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Porirua community members call for stronger action on pokies

Porirua community members will be calling for stronger action on pokies as the City Council wraps up consultation on its proposed Class 4 gambling policy next week.

The verbal hearings are taking place at Te Rauparaha Arena on Wednesday 12 June and community members will be voicing their concerns about pokies and the harm they cause to the community.

Porirua-based filmmaker, Tony Sutorius, who will be speaking at the hearing, said pokie machines are clearly and simply a negative for Porirua and he doesn’t believe there is a genuine community demand for them.

“We were better off before they existed here, and we should remove them completely, right now,” he said.

“A young woman approached my son and I in Mana two weeks ago, begging for two dollars so she could win more on the Sandbar's pokies.”

“Pokies steal from our poor, and the ethical fig leaf they create for themselves by giving a thin slice back to some local good causes is corrupting our community's will to simply say no,” he said.

Tony Sutorius said pokies are nowhere close to worth the cost in tangible harm caused to our vulnerable neighbours.

“For every dollar being taken away from our most vulnerable neighbours, only seven cents comes back. It’s absolutely, obviously not worth the tremendous harm it’s causing.”

In 2018, nearly $13 million was lost on the 165 pokies in Porirua City’s 12 venues. Ten of those venues are situated in the most deprived areas of the City.

While harmful gambling can affect anyone, research indicates that both Māori and Pasifika peoples are considered high risk for gambling harm.

Naomi Solomon, spokesperson for Ngāti Toa, said Porirua has a high Māori population and they are disproportionately impacted by pokies.

“We know how much harm pokies cause in our communities and we want the Council to take a stronger stand on these addictive machines. The policy the Council is proposing just doesn’t go far enough to protect the vulnerable and we are continuing to see money being lost on pokies by people who can’t afford to be losing it,” she said.

Pesio Ah-Honi, National Director Pacific Services at Mapu Maia, said with the high number of Pasifika living in Porirua, pokies would have a significant impact on the community.

“Over 26 percent of the population of Porirua are Pasifika,” she said.

“The Council need to take into account the impact of its policy on vulnerable communities when considering the gambling policy for the City. What Porirua needs is a strong sinking lid policy for pokies with no relocations or club mergers permitted,” Pesio Ah-Honi said.

“What the Council is proposing is weak, and the amount of funding that comes back to the community in no way makes up for the harm that these machines cause.”

Verbal hearings on the Porirua City Council’s gambling policy are taking place on Wednesday 12 June at Te Rauparaha Arena, 17 Parumoana Street, Porirua, starting at 8.30am.

Ends

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