After a history of oppression it is no wonder many Maori struggle with alcohol-related issues, says a leader in Maori health.
Ngati Hine Health Trust general manager Mariameno Kapa said many Maori struggled with their sense of identity.
"When people are discouraged and they feel like they don't belong then they can fall prey to anything and anyone," Ms Kapa said.
Sometimes that manifested into alcoholism, drug addiction and gambling, she said.
"I don't think we can talk about it without understanding the whole dynamics of oppression," Ms Kapa said.
"You're talking about the disconnect between yourself and what you belong to."
If you do not have that understanding of yourself, you do not have anything, she said. While that was true of all cultures it was particularly relevant to Maori, Ms Kapa said.
"People aren't born thinking 'I'm going to be a no hoper' but a whole lot of things get in the way," she said. "So we're into supporting people that are really in a tough place."
Generally most families want to do their best but some get stuck along the way, Ms Kapa said. The trust, which she has been the general manager of for 11 years, was predominantly a Maori health practice but was open to anyone in need of help. Alcohol was one of the biggest issues it dealt with.
"It can turn the most reasonable person into the most unreasonable," she said.
"It's hard to get rid of it when it gets hold of you."
In terms of the local alcohol policy, Ms Kapa hopes it will reflect what people want. That would come only through people making submissions, she said.
"With any policy it's got to mean something and it's got to turn into something practical and useful."
Ms Kapa wanted the policy to consider the locations of outlets. That included near schools, community buildings and churches.
-This story is part of a series running while bylaws around alcohol in Whangarei are up for debate. Public submissions are open for the Whangarei District Council draft local alcohol policy until July 10.