Editorial: That's another fine meth ...
Not all alarms are alarmist.
Calls for a warrant of fitness system to alert buyers of meth-tainted properties won't, themselves, escape the attentions of conspiracy theorists who detect self-serving attention seeking and a drumming up of business.
But the warnings are coming from more than professional clean-up outfits.
The likes of the Real Estate Institute and the Home Owners & Buyers Association of NZ aren't generating a fanciful scare, nor even just amplifying a problem that is regrettable but less than widespread.
You might have thought they were banging the drum a bit too hard, after Housing Minister Nick Smith's soothings that the scale of the problem really doesn't justify whacking property owners with an expensive test for meth contamination.
In some respects, he was perhaps reacting to a distractive comparison that this issue might rival that of leaky homes. Even then, the minister was dialling this issue down too far.
He points to police estimates that about 50 homes a year were found contaminated by meth.
But let's not forget P-labs are flighty little buggers, transportable as anything, feeding the addictions of what Prime Minister John Key acknowledged last May to be around 25,000 longer-term heavy users.
Those 50 homes are far from the scale of the tainted-property problem. They are only the discovered ones. Regrettably, new owners, or landlords and new tenants. might not be aware of a property's poisonous past. Even more regrettably, not everybody who does know, or have suspicions, is reliably scrupulous about blowing the whistle on what the authorities quite rightly insist must be a professional-scale clean-up, rather than diligent amateur scrubbing.
When you factor in the motels, holiday parks, baches, cars and the odd Coromandel mine that have been pressed into meth use, it's not hard to see why the average number of meth labs discovered annually in recent times has been 150 to 200, and why each one of those might have been contaminating nooks and crannies elsewhere around the country before the cops burst in.
In recent years the south has had a major Queenstown bust, another from a motel in Invercargill's Tay St, and another in Taramoa.
What Dr Smith describes as "expensive" tests is a subjective call indeed. Depending on the size of the property, indicative tests might be $100 to $200. Of course, if the news is bad, that's when the substantive costs clean-up costs reaching into tens of thousands of dollars really kick in.
This really is a case where, in the absence of a stronger governmental lead, the public needs to be its own watchdog by making a clear meth test a condition of purchase or rental agreements.
Even motel and hotel users might consider it too. Admittedly it's not a tip-top promotional look for the nation to find facilities advertising their "meth-free" credentials but the known health risks associated with the tainted facilities are scary enough, and some of the concoctions are still new enough on the scene that longer-term damage may yet add to the harms already known.
The Southland Times