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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, June 16, 2011

PM low balls gambling harm figure

The Prime Minister is playing down claims by problem gambling specialists that a sweetheart deal for a new convention centre will hurt Maori and Pacific communities.

The Government is considering a change to gambling laws to allow Sky City to expand its casino operations in exchange for building the $350 million centre in Auckland.

John Key says the extra pokie machines won't be particularly harmful.

“What we know about the harm rate, those whop get addicted to gambling, is running at about 0.4 percent so to put a bit of perspective around that, drinking or alcohol is 17 percent so yes, some people do have a problem with going to a casino or pokie machines but truthfully it’s actually quite low,” he says.

Mr Key says the Sky City machines will be aimed at international visitors going to conventions, who will add $90 million a year to the New Zealand economy.

GAMBLING AFFECTING WIDER WHANAU

But Labour's infrastructure spokesperson Shane Jones says Prime Minister John Key is being deliberately misleading about the impact of increased gambling on vulnerable communities.

Mr Jones says the most recent survey of problem gambling indicates it could affect up to 1.8 percent of adults ... with Maori use of problem gambling services jumping more than 60 percent over the past decade.

He says a New Zealand Health Survey done under the previous Labour Government showed 3 percent of adults had experienced problems because of someone else's gambling in the previous 12 months.

“The difficulty is it’s not just the individuals who are gambling, it’s their kids, their nieces, their nephews and their partners and the levels of suffering we hear from those whop are competent to speak on a day to day basis about Maori gambling addiction is that it is getting worse,” Mr Jones says.

He says the convention centre deal looks like a rerun of the Government's caving in to Warners on the Hobbit movies ... although in this case it's encouraging the hobbits to go gambling.

BROWN READY TO WORK WITH ANY WINNER

Auckland mayor Len Brown says he would have no difficult working with Hone Harawira if he retains Te Tai Tokerau.

He says more than a third of voters in the electorate live and work in the super city, so good relations with the MP is important.

Mr Brown says he has worked well with Mr Harawira in the past, and while he doesn't know Labour candidate Kelvin Davis well, but he's impressed by his record of achievement.

MAORI PARLIAMENT PLAN PLAGUED WITH DOUBTS

Green's co-leader Meteria Turei has offered lukewarm support Hone Harawira's call for a Maori parliament.

Mr Harawira is telling Te Tai Tokerau by-election voters that the other 19 Maori MPs in Parliament were too scared to speak up for Maori, so he's proposing a structure within the parliament which would encourage the MPs to act in the interests of their people rather than their parties.

Ms Turei says it sounds like a twist on the Maori Party's idea of a tikanga or treaty upper house.

“I’m quite interested in the idea, particularly of a treaty house, but we need to build trust in our communities again and I think that’s a bit lacking at the moment, and make sure there are real systems to allow people to hold us to account, hold the Maori MPs or the members of that parliament to account,” she says.

Metiria Turei says the Maori Party itself failed as a Maori voice because it was not able to accommodate Mr Harawira's dissent.

KEY DENIES DESTINY CHURCH DISCRIMINATION CHARGE

Prime Minister John Key is denying the government is discriminating against the Destiny Church when it contracts for social services.

Church leaders say their social services arm is constantly being rejected, with its application to be a whanau ora provider the latest knock back.

It's alleging discrimination based on its religious beliefs, its largely-Maori membership, and the fact it's male-led.

But Mr Key says many religious organisations receive state funding.

“The decision on whether they get a contract or not is made by the officials based on the belief they can deliver the social services required. We neither favour them or discriminate against them based on whether or not they have a religious wing,” he says.

ROWLES LOOKING AT NEXT GENERATION OF BALLADEERS

Maori big ballad singer John Rowles says his "Now is the Hour" farewell tour may not be the last opportunity audiences have to hear the unique Rowles sound.

The 64-year-old's 11-city New Zealand swansong starts in Paraparaumu next week.

He says it will be up to the next generation to add the Rowles touch to songs like "If I only had Time" and "Cheryl Moana Marie", and he’s keen to tech his sons, Dane 12 and Blake 8, how to croon.

After Aotearoa the Final Bow tour heads for Australia, Hawaii, Canada and ends in Britain towards the end of 2012.

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