Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: We are, at last, navigating out of the "meth contamination" debacle

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  • Shaun Scott, in reply to Clarke,

    Personally, I think every Public Address reader should chip in so we can buy Sir Peter Gluckman this t-shirt.

    Even better, chip in and become a supporter of this site (at the top of the homepage). This is such a huge, positive and impactful outcome for a lot of people - even by virtue of just meaning there are a bunch of HNZ homes now deemed inhabitable. Russell's work on this has been a big part of it - some of gluckman's comments on tv3 tonight seemed almost word for word what I read in Russell's piece 2 years ago.
    If you can, do support this site- this has been a really obvious and public demonstration of the value it has, and the great work of so many contributors.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2008 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Bloody good work, Russell.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    It's worth remembering that Gluckman was appointed by John Key to be the PM's science adviser, a post Key himself created soon after taking office ...

    "This appointment delivers on the Government's goal of including science at the heart of our decision-making. ... This role is one of vital importance that demands not only a high level of science expertise, but also the utmost integrity to fairly represent the state of science knowledge."

    Somehow Paula didn't get the memo. And judging by National's approach to opposition, including their private members' bills, the memo has now been shredded.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1244 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    This is just one example of scams and dysfunction making the housing situation worse. And it had nothing to do with foreigners.

    The government should give serous consideration to an inquiery into the whole of the building industry.

    Since Nov 2016 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I feel immense comfort today that people like Miles Stratford won’t have a business for much longer.

    Guyon Espiner had him on Morning Report this morning. I haven't been following this story deeply, but his arguments just sounded ridiculous, alleging cherry-picked research and conflating moral issues (eg. character of meth users versus "hard-working New Zealanders") with science.

    Guyon picked it out well. It might have been better to not have given him a platform, but I'm glad that as the interview went on he at least wasn't given much freedom to spout the crap without strong criticism.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018647096/meth-decontamination-boss-disputes-chief-science-advisor-report

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to izogi,

    I haven't been following this story deeply, but his arguments just sounded ridiculous, alleging cherry-picked research and conflating moral issues (eg. character of meth users versus "hard-working New Zealanders") with science.

    Funny how those who complain the loudest about "virtue signaling" aren't at all shy about proclaiming the virtues of "hard-working New Zealanders".

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4570 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    The meth decontamination industry is dead - it was an expensive nightmare for landlords. I wonder if there’ll be a response from the insurance companies.

    Since Nov 2016 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Shaun Scott,

    Russell’s work on this has been a big part of it – some of gluckman’s comments on tv3 tonight seemed almost word for word what I read in Russell’s piece 2 years ago.

    You can imagine how I felt reading the report. I had a bit of an emotional moment, tbh.

    If you can, do support this site- this has been a really obvious and public demonstration of the value it has, and the great work of so many contributors.

    Aw, thanks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Neil,

    I wonder if there’ll be a response from the insurance companies.

    There's been this.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4570 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell,

    Stratford was talking in that interview, of overseas research, but he didn't offer to provide it to RNZ. I wonder why not?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert, in reply to izogi,

    I caught the RNZ interview this morning and just about spat out my breakfast. The complete BS regarding the research they were alluding to being the absolute truth while the oither research that Peter Gluckman and his team had waded through being just plain wrong was palpable. It got even more surreal when he started spouting off about testing protecting your precious investment - don't worry about minor details like health and scientific proof.
    The work done by Russell and Ross over the last few years resonates with me as managing chemical and other risks is a huge part of my day job. Seeing entities like HNZ accepting the flimsily supported opinions of the like of Meth Solutions without doing even basic fact checking has been a massive blunder that has affected the lives of many vulnerable people. It shouldn't have needed the recent report to put this practice to bed, but at least it has had the desired effect at last.

    Since Nov 2006 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to John Farrell,

    Stratford was talking in that interview, of overseas research, but he didn't offer to provide it to RNZ. I wonder why not?

