Hard News by Russell Brown

22

Shots Fired

Last night's 11-minute debate on cannabis law reform on Q+A was hardly the first time the issue has been discussed on national television. But it can fairly be considered the opening round of the long argument that will precede the world's first referendum on changing national cannabis laws.

Indeed, it may well have been the first taste of the flavour of such an argument, with the two sides represented by Green MP Chloe Swarbrick – studious, careful, precise – and Family First's Bob McCoskrie, who delivered a stream of alarming claims about the consequences of legalising cannabis, many of which will be familiar to anyone who has followed the same debate in the US.

McCoskrie has swiftly emerged as the champion of a "No" vote largely because there currently isn't anyone else to carry that side of the argument. That quite probably will not remain the case, but it seems likely that there will be some flavour of culture war in our pre-referendum debate.

Reformers should not be complacent about that. However many reports McCoskrie cherry-picks and numbers he imagines, the fact is that he was on the winning side of a referendum nine years ago and he has some idea how these things are done.

In the citizens-initiated referendum of 2009, 87.4% of people who voted answered "No" to the question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

For several reasons, this overwhelming result did not result in a repeal of the amendment created by Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill. The most significant of these reasons is, of course, that the referendum  was not binding on the government. But almost as important is the fact that the question did not explicitly seek such a repeal. It was ambiguous; it begged an opinion without actually proposing an action.

Our cannabis referendum may not be binding either. But it's safe to say that the question will be more meaningful. If it doesn't seek a yea-or-nay on a written reform bill already passed by Parliament (which would be the optimum, constitutionally speaking), it should at least offer a clear idea of what a legislative reform would contain.

Exactly what the proposed reform would be is not at all easy to anticipate. That will be up to the government, which will take into account feedback generated by a national campaign of public engagement. It's also unclear what reformers should want it to look like. As I discovered in my Matters of Substance story on the nature of a referendum question, citizens considering state ballot initiatives wanted, above all, reassurance about the consequences of a "yes" vote. A more conservative reform proposal may be more likely to get over the line.

But that's not as much of an issue as it might appear. McCoskrie repeatedly used the phrase "Big Marijuana". Actually, no one wants that, and some of the most dedicated cannabis law reform advocates actually favour a non-commercial model such as cannabis social clubs, with permission for possession and self-growing. It could be that the first round of legalisation in New Zealand won't look like much like Colorado, California or even Canada.

But we have a long way to go until we we know. Engagement and consultation can't begin until the Budget allocates money for such a process and that didn't happen this year. Budget 2019 will presumably allocate the funding, but after that the engagement process will need to be designed and executed. And then the government (and possibly Parliament) will need to consider what the feedback implies for a question.

So we're looking at a referendum held in conjunction with the 2020 general election. That's going to be interesting.

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For now, it might be useful to have a look at some of the claims made last night. McCoskrie cited a number of alarming data points from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report. It's complicated, but many findings in that report are at odds with most other reviews of the impact of legalisation, including those from Colorado police departments, and the Colorado Department of Education. This review of the claims in the report – most notably around teenage cannabis use, which successive studies have found is stagnating or decreasing – is useful reading. The RMHIDTA reports also contain some staggering statistical flubs. It's not that there's nothing to keep an eye on, but RMHIDTA is not a reliable data source.

Claim: Two thirds of Colorado jurisdictions have declined to permit cannabis retail outlets, yet there are more of them in the state than Starbucks and McDonald's combined. This is true. Dispensaries are concentrated in several cities, most notably Denver, and there aren't as many big food and coffee chain outlets as you might think. But smaller towns such as Parachute and Manitou Springs have reversed their earlier retails ban after seeing how much local sales tax the business was reaping in other places. Also, about half the dispensaries are medical and have been in place for some time. The number and concentration of such outlets and their ownership is something you'd want to address in any regulated market.

The gummy bears produced as "an example of Big Marijuana": firstly, this is a straight-up lift from a stunt performed by anti-cannabis campaigner Kevin Sabet in 2016. Sabet's gummy bears didn't contain THC and neither did McCoskrie's. They especially didn't contain "40% THC", which would be crazy – the measure McCoskrie seems to have been reaching for was 40 milligrams. Edibles, for all their appeal, have been an issue where weed has been legalised. They won't kill anyone, but in enough quantity may cause a very unpleasant few hours for the user. After a spate of accidental overdoses after legalisation in 2014, Colorado has tightened regulations around labelling, dose and resemblance to actual lollies and the industry is on board with it. Doses are limited to 10mg and, importantly, it's illegal to sell edibles that look like gummy bears. (Canada, meanwhile, has not allowed sales of edibles for the time being.)

