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Small group make loud noise against pokies

A small but loud group of protestors gathered outside Gisborne’s courthouse yesterday afternoon to call on the council to remove pokies from the community.

About 15 people joined organisers from Kapai Kaiti Trust to garner support from passing rush-hour traffic.

Protest organiser and Kapai Kaiti Trust manager Tuta Ngarimu said the devastation pokies caused the community was an issue they were not willing to drop, no matter how long it took.

“We have to make a stand for our future and the future of our mokopuna.

“There are other things we could be doing apart from standing on a corner with placards, but this is an issue that cannot be brushed aside.

“It continues to cause so much harm, such as financial debt and cycles of poverty, relationship breakdown, violence and addiction.

“We have to keep the pressure on the council to do what’s best for the community.”

In 2005, Gisborne District Council made the move to restrict the number of pokie machines in the community and this was held up as an example to other local authorities by the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Under the Gambling Act, the council capped the number of pokies under a ‘‘sinking lid’’ policy that limited any installation of new machines or redistribution of existing machines.

Under this policy, if a venue closes it will not give consent for another to be established.

Te Ara Tika Kaupapa Maori Mate Petipeti (Problem Gambling) service Gisborne manager Lizz Crawford said while previous efforts by the council were to be applauded, they needed further bold leadership.

“GDC’s Gambling Venue Policy 2015 is due for renewal in October and needs strengthening to prevent ongoing community harm.

“The best way for this to occur is to embed any proposed changes as bylaw rather than policy, as this gives more power to the council and the community, and is a direct reflection of community voice rather than national policy.”

Ka Pai Kaiti Trust has run similar protests and is working at a national level to involve communities and stakeholders in pressuring for legislative change around pokie machines and gambling.

“We will keep on with this work but it would be great to have an MP to champion the cause.

“Pokies bring nothing but misery, despair and hopelessness,” Mr Ngarimu said.

“They are a form of crack and we need to take a similar approach to dealing with it.”

Pokie free Tairawhiti: Protesters gather to make some noise in support of legislating against pokie machines in the community. Picture by Liam Clayton
Tuta Ngarimu talks at the Pokie Free Tairawhiti protest.