A Northland iwi chairman says the tribe is willing to invest Treaty settlement funds to tackle the ballooning suicide rate.
"It's the first time iwi have had the chance to impose their own priorities for social development like this," Te Rarawa Runanga chairman Haami Piripi said, after the signing of the $33.84 million deeds of settlement for Treaty grievances at the weekend.
Tackling suicide - particularly youth suicide - was important and Mr Piripi was looking forward to settlement resources helping Te Rarawa "begin the job in earnest".
"It's dear to my heart - the suicide rate has now topped the road toll," he said.
Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean last week told of his concerns over 32 suspected suicides in Northland this year - almost double the 17 recorded last year.
It was also well ahead of the 26 in 2010.
Twelve of the 32 suspected cases this year were in the 10-19 age group and 15 of the cases involved people who identified themselves as Maori.
The region normally averages three suspected suicides in the 10-19 age group annually and nine of the 26 suspected suicides in 2010 were Maori.
Maori Party co-leader and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia last week attended a hui in Northland after the death of a 10-year-old in what was a suspected suicide.
"I wept. I thought, my God, what happens in a 10-year-old's life that they have no desire to live?"
Mrs Turia spoke to a group of young people in the North about why they thought youngsters were committing suicide.
"They felt these kids were isolated and lonely. Some had been abused, some had very poor life experiences and they had no hope about a future," she said.
Meanwhile, Ngati Kahu social services are taking the lead in Far North postvention, which is intervention conducted after a suicide to support the bereaved family and friends of the suicide victim, who may be vulnerable to suicidal behaviour themselves and may develop complicated grief reactions.
The Te Rarawa accord involves the creation of a secretariat whose purpose is "to establish a collaborative and enduring relationship between Crown agencies and Te Hiku o Te Ika iwi and to improve social development and wellbeing outcomes in Te Hiku o Te Ika".
The accord was included in the $21.04 million Ngai Takoto deed of settlement also signed at Kaitaia on the weekend, and similar processes are expected to be included in settlements with other Te Hiku tribes.
Further south, a collaboration has been set up between the Northland District Health Board, Child Youth and Family, Ngati Wai, Ngati Hine and Group Special Education Service. It followed the suspected suicides by two 14-year-olds in May and June and a Northland high school warning parents to pay special heed to teenagers' behaviour.
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