On cannabis potency in legalised states: "60 to 80% is the average and you can get as high as 95%". This is utter nonsense. Yes, THC levels have been rising for years and were doing so long before legalisation. But potency of cannabis flower in dispensaries tops out around 25% and is more often under 20%. Concentrates are, obviously, higher, but still only around 60%. As Chloe Swarbrick pointed out, this can be, and is, regulated. Canada has not allowed concentrates at all – or (and this doesn't really make sense) vapourisers.

Finally: the merits of the Portugal model of decriminalisation of all drugs. I don't have time to go into this in depth and I'm not sure which UN Office of Drugs and Crime report on Portugal McCoskrie is referring to, but drug deaths and other drug harms have fallen dramatically under Portugal's policy. Moreover, UNODC has, along with 10 other UN agencies, called for the decriminalisation of drugs.

5

Friday Music: Indeed a good one

"That was my first Silver Scrolls – was it a good one?" asked Aldous Harding, who I'd just met, at the after-party.

"It was a good one," I said, before blathering on about the cultural import of Silver Scrolls ceremonies over the years. I'm not sure she was listening by that point. I'm not sure I'd have been listening to me by that point. But yes, it was a good one.

Credit, first and foremost, must go to Bic Runga on her first (but hopefully not last) turn as musical director. She made good, even insightful choices about who should be recruited to perform the finalists' songs. I mean, it's obvious that Ladyhawke should cover 'Break in the Weather' in tribute to Hall of Fame honoree Jenny Morris, but it wasn't obvious to me until I heard her do it.

And the employment of Cass Basil, Tom Healy and Alexander Freer (that is, the Tiny Ruins band) as a house band for most performances gave the evening a real consistency. Cass in particular was the musical backbone of the whole evening, on bass, keyboards and backing vocals. I can't think of many musicians with the ability to carry it all off the way she did.

A remarkable opening medley by the Ngā Tūmanako kapa haka group underlined the way the Scrolls have gradually become a celebration of Māori talent and values (the same is true to a slightly lesser extent of the Music Awards and the Taites). There doesn't seem to be any video of that online, but Ngā Tūmanako returned for the high point of the evening: an otherworldly performance of Ria Hall's Maioha-award-winning ‘Te Ahi Kai Pō’ by Teeks:

It really was breathtaking in the room, even more than you can tell from the video.

Ngai Tahu boy Marlon Williams might have been a predictable winner of the big award, but it was apparent in the way he spoke when he got up to accept it that he truly valued what had happened. And the closing performance of 'For Today' was really heartwarming. That was a lovely smile on Malcolm Black's face.

There were one or two uneven moments. I mostly laughed along with Anika Moa, but I know that she wore a bit thin with some people. And she really didn't need to bang on about the Phoenix Foundation being forever nominated and never winning: they know that. Everyone knows that, and it felt a bit mean hearing it from the stage. To make it worse, when Samuel Flynn Scott and Luke Buda did win their screen composition award, for the Australian series Cleverman, the song played before they got to the stage wasn't one of the ones they'd written.

And, of course, there was the annual, undignified set piece of the Australian publishers bumrushing the mic after their composers won. It's almost funny now, and I confess that my table enjoyed the heckling part of the set piece. ("Sorry? Who are you?"). Oh yes: I lucked in by being seated at a great table, and I'm sure that had a considerable bearing on my enjoyment of the evening.

So thanks to my tablemates, the artists and everyone at Apra. It was indeed a good one.

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In my last Music post (sorry, it's been a while) I talked about the kinds of infrastructure available these days to artists, with reference to the young singer Bene. I talked to her at the Scrolls and it turns out there's even more to that story.

Three of the four members of her live band hail from the music industry course at Massey University in Wellington. They're not only taking an excellent course of study, they have access to recording and rehearsal studios and it shows. I wondered how they could have been so very together at Bene's The Others Way show, but it turns out there's a reason. It's not the way bands used to be, but it works, it really does.

