If one more media outlet uses the words: "Kaitaia" and "homicide capital" in the same sentence, I will have to give them a hiding. Kidding.

Violence doesn't work to change people's minds. If it did, I would definitely do it.

Violence is real in our communities but this idea of a killer capital is incredibly annoying and unhelpful.

I remember interviewing Tracy Phillips when she was the area commander of police in Whangarei and asking her what she was most surprised by in Northland. She answered with one noun: "violence".


She then went on to discuss the multi-layers of reasons why she thought Northland suffered from an epidemic that did not appear to be addressed in any meaningful way.

If we want to discuss the level of violence, maybe it should be discussed in terms of a public health issue. Perhaps we should ask the health workers, who pick up the pieces every night in our local accident and emergency wards, what they think the causes are and what we should do about it. When they see levels of neglect and ill treatment of children and women " and let's be honest " men, what do they see as the drivers?

Or should we ask the teachers working with traumatised or neglected kids, often without any support from social workers or mental health workers because there simply aren't enough of them to go around.

Should we talk to those in the liquor industry, who talk about "choices" and never have to deal with the children who have fetal alcohol syndrome, who can remember almost anything " for at least two minutes? How do we try to educate those kids about good choices when it comes time for them to have babies of their own?

If we talk about violence, do we talk about workplace bullying or the fact that many of our institutions from local councils to big business have a modus operandi of misogynistic macho bollocks that can be intimidating at best and really frightening at worst?

Supposing we are really interested " should we discuss how many police officers Northland has, considering that we have a major gang issue and that many properties that police have to investigate are isolated gang strongholds? Should we discuss how confident young women feel here that they will be heard if they report a sexual assault? Or what would happen to them if they did? Does self-harm count as violence?

But if we're really going to discuss the North, let's also look at the reality that we all know. The Ninja Nanas who, in their twilight years when they should be putting their feet up, are doing a really good job of raising the next generation.

Let's also acknowledge the resilient kids who pick up younger siblings, nephews and nieces and escape violence, looking after kids on the down-low for fear they'll be picked up by CYFs, still young enough to be in care themselves.