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Turia Speech: Community response problem gambling

Community response to problem gambling

Tariana Turia Speech to Conference of Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand, Auckland, 9.30am

Tena koutou katoa.

Prior to contact with early settlers, tangata whenua had no formal organised games of chance. Today our people are significant participants in gambling and are involved in the gaming industry as consumers, providers and recipients of the proceeds of gambling.

For many whanau and hapu, fundraising through raffles, “two-up”, batons up and housie have been popular community activities that brought people together. Money spent was traditionally retained within the community. Gambling was a way to redistribute money that was, in reality, donated to the building of marae, for kapa-haka groups and other activities.

Tangata whenua have long been involved in the racing industry, as owners, trainers, jockeys, and club members. I personally know of whanau members who in fact lost their land in earlier years through borrowing money from farmers for gambling on horses, and not being able to repay it.

Our people quickly took to sports betting on the TAB. More recently, non-casino gaming machines have been installed in sports clubs and pubs throughout New Zealand.

Changing patterns of gambling have had flow-on effects. The impact of gambling and problem gambling is invisible for tangata whenua, however it is quite clear that our people are exposed to a range of gambling related harms.

The most obvious are the health effects of gambling addiction. The numbers of our people seeking professional help have grown faster than for any other group over the past 5 years – up to 25% of problem gambling service clients.

Problem gambling not only impacts on the individual, but also whänau, hapu, iwi and other communities where our people live. Patterns of gambling, and problem gambling, reflect other social and health trends. Our whanau are disproportionately affected.

Few communities have escaped the consequences of problem gambling. A recent report shows that the social costs of gambling in Manukau City alone are over $90 million a year. This is based on conservative estimates that up to 15 percent of the population are affected by problem gambling – either addicts themselves, or the four or five people around them who are directly affected.

The report identifies neglect of children, relationship break-ups, debt, loss of homes, crime and health problems as the main impacts of gambling. With tangata whenua already at risk of higher rates of poverty, deprivation and poorer health status, gambling makes existing disparities worse.

There is no doubt in my mind that the growth of problem gambling is linked to the spread of gambling machines. They are often deliberately placed in poor communities to make access easier.

What is a common sense approach to gambling when the poorest people end up addicted in the hope of the big win? All gambling does is ensure that the lid of the poverty trap is never lifted.

There may be a number of factors contributing to this situation - breaches of the Treaty, the ongoing effects of colonization resulting in poverty and acculturation, or social determinants of health. All these factors must be considered when designing measures to address gambling issues.

The Ministry of Health’s strategic plan for preventing gambling harm promotes indigenous responses to problem gambling amongst tangata whenua.

The plan recognises that community participation in decision-making is the best way of ensuring that services meet the needs of individuals and communities at a local level. The Ministry of Health has an enabling and supportive role, rather than a directive one.

While the plan’s overall goals, to minimise gambling harm, are relevant to all communities, the strategies to realise these goals may vary.

The Ministry’s position is that tangata whenua are significant participants in gambling activity, and are increasingly experiencing a range of gambling related harms. It is therefore appropriate that action to reduce inequalities in health is taken within a Treaty of Waitangi framework. This includes funding and coordination of problem gambling services.

The National Plan for Minimising Gambling Harm seeks to ensure Mäori development is addressed alongside reducing inequalities that exist. Te Pae Mahutonga, a framework for Mäori Public Health action, could well map out a way to address problem gambling among tangata whenua.

Many of our people want dedicated addiction treatment services for tangata whenua, more ‘cultural’ content in existing services and increased cultural competence of clinicians. They see these as ways to give our people better access, and to engage and retain our people in culturally appropriate and relevant treatment programmes.

The Mäori problem gambling sector is new and small. Recruitment, retention and skills development within this workforce will need to be considered regionally and nationally, as the plan is implemented. The development of a workforce strategy will consider indigenous models of knowledge transfer and wellness.

Since July 2001 the Problem Gambling Purchasing Agency (PGPA) has developed its own plan to increase our people’s participation in the sector. The PGPA established a Mäori Problem Gambling Committee to advise it on our people’s direction and need, and to coordinate iwi service providers.

Their approach has been based on tribal territories. It has seen new contracts being seeded with a number of Iwi based services.

However this label may well misrepresent these services as being exclusive to tangata whenua. Most iwi providers deliver generic projects.

Meanwhile, around the country, tangata whenua are working on their own development strategies to strengthen and build the capacity of their own communities to manage their own affairs.

The goal is whanau ora – kin groups who take power and look after the interests and well-being of all their members.

As whanau, hapu and iwi assert their rangatiratanga, and take control of their social, cultural and economic development, they will be able to engage better with the Crown on all matters that affect their people.

One of the issues they will want to address will no doubt be control of gambling issues at the source, as well as picking up the pieces of the whanau shattered by problem gambling.

For example, as community-based gambling has declined, and money is spent on pokies instead, whanau and hapu organisations have had to apply for their share of the profits of non-casino gaming machines, through community purposes funding schemes.

Maori community, cultural, sporting and marae development should not be dependent, directly or indirectly, on gambling funding. It is simply not acceptable for whanau and community development to be funded through a process that is so destructive of whanau.

It also means our communities are increasingly dependent on outsiders to allocate money to them.

I have received representations from the National Maori Reference Group on Problem Gambling, which I find very persuasive.

They say that the Treaty of Waitangi should be the basis for responsible gambling in New Zealand. Principles of protection, partnership, participation and rangatiratanga should underpin and determine a framework for implementation of policies to address gambling and problem gambling in New Zealand.

As tangata whenua, they say, our people have a right and a responsibility to be involved, with the Crown, in determining the role, place, and extent of gambling in New Zealand.

They believe that tangata whenua must have a role in developing policy and legislation to deal with the problems, alongside the Crown. This would involve tangata whenua membership as of right on the bodies that regulate gambling.

They argue that, if gambling is to be accepted as a normal part of life, then gambling revenue should be managed and distributed by tangata whenua alongside the Crown. This would ensure Maori get a fairer share of revenue generated by gambling, based on the effects on our communities.

Similar arguments have been raised by the community not for profit sector, who are generally left to deal with the fallout of this serious disease. Do they receive their fair share of gambling proceeds?

Serious questions have been asked about the allocation of funds between community and arts organisations on one hand, and sports groups on the other, who often have stronger links with pubs and bars where most pokies are located.

The Gambling Act in its final form may not please community interests, or tangata whenua. Legislation is the result of a process of drafting, submissions, amendment, and political horse-trading.

You will no doubt have followed the vigorous, and sometimes acrimonious, exchanges between the Green Party and United Future, (and the government!) over last-minute amendments to the Bill.

An adversarial Parliamentary process is not always suited to dealing with complex social issues, as tangata whenua know well from our experience.

It may take some time for the best possible policy to be developed and implemented, through progressive amendments to laws and regulations.

In the end, tangata whenua have found that long-term solutions lie in our own hands. We lobby, make alliances and protest, while we draw up our own plans and build our strength to create our own solutions.

Kia ora tatou katoa.

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