Meanwhile, Bene's in motion. Here she is last week on Triple J's Like A Version with French electronic wunderkind Petit Biscuit:

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I was sad to hear today of the death of Jane Walker. I didn't know Jane well, but well enough to recognise her innate cool and good nature. She played a role in the music scene at a time when there weren't as many women involved, including as part of the Flying Nun prehistory in Christchurch as a member of the Basket Cases, and, of course, as a member of Toy Love. RIP Jane. You blazed a trail without even thinking about it.

(Photo by Kevin Hill)

Update: Audioculture has published a profile of Jane by Chris Bourke and it's quite wonderful.

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Anthonie Tonnon's new song 'Old Images' is an interesting piece. It seems to signal an equilibrium between the Synthstrom Deluge he's been using as the basis of live live shows over the past year and the traditional instruments associated with singer-songwriters. It even has a string section.

Julian Vares' melancholy video provides a nice accompaniment. Tono advises:

I think it’s important to say at the outset - the song has nothing to do with railways. It touches on the long shadow of the 20th Century, and childhood in the Cold War, but really, it’s a love song.

However, an invitation to film a music video in my home city, Ōtepoti, led us to a new story, one I felt compelled to tell - the story of the last suburban train network in the South Island. The more I learned about it, the more it consumed me, until eventually, I decided I couldn’t stop there.

There are further notes on the song on his website, along with dates for his Rail Land tour, which is organised around venues accessible by rail, on his website. He's always worth a read, is Tono.

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In other music news, it's really nice to see that Shapeshifter (along with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra) are to be the first act at the restored Christchurch Town Hall. My first big concerts – Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Cheap Trick, George Thorogood – were in the auditorium there and it's good to know the place will be open for future generations.

The Auckland Folk Festival, January 28 and 29 next year, has made its first lineup announcement and it includes Virelai ("Denmark’s leading medieval folk band") and American Lindsay Lou, along with various locals, including Candice Milner, the latest singer to emerge from the national folk incubator in Lyttleton.

Music Therapy Week 2018 runs from October 20 to 28, with gigs and other events aimed at raising awareness of the value and purpose of musictherapy.

A new tune from Lontalius, who plays Anthology Lounge on Saturday night.

And finally, the video for Princess Chelsea's 'Growing Older' is both incredibly lovely and a little bit brave. It's entirely composed of home videos from her childhood. I don't think I've ever seen a music video like it.

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Tunes!

Clicks (aka Dick Johnson and Anna Coddington) continue to hit the mark, this time with three new Ashley Beedle remixes of last year's single 'We'll Be Fine'. This dub is the business:

12

Drugs and the road forward

Radio New Zealand asked me this morning to write an opinion piece on whether Jacinda Ardern and her government did the right thing by declining to sign up to President Donald Trump's Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem.

It was something I'd been thinking about for the past day, so it was an easy yes. You can read it here.

In essence, I think we were right to stay well away from this. As I explain in the column, the document is somewhat meaningless – it's largely lifted, verbatim in places, from the UNGASS 2016 output document that the United Nations General Assembly endorsed only two years ago. But it strips out important language about human rights and and the harms done by drug control itself; language that was hard-won through the UN process. In terms of New Zealand's longtime position, it adds nothing and takes away things that matter.

The column, noting Trump's closing promise to work "to deliver a drug-free future for all of our children", also covers ground I wrote about here a couple of years ago, describing what befell the UN's bold 1998 vision of "a drug-free world". That slogan not only didn't help, it made things worse.

The secretary general who presided over that vision in 1998, the late Kofi Annan, subsequently changed his mind completely and wrote in 2016 that "we need to accept that a drug-free world is an illusion". He became a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of former national leaders and other luminaries, including Helen Clark, that advocates for drug law reform.

Today, the Commission released its 2018 report: Regulation: The responsible control of drugs.

It's a comprehensive, clearly-written document that doesn't shrink from the difficulties of moving on from the prohibition model, but argues that it is essential we do so. The opening letter from the Commission's chair, former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss, concludes thus:

Nevertheless, the international drug control regime continues to be based on a single premise: prohibition of any use of drugs beyond their medical and scientific use, thus forbidding their production, exchange, transport, sale and consumption. A demand for drugs exists, however, and if it is not satisfied through legal ways it will be satisfied by the illegal market. Prohibition has allowed criminal organizations to control the whole chain of drugs. Every region in the world suffers: from violence induced by turf wars over production areas and transit routes, from corruption and connivance of state institutions, and from laundering of drug money, which damages the legal economy and the functioning of democratic institutions. Collaboration among countries is necessary to face crime multinational enterprises.

