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Evicted HNZ tenants on the cusp of compensation

Photo: Katy Gosset/RNZ

State housing tenants kicked out of their homes due to flawed meth testing will soon start to have their compensation claims paid out.

A regulation change is needed to go ahead before any beneficiaries are able receive payments, to ensure the pay-outs don't result in people's benefits being cut.

This has been signed off by Cabinet on Monday - but it has taken four days for Housing New Zealand to confirm this to Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint as Housing Minister Phil Twyford didn't want to speak about it until next week.

Around 800 tenants could be eligible for several thousand dollars each in compensation after being evicted between 2013 and this year due to flawed testing.

Rima and Pauline Herbert and their three young grandchildren were kicked out of their HNZ home in 2016 after traces of methamphetamine were found on the property.

Scared their belongings were contaminated, as suggested on the test report HNZ ordered, the family threw everything out.

Now, they want $15,000 in compensation and HNZ told Mr Herbert this week that's exactly the figure he'll get.

Mr Herbert said he spoke to HNZ about what he threw out and the cost of disposing of his items, but the crown agency relied on him to be honest when deciding on the compensation figure.

"I know if you were like dealing with an insurance company they would want receipts, like they would want proof of purchase and all these sorts of things. In terms of what happened here, they didn't ask for any proof, like of any of the furniture and stuff. How they assessed it was on the size of the property."

Mr Herbert's compensation is significantly more than the initial average estimate given by Housing New Zealand, which estimated tenants would be reimbursed between $2500 and $3000 each.

Mr Herbert says while he's been upfront from the beginning, others could try to make false claims.

"There are going to be obviously people who are trying to take advantage, I don't know. But I was just thankful that I got a good result. I put it down to being upfront, being honest."

While he has has accepted the offer, and at least one other claim was finalised last week, the regulation change needed to go ahead before anyone could receive any money.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said last month he had only learnt the regulation change was needed a week earlier, and that it wouldn't take long to get it through - and promised it would not result in compensation being delayed.  

However, the minister has refused to tell Checkpoint when the change was scheduled to go ahead and HNZ also repeatedly refused to provide the information for four days, until they confirmed it this afternoon.

And while Mr Herbert has been told he should receive his money in the next two weeks, for him the pay-out is the final chapter of a saga that should have never happened in the first place.

"Oh it's a relief actually, knowing that it's over and we can move on with our lives, not having any coming back from what happened to us two years ago, so I'm thankful that it's over."

Mr Herbert plans to use some of his pay-out towards furniture he bought on hire purchase to replace the items he threw out, but most of the money will be spent on his grandchildren. Hopefully, he says, in time for Christmas.

The agency's website lists four cases as having been completed - but HNZ says only one of those is for compensation, while three 'cases' were where people had simply asked questions, which were answered.

The website also states 130 cases have been approved, a jump from 116 'in progress' last week - but it is not clear how many of those are claims for compensation.

Phil Twyford and Housing New Zealand refused to talk to Checkpoint for this story.

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