Noisy motorbikes, litter on the streets, kids on bicycles and a lack of police on the ground were amongst the issues raised at a public meeting called in Kaikohe last week amid rising concerns about crime and disorder. But, not for the first time, alcohol was to the fore.
Pastor Mike Shaw suggested the town have another shot at toughening liquor rules, saying he didn't know anyone who thought a small town should have five liquor outlets opening seven days a week from 7am.
Three years ago Shaw, Shaun Reilly and others worked on a local alcohol plan that would have reduced trading hours in the town, initially with support from the Far North District Council. When the major retailers fought it, however, the council ''flipped sides,'' and opposed its own plan.
Shaw said he was willing to try again, but the town would have to get behind it.
''You have to realise the alcohol companies will fight us. The last thing they want is a community having a say... We need to take on the rich fullas who are pulling the money out of Kaikohe and leaving misery behind,'' he said to loud applause.
Almost 80 people turned out for the meeting, organised by 83-year-old 'Nanny Rachel' Velden, who said the town had many problems, ''but if we all work together we should be able to find a solution."
Much of the discussion centred on the town's thriving past and complaints about perceived police inaction, Reilly saying the town needed a visible police presence to deter crime.
''You can't find a policeman when you want one,'' he said.
He also bemoaned kids on bikes in the main street - ''I just saw one a few minutes ago, pulling a wheelstand'' - saying the town needed a pump track and pad where kids could ride safely.
Dave Cortesi said police wouldn't do anything about motorbikes racing up and down his street, while Lily Rawson was concerned about litter dropped on streets and in waterways. She said more bins and a zero tolerance approach were needed, though ultimately the answer lay in adults teaching their tamariki to respect Papatūanuku.
Physiotherapist Stuart Kay questioned why, if the meeting had been called to discuss problems with youth, there wasn't a single rangatahi (young person) present.
''We should be talking to them first. They need to be brought into the picture now, not later," she said.
The town had no shortage of good youth leaders, but most left once they finished school. The challenge for Kaikohe was to ''lift the community'' so they wanted to come back.
Some blamed the media for Kaikohe's ills, and others called for a return to religious education in schools.
Speakers included representatives from the Ministry of Education and Te Hau Ora o Ngāpuhi. The police were invited but did not attend.
Co-organiser Megan Hepi said she would compile a list of common themes raised at the meeting and circulate them around the community, the next step being to come up with an action plan.