A fundamental question regarding illegal drugs is still rarely asked. Who should assume the control of these substances that bear serious risks for health – the state or organized crime? We are convinced that the only responsible answer is to regulate the market, to establish regulations adapted to the dangerousness of each drug, and to monitor and enforce these regulations. This is already the case for food, for legal psychoactive substances, for chemicals, for medications, for isotopes and many other products or behaviors that comprise a risk of harm. This report shows that the regulation of currently illegal drugs is not only possible, it is necessary. The report reminds us that even if it takes the global community a long time to review the current drug conventions, no international convention frees states from their obligations towards their populations, to protect their lives, their health, their dignity, and to guarantee equal rights for all without discrimination.

What follows is a roadmap we would do well to study. It will take the world a long time to reach the destination it describes, and it might be a bumpy ride. We might find a better map, or decide we don't wish to go all the way. But it's a better idea than jamming into reverse and doing the things that caused so much suffering, injustice and violence the first time around.

2

Friday Music: Popping off

I've said before that I think we're living in a rich era for New Zealand music, one in which the ambition and creativity of the artists is bulwarked with skills in the technical and commercial parts of the music business that basically didn't use to be there.

Take the new single by Bene, whose set at The Others Way you may recall me raving about recently. You can find it on your chosen streaming service here.

It's her song – and she has a swag more of them – but it's been brought to fruition by Josh Fountain, who took over Golden Age, the little commercial studio in Morningside, Auckland, where Lorde's Pure Heroine was recorded.

As a really good profile by Hussein Moses for The Spinoff explains, Fountain's big break was enrolling at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand (MAINZ) – and then one of his tutors, Angus McNaughton (who was once a partner in Incubator, the tiny studio where the Headless Chickens' Body Blow was recorded) got him a job making jingles, where he met his future bandmates in Kidz in Space.

He worked on records by Smashproof, Randa, Thomston and Annah Mac before being bequeathed Golden Age by Joel Little. Thereafter, he worked with Maala, Openside and Theia, who have all managed to break through the international pop noise and make an impression on the local charts.

But it's on 'Soaked' where you can most clearly hear the sound of Leisure, the kind of groove supergroup Fountain is part of along with Jayden Parkes, who was in the pop-punk band Goodnight Nurse with Joel Little. They're managed (along with Thomston and Sol3 Mio) by Seiko, the management company founded by Scott Maclachlan, who discovered and signed Lorde. (Maclachlan took a senior A&R role at Warner Music Australasia earlier this year, but continues to advise at Seiko.)

Also in Leisure is Jordan Arts, who was half of Kids of 88, along with Sam McCarthy, who was also in Goodnight Nurse along with Parkes and Little and now works in LA as Boyboy.

Jordan also has his own thing, High Hoops, and has been a favourite of this blog for some years now. His debut album, Seasons On Planet Earth, is out today and it's a beguiling mix of giddy nu-disco and rolling, smoky grooves, deeper than it might first appear.

Glide around your kitchen to that. Streaming and buying links here. There's also vinyl.

Meanwhile, Bene has signed with Australian's Niche Talent Agency, which will handle her bookings from here on. She's managed by CRS, who also look after Fountain and have been Brooke Fraser's management since forever, out of the same Morningside building as Golden Age.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of moving parts here – including parts that didn't exist 10 years ago. Old creative relationships, bands that didn't quite work out first time, lessons learned, skills acquired, opportunities grasped and networks formed. It looks good to me.

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Bene is in the Laneway 2019 lineup for the festival's 10th birthday – alongside Courtney Barnett and Florence and the Machine. I'm quite thrilled to see Jon Hopkins back. And the absolute curveball? Veteran South Island experimentalists The Dead C. Had you asked "Will Florence and the Machine and The Dead C ever share a bill in our universe?" I would not have picked that.

Note also that there are more Splore announcements on the way. I heard about one of them this week and let's just say I am most excited.

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Hallelujah Picassos are back with with a new single that somehow haunts and stomps at the same time:

The flip is a wiggy new mix of 'Picasso Core', which features one of the last vocals recorded by the late Bobbylon. There's also a 7" single out today, available here at Flying Out.

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Speaking of Flying Out, I'm delighted to be the first friend to step up for Friday Friends, a new series at the physical Flying Out store (80 Pitt Street, near the K Road corner). I'll be playing records while people muck about in a record shop from 5pm to 7pm today.

Come on down! I hear there's even beer.

