Is meth the new 'leaky home' crisis?

Experts agree that New Zealand is currently in the wave of a meth epidemic. It’s closing in on alcohol as the nation’s most addictive substance. And in terms of damage to housing stock, it’s becoming more widespread than leaky homes.

The numbers paint a daunting picture. Figures released by the Ministry of Health in December 2016, state that in the previous year, 1.1 percent of adults had used amphetamines, equating to about 34,000 New Zealanders.  And in April 2016, $150 million of product was seized in Auckland, followed by a staggering $448 million seizure in Kaitaia just two months later.

Our number 8 wire mentality means we’re good at using makeshift kitchens to cook quality meth. Maximum purity is 80 percent and New Zealand meth can reach up to 73 percent in purity.

Sadly even social media is playing a role. Suppliers have been canny enough to set up coded websites and social media pages to sell the drug. With availability high, and demand fueled by the extreme addictiveness of the drug, suppliers are even more motivated by the high profit margin. The Police Association estimates that a $45 investment can translate to a $955 profit.

So, just how many houses are contaminated? It’s impossible to accurately estimate the number, but we can get some idea from Housing New Zealand data which showed that 688 of its 64,000 properties tested positive for meth in the year ending May 2016, a 200 percent increase on the previous year. It’s the increase as much as the number itself that is most concerning.

Perhaps the scariest thing is that meth usage and manufacturing isn’t restricted to those on low incomes. You’re just as likely these days to find a meth lab on a leafy street in a $1 million suburb. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for many.