A former employee has broken her silence after the only gambling harm service provider in Gisborne was terminated by the Ministry of Health, raising concerns around the decision to prevent the service from intercepting local businesses taking millions of dollars from whānau.
The Ministry did not confirm with Te Ao Māori News why the contract with Te Ara Tika Trust former employee Liz Crawford was given the axe in 2018.
However, the Ministry is supporting Hauora Tairāwhiti, the District Health Board for the region, exploring other temporary options almost two years later.
“My personal opinion is that the entire system is systemically racist,” Crawford says.
The branch of Te Ara Tika Trust in Gisborne was influential in closing down the Kaiti Sports Bar, which validated the service’s clear goal to have a pokie-free Tairāwhiti within three years of its operation.
Since the termination, Crawford says the Ministry of Health has known that a dial-up addiction service has seen people tend to hang up.
Last year, the District Health Board was contracted by the Ministry to provide a service until the end of June 2021.
“It will be great if the DHB could carry on with it or a Māori provider, and as a national solution we actually need a Māori collective.”
Local councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown has also spoken out regarding the current system which prevents whānau coming forward in private.
She explained that the current offices where the service is operating from have no walls to ensure that whānau integrity and mana is protected.
“Within our region again, because of the smallness and the relative connections, creating those spaces is a challenge,” Akuhata-Brown says.
Crawford claims there needs to be an urgent response by the Ministry to ensure gambling stops in Gisborne.
The Ministry of Health provided the following response:
"Reducing harm from gambling is important to the Ministry of Health and speaks to the heart of one of the Government's core priorities - achieving equity.
"Free face to face help and support is an important part of reducing gambling harm, which is why getting the contract with Hauora Tairāwhiti up and running remains critical.
"Face-to-face services are complemented by the nationwide Gambling Helpline, which is available 24/7 to anyone in Tairawhiti needing support by calling 0800 654 655."