‘We didn’t know’: Judith Collins on wrong meth guidelines

The AM Show 01/06/2018

A report from the Prime Minister's chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman earlier this week confirmed that smoking meth in a house doesn't render it uninhabitable.

Sir Peter even said he'd be happy to let a toddler crawl around and lick surfaces with meth concentrations hundreds of times stronger than the limit Housing NZ had been using.

We didn't know.

Hundreds of Housing NZ homes have been left empty and more than 100 tenants evicted in recent years over meth fears, and $100 million of taxpayer money spent cleaning homes. The Drug Foundation called it the "biggest scam New Zealand has ever seen".

Housing Minister Phil Twyford ruled out compensation for evicted tenants on Thursday, but on Friday morning he said it was a possibility. However, an unlikely possibility.

"I'll look at the facts, then we can have that conversation. I'm not ruling it out, I'm not ruling it in," he told RNZ.

While he hasn't apologised on behalf of the Government, he said he might after a review into the "sorry chapter". Mr Twyford offered an apology on behalf of National, however, "because they're too gutless to do it".

But National Housing spokeswoman Judith Collins told The AM Show on Friday they had no idea the meth-testing industry was bogus.

"We didn't know. I spoke to [then-Minister of Social Housing] Paula Bennett about it, and she's absolutely adamant she didn't know. She got advice from the Housing NZ and also the Ministry of Health, and apparently Standards NZ were involved. So it's the first time that we knew.

"But Housing NZ needs to front up, because they have refused to front up to media, and their minister Phil Twyford, he's not making them front up. Let's just find out what they knew."

She rejected suggestions Sir Peter was "under orders" not to investigate the meth house panic while National was in power.

"He's very independent from the Government... We're not the scientific experts, and I don't know why he hasn't done that report before."

Labour MP Willie Jackson rejected Ms Collins' claims neither she nor Ms Bennett knew, remarking that “everyone knew it was a scam”.

"You had [Ross] Bell there from the Drug Foundation, you had [journalist] Russell Brown, you had [RNZ Checkpoint host] John Campbell,” he told The AM Show

Mr Jackson said Ms Collins was feigning ignorance "to cover for [Ms Bennett] who was fronting and demonising poor people".

"Bennett should be on her knees grovelling to this nation for what she did to our community, what she did to poor people... This is one of the worst things that a Government has ever done."

Housing NZ was advised in 2016 by the Ministry of Health the guidelines were only meant to apply to houses where meth had been manufactured, not merely consumed.

"We have pointed out and communicated that these guidelines are clearly for use in houses where meth has been manufactured," the Ministry of Health's Dr Stewart Jessamine told RNZ at the time.

Watch the full interview with Judith Collins and Willie Jackson above.

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