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Tunes!

Just one. An absolute banger of a Fela Kuti edit. Free download (with a bit of palaver):

15

A painful reflection

The report outlining Housing New Zealand's response to the harm caused by its misguided policies around supposed methamphetamine contamination of its properties is long and thorough.

It puts a number on the tenants harmed by evictions which were very largely unwarranted on any health and safety grounds. There were about 800 evictions and an average of three occupants per tenancy, so around 2400 people. Many of them were – often in their absence – ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to pay compensation.

But the report also offers an important insight into how this could have happened. It came, ultimately, from the top. The "zero tolerance" policy on illegal activity within Housing NZ properties was adopted in 2004, during the last Labour government. But set against that was an explicit expectation from government that:

... Housing New Zealand should take a broad view of social housing. This included providing other services, such as employment opportunities for tenants and low-income workers through Housing New Zealand’s asset development programme, and working with other agencies to improve outcomes for tenants. Housing New Zealand was expected to provide “support to families and individuals who need housing assistance by creating communities that exhibit security, stability and harmony” . As a result of these expectations Housing New Zealand operated an array of programmes that focussed on community renewal, rural housing, and neighbourhood projects, and was closely involved with strengthening families and case management.

But that changed when the government changed:

By the 2010/11 financial year these programmes had ceased. Government expectations were focussed on value for money and improving the quality of expenditure across government. Ministers asked Housing New Zealand to explore ways to improve operational efficiencies, to deliver a return on its investment and to control its operating costs. Government required Housing New Zealand to implement an “innovative approach to tenancy management to ensure resources are directed to those most in need”. There was also an expectation that Housing New Zealand would pay an annual dividend to the Crown.

During this time the Government also began the Social Housing Reform Programme, with the intention of broadening the provision of social housing. The clear expectation was for Housing New Zealand to focus on its core functions as a landlord, with other agencies providing social services for tenants as required.

For all the talk – and it was endless – National's proposed reform of social housing never got off the ground in the sense of a meaningful broadening of provision. But Housing NZ did follow the instructions of the government of the day and reconceive itself as a property management company rather than a social agency.

And that's how we got to the point of actions being taken that were harmful  to the people who use social housing. The point where it was deemed reasonable to evict an entire family because one member may – or may not – have had a meth problem.

Some of the most vulnerable people in New Zealand live in Housing New Zealand’s houses, including not only the main tenant but also other household members and tenants’ families. The ending of a tenancy can result in flow on effects for these individuals that can be very hard to recover from, including homelessness. Despite this, Housing New Zealand has until recently taken a zero tolerance stance towards the use of methamphetamine in its properties.

Housing New Zealand’s procedures allowed for testing of properties for methamphetamine contamination if there were reasonable grounds to believe that methamphetamine was being manufactured or used. Any level of methamphetamine contamination found could be used as evidence of illegal activity at the property, and a 2016 policy decision allowed for tenancies to be ended on this basis.

Tenants deemed to not be responsible for the "contamination" in their houses were rehoused, but they represented only about a third of those evicted. And, as I reported in Matters of Substance two years ago, the basis for those life-changing official decisions was quite frequently no more than hearsay. As the report notes:

A policy clarification in 2016 confirmed that methamphetamine contaminated tenancies were being ended due to the illegal activity (either the use or manufacture of methamphetamine), not solely due to the property being contaminated. Housing New Zealand did not require confirmation of this illegal activity by the Police or Courts. This further reinforced the zero tolerance approach to methamphetamine use as an illegal activity.

Tenants were, effectively, "convicted" of illegal activity without access to due process, on evidence that a court would, in many cases, have rejected.

This goes way beyond a simple misapprehension of the science. As I also revealed in that MoS story, Housing NZ's meth team actively considered going even further by requiring tenants to be drug-tested before being housed. The idea was rejected not because of its human rights implications, but because it was deemed impractical.

I do think it's important to note that Housing NZ had begun to move away from these practices even before Housing minister Phil Twyford asked the Office of the Chief Science Advisor to investigate the soundness of polciies around meth contamination. The parts of this new report that outline what Housing NZ is now doing differently are as important as the accounting of what it did wrong. I can, on that basis, understand Twyford's decision not to force resignations from the CEO and the board.

And when I was listening to Twyford field questions from reporters this morning about the lack of scalps, I did find myself hoping that the news organisations those reporters work for will also be taking a look at themselves.

