A week on from the release of the report from the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman which spurred a witch hunt in the media last week, complete with angry mob, pitchforks in hand, out for blood. Chants of snake oil and conspiracy scams abound. Consequently, the media started calling me for comments. Trying their mightiest to goad me into giving a comment discrediting or criticizing Gluckman.

Sorry to disappoint…..

Goodness knows why the media wanted the opinion of a part-time, sole trader, franchisee meth tester in the Hawkes Bay? Anyway I gave my honest opinion in Maori TV and Newshub interviews. However, I do need to clarify a point regarding the way Anuja Nadkarni published my comments in her Stuff article.

“A Hawke’s Bay-based meth tester says his industry was well aware that there was no risk from meth smoking residue in homes, as outlined yesterday in a Government report.”

This article misrepresents my opinion. I was asked whether I was concerned about my own health when I entered a property over the limit. I said that I wasn’t concerned for my health, however the context being myself, as a healthy grown adult inside the property for only around thirty minutes. This is very different from saying I think it would be safe to live in, especially for babies and the most vulnerable in terms of physical health. The way it is written doesn’t reflect this opinion. I said I thought the level was indeed too high and would likely be adjusted as more scientific research and evidence came forward. However, as someone who believes in the scientific method, I certainly would never say there is “no risk”. Making knee-jerk absolute claims is not scientific and not something I would do (but that doesn’t make a good headline, does it?).

Predictions Moving Forward

  1. Meth use indoors will increase. I mentioned in my interview with Maori TV that I had noticed a significant drop in meth levels this year compared to last year. However, I am predicting this to change now. With all the noise going on around meth levels being safe in houses, there is a large demographic of people out there (many in my own family unfortunately) who only hear the sound bites “meth-use”, “no evidence of harm” and “safe”.
  2. Insurers will determine the extent of testing in the future. My phone has started ringing again. This likely means lawyers and insurers are still telling home owners to meth test. Whether it’s harmful or not, people obviously still want to know if illegal drugs are being done, have been done, or have been manufactured in the property.
  3. Meth testing isn’t dead (yet). As long as the meth epidemic continues in New Zealand, the industry will also continue. Even if the level goes to 100mcg, someone still has to test it. The labs and testers will continue, but where this level settles is still in flux. The main industry to be hit will be decontaminators. Decontamination is many magnitudes more expensive than testing, and with the HNZ level now at 15mcg, the demand for this service will nose-dive.
  4. More debate regarding the distinction between meth use and manufacture. Currently there is no reliable way to distinguish between a house that has been a lab (hint in the name; clandestine), and a house that has only been smoked in. Gluckman says any level over 30mcg is ‘likely’ to have been a lab, but this is not a solid criteria. Expect landlords and home owners to do all they can to make sure their homes are not classified as a lab so they be held to the higher standard of 15mcg (as opposed to 1.5mcg).

Myth #1: Meth Testers are Creaming It! $$$

Apparently meth testers make big bank. Think Scrooge McDuck swimming through his bank vault of cash….

The truth is, testers like myself at the coalface just don’t make a lot. For the financial year ending 2018, I only did did around $50k in total sales and my business actually made a loss. I don’t own my own home and am trying to put food on the table like most other kiwi families. Maybe some of the bigger whales, like Miles Stratford, are creaming it? But who knows? Miles has come out and questioned the science behind the report. Read into that what you will.

Apparently most of the money ($100m) was made from HNZ contracts and similar big clients. HNZ didn’t bother doing the more economical field and laboratory composite testing. All testing done was the more expensive detailed assessments (room-by-room). Big clients like HNZ had to be tendered for. I never did any work for them.

Interestingly, methamphetamine decontamination contractors have dodged a lot of the recent criticism (more likely purposely kept a low profile). It is well known that cleaners make considerably more than testers. The lions share of that $100m HNZ would have gone to the cleaners.

Myth #2: Meth Testers Can Make Up Their Own Rules

Meth testers at the bottom of the food chain, like myself, don’t get to set our own guidelines or tell people what to do based on our own opinions.

For me as a franchisee, the food chain is basically: International Standards > NZ Standards > Industry Standards > Franchisor > Me. There is a clear hierarchy I have to abide by in terms of operating and reporting. Who am I to question the numerous scientists, government agencies and industry bodies above me. Like most professions, I am contractually bound to operate to a set of guidelines without question. Imagine if doctors, police, lawyers or builders ignored standards and started using their own opinions or judgements in their jobs. What a way to make a stand right? What could possibly go wrong…..

I could quit my job, but what about the rent and food on the table? Also, it might be a bit difficult to try and find a job based on a high moral standard. I mean there are so many landmines. Basically,  I would have to avoid anything in the fast food industry (obesity & sugar), fishing industry (MPI & dumping), fossil fuel industry (climate change), police & or corrections (over-incarceration), the list goes on…..

Myth #3: Meth Testers are Responsible (directly or even indirectly) for the Current Debacle

The tweet below is dripping with contempt (running theme, pitchforks…). I don’t usually converse with trolls, especially ones who don’t have the guts to give their real name. I had the guts to speak up and give my opinion. Consequently, the whole meth ‘conspiracy’ is somehow my fault. What absurd kind of guilt is this person trying to inflict upon me? The argument doesn’t even make sense.

What other industries do the people who work in them actively protest for (perceived) higher moral standards which will adversely effect their livelihood. How many Dairy owners campaign against sugary drinks and cigarettes being sold on every corner? How many gas stations are pushing for more electric charging stations? I mean, how do they sleep at night? Think about it this before you judge peoples choice of income or profession.

Based in the Hawkes Bay, Neville is passionate about reducing the health and social effects of Methamphetamine. Neville studied down in Canterbury and has a Bachelor of Science Degree as well as diplomas in Environmental Management and Sustainability.

Neville is dedicated in the fight to beat New Zealand’s meth addiction as well as the crime and social ills associated with it. He doesn’t just talk the talk. Neville is a spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust and is an administrator of their Offender Database. He is also involved in the Boys To Men programme in schools which targets ‘at risk’ youth to help steer them on the right path while they are still young.

Connect with Neville Pettersson on Google+.