    That occurred to me, too. Without clearly citing it he's just spouting vacuous rubbish. I was disappointed that Espiner didn't press him into specifying what this magical international research was so it could be presented to Gluckman et al for a useful response.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to izogi,

    Without clearly citing it he's just spouting vacuous rubbish.

    "The mark of Satan is upon them..."

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4570 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert, in reply to izogi,

    I suspect the literature they are basing their claims on will be full of self references and cirucular citations - like anti-vax and anti-fluoridation.

    Since Nov 2006 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to John Farrell,

    This from Stuff sheds some light:

    Miles Stratford, director of meth testing company MethSolutions, said the report presented no new evidence and ignored people who had come forward wanting to tell Gluckman about their issues with meth contamination.

    "You're never going to find evidence if you don't go looking for it," Stratford said.

    "What we've got is a whole bunch of scientists who can't agree and a report that aligns with Government policy."

    Research analyst Anne Bardsley at the advisor's office, who worked on the report, rubbished this claim, saying she reached out many times to try and find the evidence behind the "real world" cases companies came forwards with.

    "It always fell apart," Bardsley said.

    Stratford said more research should be done and jumping to conclusions based on the current science was "reckless".

    He quoted "real-world research" by Australian scientist Jackie Wright - who is employed by a meth testing agency - which suggested children living in places with tests between 11.7 and 26 micrograms per 100cm2 had the same amount of methamphetamine in their hair as adult users had.

    Bardsley said she had talked to Wright for over an hour about her research - which involved a single situation in the US identified by a Centre for Disease Control where meth was being produced, not a home in which meth had only been smoked.

    "It was clearly a former lab," Bardsley said.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 163 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    From the Meth Solutions Facebook page:

    To the person who phoned our office and suggested to a hard working staff member that they should go and look for another job, it is the behaviour of people that choose to use meth that presents risk to hard working Kiwis who invest in property. The need to manage that risk doesn't change, just because Phil Twyford has the report he has wanted since before he became Minister for Housing.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 163 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ross Bell,

    "What we've got is a whole bunch of scientists who can't agree"

    Sounds remarkably like the cynical tosh we heard from a former PM, also coached by Australian PR merchants.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19481 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell, in reply to Sacha,

    It sounds like the anti climate change brigade.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 455 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis, in reply to izogi,

    This reminded me of John Key's tactic of talking about how great things are outside the measurement period. I guess the hope is that people will hear "overseas research" and agree with Stratford that Sir Peter Gluckman got it wrong somehow.

    My overall impression was of a shady operator who is desperately trying to dissemble now that he's in the glare of public scrutiny.

    I hope his business goes under.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 524 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Ross Bell,

    Stratford said more research should be done and jumping to conclusions based on the current science was "reckless".

    Muuuust ... get .... government ... to ... keeeep ... loooking ....until .. it .... finds ... evidence ..... to ... vaaaalidaate .... industry.....!

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Two parts of this piss me off the most the first, and obvious one given my job, is the way scientific data was simply ignored for so long by the media. It was boring to report the actual science and much more exciting to report the drama however false it was.

    That's a theme across most the the media today for any issue be it meth, marijuana, vaccines, GMOs, homeopathy, vitamin supplements, herbal remidies etc etc etc in each case the media happily ignore the science and go to the companies making money for comment. The replicated peer-reviewed data is there but the media don't understand it and don't think the public are interested.

    There are exceptions in the media but that's the problem they are wonderful and valuable exceptions. As a consequence we have a public exposed to bollocks constantly.

    The second thing that pisses me off is the people who made money from this. Banks and mortgage companies who almost certainly were getting kickbacks, real estate agents (why anyone believes anything a real estate agent says is beyond me), testing companies, remediation companies and so on. People who knew damn well they were selling snake oil but took money from people anyway. And yes there must have been politicians who were taking kickbacks here as well in some form or another.

    It's corrupt. And it should have been stopped years ago.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4423 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Here’s what Miles Stratford is sending out on the MethSolutions mailing list.