Because there's a a whole other dimension to this story. And that's the way that a predatory testing and decontamination industry was able to sell its own meth-crisis narrative with the direct assistance of journalists and editors who simply didn't exercise the diligence their jobs should demand.

How many times did we hear or see someone with a direct commercial interest quoted as an "expert"? 

Newshub in 2016:

An industry expert believes methamphetamine-infected homes could be the next 'leaky homes' crisis.

The head of commercial meth cleaning service Envirocheck says up to 20 percent of kiwi homes could be infected, with half of those at levels above the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.

Envirocheck head David Kilburn says it has the potential to be a huge problem.

"I think it's a billion dollar problem," he says. "Some of those houses are going to cost $100,000 to put right."

Mr Kilburn was told the Ministry of Health estimates around 50 homes are infected every year, but he believes that’s a gross underestimate.

"We could find 50 houses contaminated every three months and we're just one company."

Mr Kilburn is warning homeowners that P can be found anywhere.

"[People tell us] the people we bought it off were an elderly couple, and they'd owned it for twenty years, how could there be meth in the house.

"[I tell them] what about your guests? Can you vouch for every single one of them? What about the elderly couple? Did they have any grandchildren come stay with them? Was one of their grandchildren a meth head? 

"You just cannot be certain that meth hasn't come into your home. They may have done that outside and then walked in and the fumes have followed them in."

A couple of months later, in the Taranaki Daily News, the proportion of "contaminated" properties, again according to David Kilburn of Envirocheck, had swelled to 25%:

Envirocheck general manager David Kilburn said methamphetamine contamination was a serious problem with up to 25 per cent of houses checked showing the drug's presence.

"We are dealing with the tip of the iceberg at the moment," Kilburn said.

One session smoking the Class A drug could be enough to produce a positive test result.

"It may not contaminate the property to above the Ministry of Health guidelines but we've seen properties where meth has been smoked, perhaps in a party situation in the course of one weekend, in a book a bach situation, and the property has been severely enough contaminated to require quite extensive decontamination," he said.

Back in 2014, the Sunday Star Times was quoting Envirocheck's office manager on the health effects of methamphetamine:

Envirocheck office manager Jasmine Pruden said half of the properties they tested come back positive for drug contamination.

The cost of purging a house of chemicals can range from $1200 to $95,000.

In the worst cases Envirocheck stripped the house to its shell.

Ms Pruden was also quoted in the Wanganui Chronicle:

Envirocheck office manager Jasmine Pruden said telltale signs that meth had been manufactured or used in a house include a "chemical smell" or "chemical discolouring" in places like the laundry or down window sills where chemicals have been tipped out.

Other signs to watch out for were dodgy wiring and plumbing, fire alarms that had been removed or missing light bulbs.

However, she said some cooks and smokers were "smart enough to clean up after themselves". "Sometimes you can walk into a property and it can look amazing, but it can be fully contaminated," she said.

And yet a simple Google search finds her qualifications on LinkedIn:

The Herald ran this nonsense without a byline:

MethSolutions director Miles Stratford has been testing houses for 3 years. Over that time, the number tested by his company had grown from a "handful" to more than 200 a month, nationwide.

But the proportion testing positive had remained at 40 per cent.

"That's everything from a little bit of use through to significant manufacture," Mr Stratford said.

"It's just like with cigarette smoke. That can get stuck in walls. It's the same as the vapour left over from meth smoking."

Clean-up ranges from $1000 to a few hundred thousand, with hefty replacement costs for furnishings, curtains and wall coverings too.

 The story was accompanied with this absolute garbage graphic, whose "facts" about methamphetamine seemed to have been cribbed straight from a testing company website, possibly MethSolutions' own.

In many cases, the stories came direct from the testing companies, who had worked out that the news media would generally relay whatever bullshit they were offered if it made a good headline.

 There have been, it's important to note, journalists who have done really important work in reporting this story in the past couple of years – most notably Benedict Collins at RNZ and Henry Cooke on Stuff. And it was RNZ's Laura Bootham who first reported the problems around the unregulated testing and decontamination industry way back in 2014. That was about the time that Joanne Kearney, then working at MBIE, became concerned at what looked to her like a developing scam. The information Joanne started collecting under OIA and from Tenancy Tribunal proceedings later became an important part of my story.

But in summary, let's say this: a major government agency has quite painfully held itself to account today. It would be good to think that today is also a day when news organisations reflect on their own performance.