10 Oct 2017

Why did Morrocco Tai die?

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 10 October 2017

Morrocco Tai died in a police pursuit. He was just 15. Why did he die this way? We can't ask him, so John Campbell asked others who might help us understand.

WARNING: Strong language

What turns a young man around?

Morrocco Tai, who died yesterday in a short 52-second police pursuit while driving a stolen car, was just 15. The teenager died on Ōtara's Bairds Road when his car collided with a tree.

Two 15-year-old women in the car were also injured - one seriously.

Checkpoint with John Campbell went to Ōtara in South Auckland.

One young man, Ōtara resident Josh, 17, stole his first car at "12, 13".

"Stealing cars, and everything, robbing shops. You name it I've done it eh. Crashing cars through walls. Everything.

"Me, ah f***ing hell, I was just troubled eh, I needed a bit of money."

He said he was not thinking about anything, except making money, in any way possible from "anything and everything".

What happened to cause that?

"Drugs," Josh says.

"Drugs and alcohol. No food in the fridges - we got to make it somehow."

Josh told Checkpoint he was working now, he was ambitious, and having children changed him - he loves being a dad.

"It got me out of trouble eh.

"It's shit but it is the way of life around here, eh ... There's thousands of us."

Youth worker Sully Paea has lived in the suburb since the late 1960s, when he joined a gang, the Stormtroopers.

He said many young people struggled with personal identity and anger - anger with family, anger with poverty, and failure.

"Again it's looking for identity, it's a big issue, a lot of kids, a lot of young people today don't have identity, they don't know who they are, they don't who their roots are, they don't know where they belong."

Mr Paea said one of the issues was success, or the lack of it, and education.

Failure crushes - and those who do not reach basic levels of literacy are destined to go down a different path, he says.

"By the time you reach intermediate and high school ... you're destined to fail. They get to a point where they realise ... there's no hope for me. So they just veer off and took off in another direction," Mr Paea says.

"At one point in my life I was in that situation where you have that attitude of, 'Stuff everybody, stuff you. I'll do my own thing, I'll be my own boss and nobody's going to stop me.'"

An emptiness inside caused young people to become angry, he says.

"Angry about the world, angry about family, angry about everything, angry of being poor, poverty, angry of failures.

"It puts you in the position where there's no hope. When you lose hope, you're lost, totally lost. So that's what a lot of our youth today are facing."

Morocco Tai, front row second from left, pictured with his rugby team a few years ago.

Morocco Tai, front row second from left, pictured with his rugby team a few years ago. Photo: Facebook / Corza Paul

The former rugby coach of teenager Morrocco Tai said the teenager was a good-natured boy with a rocky past. 

Just over two weeks ago, Morrocco had been a passenger in another stolen car that was driven at speed down the wrong side of the motorway.

His former junior rugby coach at Horahora Club in Whangarei Cori Paul was saddened by the death of a boy he remembered as fearless and supportive of other rugby players.

Morrocco and his sister joined the team about four years ago, when they were around 11 years old. 

"They basically came off the streets to find a team to play for," he said.

"[Morrocco] was a really hard player, really hearty.

"He was a really good-natured boy who was keen to help out and he was really supportive of the other kids he didn't know," Mr Paul said. 

Mr Paul said Morrocco was a "hard-luck kid" who moved from place to place between family members.

There needs to be more whanau and community support for children like Morrocco, he said. 

"Then we might not get these situations where they steal a car and lose traction and end up losing life."