    Note the attempt to reframe this as just being a part of looking after your investment, getting a better class of tenant etc. And following the CSA's recommendations on testing thresholds "will take the spotlight off meth users and their behaviour". Wait, I thought it was about terrible risks to human health?

    Office of Prime Minister Chief Scientific Advisor Meth Contamination Report Advice to Real Estate Professionals

    Greetings!

    As you can imagine yesterday’s report caused some disruption and a great deal of our day was spent answering questions from the media. Today we turn our focus to the interests of our valued clients.

    We recognise that it is unlikely too many of your clients will consider the dubiousness of a report from ‘trusted’ sources, that matches exactly with the long-standing socio-political agenda of a government minister, which he articulated while in opposition. It’s more likely that many will be wondering, and asking you, why they are spending money on meth testing.

    Many among you recognise the risk meth users present to an investment proposition and are smart enough to know that it makes sense to do so. The notes below are provided so that you can have a good conversation with your owners and they can make informed choices about how their investments get managed.

    If you have any questions regarding this, please contact our team on 0800 6384 522.

    Managing meth risk is done so that meth users are discouraged from choosing that property to rent in the first place.

    Adopting a proactive approach to meth use or manufacture in an investment property has never been about making sure that the contamination they leave behind is limited to whatever a Guideline or Standard might suggest is acceptable.

    Meth management of a property is about mitigating risk – the risk to your clients, the risk to their investment, and the risk to your staff – in many areas over and above health. Implementing a meth management strategy improves investment returns and demonstrates an understanding of the need to help owners manage and mitigate a risk that can seriously compromise their investment. When things go wrong with an investment property, it is always the property manager’s fault. Things are far more likely to go wrong when tenants are meth users.

    Meth management improves tenant quality and investment returns

    By adopting a proactive approach to MethManagement investors can attract better quality tenants who:

    • Want nothing to do with meth
    • Look after the property better – reducing repair and maintenance costs
    • Stay longer because they have found a ‘safe place’ in communities that are often rife with meth use and related behaviour

    Meth management reduces risk

    While some industry pundits lack the wit to understand risk management, fortunately many property management and real estate business owners do.

    A Government study showed 32% of long-term users had a go at manufacturing meth – in the absence of a meth management programme, how will you deter these people from renting your property?

    Meth labs are mobile. Meth users secure drugs by allowing mobile meth labs to set up in ‘their’ home – in the absence of a meth management programme, how will you prevent this from happening?

    Violence and unpredictable behaviour are a feature of meth users – in the absence of a meth management programme, how will you reduce the risk meth users present to your staff?

    Every day, a meth user has to choose whether to feed the meth pipe, feed the kids, feed the electricity meter or pay the rent. All too often, the pipe wins – how much time do your staff have for chasing missing rent payments? And how will you communicate this to your clients?

    Standard property management practices have limited effect on reducing meth risk

    As you know, the ability of standard property management practices to weed out and deter people who choose to use meth are limited. Our stats suggest that systems and processes that are specifically targeting meth-related behaviour can reduce the risk of meth activity in a home by about 20% when compared to base levels within your region.

    Again, when things go wrong with an investment property, it is always the property manager’s fault. Things are far more likely to go wrong when tenants are meth users.

    RTA obligations are not altered by this new advice

    While Minister Twyford has sent a signal to Housing New Zealand tenants that they have carte blanche to use meth in HNZ properties, investment property owners would be wise to avoid doing so.

    In the absence of a meth test at the beginning and end of a tenancy, you cannot confirm what the meth status of a property is.

    Using, as the report recommends, an ‘Instant Answer’ Kit that only shows a positive above 15µg will take the spotlight off meth users and their behaviour. It also means an owner won’t be able to hold a tenant accountable and increases the risk that tenants will find themselves in a property where meth residues exceed the levels in this report. Owners will still need to abate rent AND run the real risk of paying tenants back, even where the tenants themselves are responsible.

