By Te Karere

A Gisborne community group is fighting to rid the town of what it describes as a social evil - gambling machines.

Ka Pai Kaiti – a community organisation protested outside of the Kaiti Club Hotel today, calling on management to remove their pokies machines which it says is causing a lot of harm including domestic violence.

Tuta Ngarimu, a Ka Pai Kaiti protest organiser says, “I’m just getting sick and tired of seeing the effects that come out from our whānau that have been harmed by these places, a lot of our whānau are addicted.”

It's not just the gambling machines causing harm in the community, there are three liquor outlets in Kaiti, but it's the only one where alcohol can be consumed on site.

Ngarimu adds, “We’ve got a pokies venue that’s been here for over 17 years now and pulls nearly a million dollars out of our community every year, nothing at all goes back into our community.”

Gisborne local and activist De Elizabeth Kerekere adds, “Banning pokies is one of the steps that need to be taken. It’s a danger to our communities.”

The spokesperson for the hotel says he's fine with them protesting, so long as they do it in a lawful way, saying, “They should talk to us, we could find a way from talking.”

Mayor Meng Foon understands why they protested and supports their challenge to the council and to the government, “Kei te tautoko te whakaaro a Ka Pai Kaiti, e pā ana ki tēnei take ko rātou e kōkiritia ki a mātou ki a tātou te kaunihera me te kāwana. Me kī e whakamōhio tātou ki ēnei āhua āwangawanga, amuamu o ngā tangata ngākau nui rawa atu ki te pēti i ēnei mihīni.”

He also says that although he agrees with the protesters there are some benefits from pokies machines, “Ki wētahi he pai te pūtea tautoko o ngā karapu, ki te whai moni hei tautoko rātou mō te hoko wēne, ki te hoko tīkiti haere ki ngā whakataetae ā-motu.”

Gambling - good for the community?