't been used as clan labs haven't been exposed to the toxic chemicals the guidelines are there to deal with, so the guidelines are no use for them.

2. The guidelines specify 0.5μg as the level to aim for after you've finished cleaning a house within an inch of its life, so you can be sure you caught all the toxic chemicals from the clan lab. It's not there as some kind of safe maximum level for houses in general.

Now, people like us don't know those things without doing some reading on the subject, but the people deciding whether to evict people and declare houses uninhabitable knew it very well, because the Ministry of Health told them so, on multiple occasions. Why did they go ahead and do it anyway?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

There were academics that agreed with the low threshold because it provided a decent safety buffer.

I wouldn't disagree that part of the problem was National's'tough on drug-use' stance but it was also symptomatic of the heavily regulated health and safety, risk-averse culture we suffer under.

My pick is that Labour (under Clark) would have gone down the same "rabbit-hole" that Ross Bell (NZ Drug Foundation) describes meth testing as.