Kaitaia has a realistic view of the problems the town faces, but there is a great deal of good according to the Salvation Army's second annual State of our Communities report.
The report tells the story of life in six New Zealand communities, including Kaitaia, in the words of the people who live there.
Many of the 15 Kaitaia locals who were interviewed referred to two main positives — the 'community vibe,' — friendly and accepting people, lifestyle, friendly atmosphere, strong whānau feel, safe, laid back, a close-knit community where people care for each other.
The other key theme was the environment. They liked or loved the weather, climate, nature and scenery in Kaitaia and Northland. Many Māori described their connection to the land.
A few discussed Kaitaia being a divided community, in terms of wealth. Others also talked about it becoming a ghost town as businesses left the area.
Two themes emerged of concerns for the community, one of those being drugs (especially methamphetamine) and gangs, one saying there were hidden issues, and that meth was easier to obtain than cannabis.
There was strong opposition to meth, while some commented on the disconnection of youth, making them susceptible to influence by gangs, compounded by a lack of jobs.
Housing-related issues, especially homelessness and the cost of renting, were a major concern, some talking about generations of benefit dependence, leading to discussion about personal versus collective responsibility.
Health services, particularly mental health and suicide, was a noteworthy concern, some saying mental health services were isolated and difficult to get to.
There was recognition of the significant number of social services operating in Kaitaia and the Far North, although some questioned the effectiveness of the town's social organisations and NGOs. They also talked about the proliferation of Māori NGOs, and wondered if funding of those groups was actually trickling down to the locals.
Interviewees unquestionably believed that the rest of New Zealand saw their community in a "fairly negative" light, thanks largely to the media, most of it inaccurate.
Kaitaia tended to be portrayed as unsafe, while negative stereotypes and labels such as the town being New Zealand's murder capital did not help. Some portrayed the community as the country's "waste basket," where mental health patients were dumped, while it was sad to see "zombies" and people picking up cigarette butts.
Locals believed that Kaitaia's image was usually negative, the report said, but while there was some truth to that image, generally they believed the town was not as bad as people thought, or as it was portrayed by the media.
A small minority said many New Zealanders would probably see Kaitaia in a positive light because of the climate, location, and tourist attractions in the Far North.
Asked what they would tell the Prime Minister about there community, there were three key themes, the major one being the need for greater government investment in infrastructure, in Kaitaia and the wider region, followed by the need for economic growth, Kaitaia often being forgotten or neglected in national discussions.
One of the best ways to show commitment to the region was to further invest in promoting it for national and international tourism. Businesses were also needed to create jobs.
The third theme was housing, not only for young families looking for their first home, the homeless and "rough sleepers," but also for the vulnerable and isolated older people.
Interviewees also believed that effective parenting was important for building strong families and a stronger community.
In terms of what they wanted to see in the future, some hoped for more physical, tangible changes, primarily better infrastructure, new businesses, more support for existing businesses, community hubs or locations, and possibly a sports complex.
Many referred to the "abandoned Pak'nSave building in the centre of the town, some hoping it would become a multi-purpose event centre focusing on engaging youth, promoting the arts, local culture and tourism opportunities.
There was a clear desire for a better future for young people, principally focusing on suicide and mental health issues, and the need to engage youth in positive pathways.
Many wanted to see a reduction in crime and the presence of drugs.
"It was encouraging for the Salvation Army to see how passionate this community was about the future hopes and dreams they had for their area," the report concluded.