    Wants versus Needs

    MethSolutions has consistently provided property managers and investors with advice they need in order to protect their businesses and property assets from meth criminals. To be clear, we don’t stand to make money from positive results and we don’t clip the ticket on decontamination of properties. We appreciate that this report is what many people will want to hear. We also believe it is important that you ensure owners receive balanced advice, such that they make informed decisions.

    Just because the goal posts appear to have shifted does not mean that New Zealanders will put down the meth pipe. The risks from meth users remain. Where this latest advice is followed, costs associated with managing contamination from meth will be reduced. But, it is the actions of the self-oriented people who choose to use meth that place your business and your clients’ investments at risk.

    We will continue to offer support to those people who recognise the need to manage meth risk. For those who want to believe meth does not present a risk, good luck.

    Miles Stratford

    CEO MethSolutions

    PS. If you have clients who lease to HNZ, they would be wise to double check what implications this policy shift has for their investments.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Clarke,

    I think the answer is much more likely to be in the entrenched risk aversion of the Wellington bureaucracy rather than in any nefarious scheme.

    ….

    So the mis-application of the standard and the draconian results that followed would have been regarded as the lowest-risk option …

    I think there’s a systemic problem with compliance enforcememt in the building industry – it fails to achieve its actual goals of maintaining safety and standards all the while allowing those responsible for failures to avoid responsibility and setting up hapless individuals to bare the consequences.

    Stratford is sounding desperate but not desperate enough – he won’t be required to pay any compensation for the harm he’s caused – and the level of dishonesty in his argument suggests he’s aware that harm was caused. There should be compensation and really that can now only be by the government.

    Since Nov 2016 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    From Gluckman's report:

    "Miles Stratford of Methsolutions provided a perspective from the methamphetamine testing industry and as a member of the Standards Committee."

    He is also a member of the Auckland Regional Methampehtamine Working Group, which was thanked by Prof Gluckman.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 163 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Banks and mortgage companies who almost certainly were getting kickbacks, real estate agents (why anyone believes anything a real estate agent says is beyond me), testing companies, remediation companies and so on. People who knew damn well they were selling snake oil but took money from people anyway. And yes there must have been politicians who were taking kickbacks here as well in some form or another.

    I know there have been testing companies under the same roof as cleanup companies, and presumably other arrangements of mutual benefit.

    But in general the reality is likely much more mundane than politicians taking kickbacks. There is, as already noted in this thread, a general risk-averseness in the public sector – and appearing to stand up for druggies is generally fairly risky when your political masters are busy stigmatising them.

    I have been told that the Ministry of Health was livid at the way its 2010 guideline was being used by Housing NZ, but it kept things pretty bloody quiet if that was the case. From my Matters of Substance story:

    From the Ministry of Health’s point of view, there was no need for such guidance. Public Health Engineer Paul Prendergast told Matters of Substance that the 2010 guidelines are “self-explanatory, and there are also industry training courses available recognised by NZQA to help with training and interpretation”.

    He added that the Ministry has engaged an overseas-based toxicologist to review the guidelines and make any recommendations for changes if applicable. “The toxicologist has specifically been asked to address health risks posed by buildings contaminated by meth that occurred just from recreational smoking (as against manufacture).”

    The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), which co-ordinates the efforts of several agencies under the Government’s Methamphetamine Action Plan, says any clarification is not its responsibility either.

    “DPMC does not have a role in providing advice to other agencies. However, it does co-ordinate reporting across the agencies that work together to address the harm caused by methamphetamine, including contamination,” a spokesperson said.

    “Other agencies have responsibility for implementing the Action Plan, and the Ministry of Health has responsibility where it relates to the guidelines.”

    Lots and lots of ducking for cover, while Housing NZ and the Tenancy Tribunal were creating havoc in people's lives.

    It's also worth noting that the original 2010 MoH guideline is a pretty poor document in itself. It's far too long – largely because it's stuffed with a lot of copy-pasta, much of it not even cited. There's a lot of mediocrity in this story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22403 posts Report Reply

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