By Besa Chembo
Porirua community members are calling for stronger action on pokies as the Porirua City Council wraps up consultation on proposed changes to its gambling policy.
The hearings took place this morning at Te Rauparaha Arena and the community voiced its concerns about the harm pokies were causing despite the council's claim that the number of pokies in had declined in the last 10 years.
Porirua currently has 165 pokies at 12 venues, ten of which are situated in the most deprived areas of the city. Porirua's gaming machines took nearly $13 million in 2018.
The council is considering four options:
- Maintain the current policy. Under the current policy new class four gaming machines and TAB venues may only be established within the city centre and industrial zones.
- Remove restrictions on locations. This would allow gaming machine venues to operate in other areas of the city.
- Increase restrictions on locations. This would restrict the number of locations where venues operating gaming machines are permitted.
- Introduce of a 'sinking lid' policy. The policy states that no new gambling venues would be allowed to set up in Porirua and no additional machines would get approved to operate.
Porirua-based filmmaker Tony Sutorius, who spoke at today's hearing, said gambling machines were clearly and simply a negative for Porirua and he didn't believe there was a genuine community demand for them.
"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.
"We were better off before they existed here, and we should remove them completely, right now."
According to Internal Affairs, people living in high-deprivation neighbourhoods are more exposed to gaming machines and TABs, and are more likely to suffer gambling-related harm than people living in other neighbourhoods.
Additionally, Māori and Pacific people are more likely than other groups to be problem gamblers, and are more likely to suffer gambling-related harm.
Ngāti Toa spokesperson Naomi Solomon said Porirua had a high Māori population and they were 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," she said.
"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."
National Director of Pacific Services at Mapu Maia Pesio Ah-Honi said with the high number of Pasifika people living in Porirua, pokies would have a significant impact on the community.
"Over 26 percent of the population of Porirua are Pasifika. 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."