WHAT IS METH?
Methamphetamine (‘meth’) is an illegal Class A controlled substance regulated under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 because of its high risk of harm.
Meth and the contamination associated with its production and consumption has quickly become New Zealand’s dirty little secret. With estimates of over 40,000 (and growing) regular users, its impact is wide spread reaching every in suburb across New Zealand.
Meth users and manufacturers include people from the most affluent to poorest neighbourhoods. An extremely addictive man-made stimulant, meth produces an immediate, short-lasting and intense euphoria often preceding aggressive and violent psychotic behaviours.
Meth is a white, odourless, tasteless crystalline powder that can be inhaled, smoked and injected. One of the hardest drugs to treat, its negative effects include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased agitation, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and convulsions that have led to death.
Long term use causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, damage to blood vessels in the brain, strokes, irregular heart beat and cardiovascular collapse or death; liver, kidney and lung damage; memory impairment, brain damage and extreme mood swings.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE ENVIRONMENT WHEN METH IS MANUFACTURED AND USED?
When meth is manufactured and/or smoked (in some cases even only once), a very toxic and hard-to-clean residue can contaminate surfaces and porous articles making the environment potentially dangerous to humans and animals. For each kilogram of meth produced, five to six kilograms of hazardous waste is generated.
The manufacturing process can be done in stages and each stage may occur at different times and in different locations. During any stage of the manufacturing process and prior to actually inhaling, smoking or injecting meth, toxic carcinogenic chemicals are released into the environment damaging and degrading impacted surfaces ultimately devaluing the asset.
These chemicals can saturate walls, carpets, curtains and other surfaces as well as all contents. Lead and mercury are common by-products. Chemicals such as solvents, may be disposed of in plumbing or simply poured on the ground. If these chemicals are not removed properly they become a health hazard to humans and animals.
Recent Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) and Census data indicates there are:
- Over 1.5M residential dwellings in New Zealand
- Over 91,000 dwellings sold annually
- Nearly 200,000 bonds lodged with the MBIE in the twelve months ended April 2016
Property “movements” are calculated at approximately 18% of the national stock or 284,870 properties per year. Currently estimates are that 1% of the population (or 40,000) are active methamphetamine users. Government data suggests that more than 75% of property affected by Meth are (or have been) rental properties.
Conservatively, estimates of the number of properties that could be affected by the manufacture and use of methamphetamine sit between 40,000 and as many as 100,000 properties. This estimate does not include commercial property or assets such as motor homes, motels and hotels, where methamphetamine could be produced or used.
SIGNS OF POSSIBLE METH USE
Given meth is odourless, tasteless, colourless and unable to be detected by touch, property owners should consider alternative signs in considering possible meth usage and/or clandestine lab operations. Meth labs may be hidden behind false walls or other building alterations. Suspicious signs could be alterations that make no sense should be suspect; exhaust fans mounted where there is no logical use, power supplies that have no obvious reason, rooms that are inexplicably small.
Other signs include:
- Yellow discolouration on walls, drains, sinks and showers
- Red discolouration indicates iodine. This substance goes from solid to gas without becoming a liquid and can be spread across any surface that has been
- Blue discolouration on valves of gas bottles and fire extinguishers
- Fire detectors removed or taped off
- Experiencing physical symptoms while inside the building including burning in eyes or throat, itching, metallic taste in your mouth and breathing problems
- Unusual and strong odours such as solvents, paint thinner, cat urine, ammonia or vanilla
- The use of security cameras and surveillance equipment
- Dead vegetation & soil disturbance
Signs property owners should look for with regards to tenants:
- Poor appearance including open sores, bad teeth, dilated pupils, extremely thin
- Odd behaviours with paranoid dismantling of items such as remote controls, watches and electronic devices
- Large amounts of rubbish including lithium batteries, matches, water bottles, chemical bottles
- Numerous household products stored in odd places
- Discoloured coffee filters that are not brown
- Other dark coloured cookware
- Glass containers with two layered liquids and chemistry sets
- Erratic and unpredictable financial patterns – rent in arrears, or cash payments.
- The use of security cameras and surveillance equipment
IMPLICATIONS OF CONTAMINATION
Symptoms for humans and animals will vary according to:
- The level and type of contamination – chemicals, manufacturing stages, smoking and inhalation
- Age, length of exposure and general health of those exposed
- Common symptoms include but are not limited to: rashes, headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath
Meth contamination can have a devastating impact on your finances:
- As a property owner the worst case scenario could be a complete rebuild or significant remediation costs
- As a landlord, you could face the prospect of a prolonged period without rental income and a large repair bill on-top
- You might not be covered (or only partially covered) by your insurance policy depending on the circumstances
- If the contamination results in Police involvement and the issue being listed on the LIM you may have difficulty selling the property, with disclosure or be forced to sell it for significantly less than you planned
- As a tenant you could be facing significant costs to decontaminate or replace your household goods & possessions, as well as the costs associated with moving properties
Properties identified as having levels of contamination requiring remediation (in excess of 1.5µg/100cm2 in isolated sample locations) currently have no statutory obligations in terms of notification of third parties. Some properties, identified as having been contaminated by the New Zealand Police will have the contamination noted on the property’s Land Information Memorandum (LIM). Once remediation has been undertaken and chemical residues are removed to within a safe level this will also be noted on the LIM once a report has been supplied to the Council stating that.
Important Note: This information does not constitute legal advice, we recommend that you engage a legal professional to review your circumstances in detail.