Watch: Phil Twyford slams Judith Collins' attitude to compo for Housing NZ tenants evicted under bogus meth testing

Housing Minister Phil Twyford has hit back at hardline questions from National MP Judith Collins about today's decision by Housing New Zealand to compensate hundreds of tenants it evicted from state homes on the basis of bogus methamphetamine testing.

A report to the Minister found about 800 tenants suffered as a result of Housing New Zealand's policy of evicting tenants for using P or allowing its use in their homes.

Affected tenants are expected to receive between $2500 and $3000 in compensation. 

In Parliament Ms Collins asked where meth testing showed residues exceeding standards, could this meth have gotten into the Housing New Zealand house any way other than smoking or baking the drug.

"No," Mr Twyford replied. "But there was no consistent baseline testing done in any Housing New Zealand houses over those years," he added. 

"There is no way of knowing whether the hundreds of people who were made homeless under this policy had any personal responsibility for the contamination of those houses. And frankly I'm shocked that the member, who used to be a lawyer, would think that that is ok. Is this the modern compassionate face of the National Party?"

Ms Collins then asked will people who smoked meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given two to three thousand dollars compensation.

"The point of the compensation is to compensate people who wrongly had their tenancies terminated and their possessions destroyed and in some cases made homeless. Those are the people who will receive payment under the assistance programme," Mr Twyford replied.

Ms Collins asked will people who sold meth in Housing New Zealand houses now be given the compensation.

"No," Mr Twyford replied, to shouts from National MPs of "How would you know? How would you know?"

Earlier in the exchange, Ms Collins asked was the Minister saying it's wrong to end a tenancy when someone is using the house to break the law.

"We're saying that it's wrong to make innocent people homeless on the basis of bogus science and no decent evidence of responsibility or culpability," Mr Twyford responded. 

"Hundreds of people were made homeless under this policy, people that in some cases were vulnerable, people with addictions who were made homeless. The worse possible thing that you could do to someone who has an addiction is to make them homeless," he said.

Asked by Ms Collins is it acceptable for Housing New Zealand tenants to smoke methamphetamine in state houses, Mr Twyford said the Government does not condone the smoking of methamphetamine anywhere, but it is not acceptable for any government to throw tenants onto the street and make them homeless. 

"We recognise that making people homeless does not solve a tenant's problems or help someone overcome addiction. It just moves the problem to somewhere else and makes it worse for the person involved, for their family, their children, the community and the taxpayer," he said.

The Housing Minister defended the compensation decision against the National MP's hardline questions. Source: 1 NEWS

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Pike River re-entry options being evaluated present no 'show-stopping' risks

The three re-entry options to the Pike River Mine being evaluated have not presented any serious risk after the first stage of the risk assessment process taking place near Greymouth, according to the Pike River Recovery Agency.

After an explosion at the West Coast mine on 19 November 2010, the bodies of 29 men remain in the mine.

Members from the Pike River Recovery Agency, independent miners, Family Reference Group members as well as representatives from WorkSafe, New Zealand Mines Rescue, and the Department of Conservation have spent two weeks mapping risks to re-entering the mine.

Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn says the process hasn't revealed any "show-stopping" reasons re-entry using any of the three options isn't possible.

"Pike River families and all New Zealanders can feel confident that the process being undertaken to ensure the safety of anyone who ends up re-entering the Pike River Mine is very thorough," he said.

"They've been poring over the ins and outs of each task required to enable re-entry via the three agreed options.

"There's still a couple of stages to go before the Agency pulls together its recommendation to the Minister, but I’m confident that at this stage, there’s nothing I’ve heard that would mean re-entry is impossible."

The three options being assessed include a single entry where the current portal would be used with "suitable safety controls" put in place.

The second option involves the construction of a small tunnel further up the hill which would be 220-250 metres in length and connect to the "Pit Bottom in Stone Area".

The third option would see a single entry with a new, large borehole created to provide a means of emergency escape.

The second stage of the risk assessment process will take place early next month before a final review is made on October 16.

Plans to enter the door doomed mine are taking yet another step forward. Source: 1 NEWS


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MP Meka Whaitiri dumped as Customs Minister after investigation into alleged misconduct

Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri has been dumped as Customs Minister after an investigation by ministerial services into an incident with a staffer during an event in Gisborne in late August.

Ms Whaitiri, the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, was alleged to have assaulted a staff member at the event, 1 NEWS reported last month.

Asked about the incident on her return to Parliament a few days later, Ms Whaitiri told media: "I'm cooperating fully with the investigation. I've got no further comment," she told media. "I am here as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti."

It comes after the MP was accused of assaulting a staff member in Gisborne. Source: 1 NEWS

But today, after ministerial services returned their findings to Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister dropped the axe.

"Based on the context and conclusions of the report I no longer have confidence in Meka Whaitiri as minister at this time," Ms Ardern said this afternoon.

She said the decision was based solely on the Gisborne incident, which Ms Whaitiri was disputing. 

"I'm not getting into any details around the incident. I've asked DIA (Department of Internal Affairs) to prepare a version of the report that can be released in order to address some outstanding questions."

When pushed on whether this was a pattern of behaviour often exhibited by Ms Whaitiri, Ms Ardern refused to say whether she'd learned of other incidents involving Ms Whaitiri.

"The minister has not had any other grievances raised against her. I've made a decision based on this incident and this report.

"Kris Faafoi will retain the role of Minister of Customs and Meka Whaitiri's associate minister responsibilities will sit with the lead portfolio ministers.

"There are no plans to undertake a cabinet reshuffle," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern said Ms Whaitiri continued to defend herself but had accepted her decision and was keen to stay on as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.

"I spoke to Meka Whaitiri this morning.

"I have been advised by colleagues in her caucus that they wish to still support her in that role [speaking of Māori Caucus co-chairwoman role].

"I have confidence in her continuing as a member of Parliament and in those roles as member of Parliament."

She said Ms Whaitiri was likely to return to Parliament next week.

"I have a view that the member works incredibly hard across Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, that she will continue to be able to fulfil those roles, however based on what I have seen, I do not have confidence in her retaining her role as minister," Ms Ardern reiterated.


The Prime Minister says she took action after an investigation deemed an incident did happen. Source: 1 NEWS


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Police investigating after body found on Auckland beach

A body has been found on a South Auckland beach today.

A police spokesperson told 1 NEWS the body was found on Weymouth Beach after being notified at 1.10pm.

They say details around the circumstances of the death are unclear and at this stage and inquiries are underway to establish what has happened.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS