So­cial prob­lems to put money on

The Northland Age - - Local News -

North­landers spent $32.8 mil­lion on all forms of gam­bling last year, in­clud­ing pokie ma­chines and Lotto tick­ets, up $1.1m on the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs fig­ures.

They did not sur­prise Whangarei-based Nga Manga Puriri, which helps gam­bling ad­dicts, and ac­cepted a record 15 new re­fer­rals in two days in Fe­bru­ary.

Nga Manga Puriri man­ager and prob­lem gam­bling prac­ti­tioner Marino Mur­phy said the sup­port ser­vice was at “cri­sis” point, with poverty driv­ing peo­ple to pokie ma­chines in the hope of win­ning big.

North­landers gam­bled $7.8m in the first quar­ter of last year, ris­ing to $8.2m in the sec­ond quar­ter, $8.2m in the third and $8.4 mil­lion in the fourth. By the end of 2017 there were 305 gam­ing ma­chines in the Far North, 283 in Whangarei and 60 in the Kaipara.

Ms Mur­phy said while those who sought help made good progress, a lot of gam­bling ad­dicts were too em­bar­rassed to come for­ward.

“Over a cou­ple of days in Fe­bru­ary we re­ceived 15 re­fer­rals, which was very high, and shows the prob­lem has be­come worse over the years. Nor­mally we re­ceive be­tween three to five peo­ple a month,” she said.

At the In­ter­na­tional Gam­bling Con­fer­ence in Auck­land early this year, Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O’Sul­li­van called for a ban on pok­ies, say­ing gam­bling harm was re­flected in poverty sta­tis­tics, hous­ing in­equal­i­ties and men­tal health is­sues, with Maori be­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected

Ms Mur­phy sup­ported that call. chan­nelling the money into pub­lic trans­port such as light rail, ur­ban cy­cle­ways and safety im­prove­ments on ur­ban and re­gional roads to lower the road toll.

North­land Re­gional Trans­port Com­mit­tee chair­man John Bain said he and com­mit­tee mem­bers had not had time to digest the GPS and its im­pli­ca­tions for road­ing projects in North­land, the next step be­ing to seek a meet­ing with the Min­istry of Trans­port and NZTA for ad­vice about giv­ing the gov­ern­ment the best re­sponse to the draft.

“We will put to­gether a plan that will still hold the top three pri­or­i­ties of a fourlane high­way to Auck­land, in­clud­ing the sec­tion from Whangarei to the round­about at Port Mars­den High­way, along with road safety and road re­silience,” Mr Bain said.

Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Shane Jones said he was ex­pect­ing some flak from sup­port­ers of mo­tor­way up­grades in the re­gions, such as the project to get four lanes to Whangarei.

“I un­der­stand the pres­sure our civic lead­ers are un­der, but my plea to them is that there are a host of other road­ing pri­or­i­ties in North­land that should not be over­looked,” he said. He had been shocked by the num­ber of bridges used by log­ging and Fon­terra trucks that needed at­ten­tion, while more pass­ing lanes were needed in the re­gion.

Mr Bain said Mr Jones counted him­self as a North­lander, as did Kelvin Davis, Win­ston Peters, Wil­low-Jean Prime and Shane Reti.

“They travel up and down that high­way, and will un­der­stand its im­por­tance. I would ex­pect all the North­land MPs to push for this im­por­tant eco­nomic artery for North­land,” he said.

In Fe­bru­ary all four North­land coun­cil lead­ers pre­sented a joint state­ment say­ing there was plenty of merit in the pro­posed widened high­way be­tween North­land and Wark­worth. They said they would rather gov­ern­ment spent more on that vi­tal main link than on re­gional roads, but they’d like re­gional roads to be bet­ter funded too.

The pro­jected cost of four-lan­ing SH1 be­tween Wark­worth and Whangarei was just short of $2 bil­lion, while the 22km stretch from Whangarei to the Ruakaka round­about, which could be com­pleted within five years, would cost $400 mil­lion­plus.

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