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'This community is in crisis' - Northland community leader calls for State of Emergency over deprivation

A well known Northland community leader and philanthropist is calling on the next government to declare a State of Emergency in the Far North saying it's the only way the community will get the help it needs.

Philanthropist Ricky Houghton says the move would 'reconnect whanau back to their futures so they can live without outside state interference'. Source: 1 NEWS

He Korowai Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton says he comes face to face with helplessness, hopelessness and despair every day at his Kaitaia office.  He meets people who are hungry, poor, victims of abuse, some with drug and alcohol addictions, others with a history of mental health problems. 

"You need to understand the true social and economical deprivation of this community. Up to 85 per cent in some pockets are unemployed, 37 per cent are single parents and the average income is $21,000," Mr Houghton said.

"All the services are downsizing to be centralised. All the services that are left are on overload. This community is in crisis."

Last year the 57-year-old mortgaged his own house to buy the Kaitaia Hotel which he's turned into an emergency housing shelter that provides budgeting and counselling services too. The shelter has 35 units but at the moment his whare is full.

"The Far North has been forgotten and to a large degree so have the people that live in it. It's considered too hard and too expensive," Mr Houghton said.

Politicians that have had the authority and mandate to roll up their sleeves to help have chosen not too - He Korowai Trust chief executive Ricky Houghton

Now he says people have become accustomed to feeding of the community's poverty, "be it lawyers, be it medical people, be it the cartels that have developed up here".

Mr Houghton says a State of Emergency would acknowledge the family disruption, disintegration and trauma being experienced. 

"It would relax all the local bylaws, all the council management resource acts and allow Maori to go back onto their land and reconnect whanau back to their futures so they can live without outside state interference," he said.

He Korowai Trust believes there are endless opportunities in the north but it's the red tape getting in the way. 

“There's a 2.5 million dollar industry in green lip mussels through the country. All the spat comes of 90 Mile. We have no control over the regulatory authority or the distribution, none of those proceeds come back to this community," Mr Houghton said.

"There’s 170-thousand hectares of undeveloped under-productive Maori land.

"Politicians that have had the authority and mandate to roll up their sleeves to help have chosen not too," said Mr Houghton who hopes the next government will be different.

In the meantime, Mr Houghton is building more emergency units to help several dozen families on his list who need it.