Southern families may get testing debt wiped

The debt of 11 of the Southern region's Housing New Zealand tenants wrongly evicted under a flawed meth testing regime may be wiped by the Government.

Last week, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) announced it would refund debts incurred by public housing tenants during the punitive meth-testing regime between 2013 and 2018.

In this period, more than 800 tenants were kicked out of their properties as a result of the ministry's methamphetamine contamination policy.

MSD spokesman George Van Ooyen said only 11 people from Southern region - which includes the Central Otago district, Clutha district, Dunedin city, Gore district, Invercargill city, Queenstown-Lakes district and Southland district - had debts with the ministry.

''We won't know how much of each person's debt can be cleared until MSD has gone through every person's situation, working out what debts are a result of their tenancy ending because of meth testing, and what aren't.''

Last year, a report by the Prime Minister's chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, found the standard used by Housing New Zealand to test for meth was ''absurdly low''.

In June 2018, Housing NZ concluded its policy for low levels of meth contamination was unnecessary.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said in a statement repayments were starting this month and would be finished by the middle of the year.

''The debt is a burden for many and has caused distress for those who lost their homes through no fault of their own.''

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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