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The tipping point

A fascinating thing about the demise of the house safety meth test is how a social phenomenon of many years ended in one day.

In a stroke, the PM’s Chief Scientist Peter Gluckman tore down an incredible and ephemeral practice that had mutated into a form of hysteria. The meth test policy led to Housing NZ kicking out tenants and totally replacing fittings and furnishings. But the effect was much bigger. The fear of meth contamination spread throughout the country – wrecking lives of private rental tenants, adding unnecessary costs to landlords, and corrupting home purchase negotiations.

The bizarre thing is that this weakness has been known for some time. A Court case in 2016 found Housing NZ unjustified in using it, and Bill English admitted the test was not fit for purpose.

Why was Gluckman the expert listened to, and why now? The answer is a mixture of timeliness, and the role of authority

1) The Gluckman answer is the one we want: the costs and disruption caused by the test, in a housing crisis, had taken an incredible toll on everyone. We all needed this costly stupidity to stop.

2) Risk and responsibility has been transferred: the nation’s officially sanctioned scientist has kyboshed the test, and the Minister and Government has effectively taken responsibility. Now the Emperor has admitted there’s no clothes, we can safely stop pretending.acting on your values.

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