Give that couple a prize.
The owners of the Rawene Masonic Hotel, Glen Dick and Lana Marie Turnbull, in the Hokianga. They acted quickly. They heard a baby crying, left outside on the footpath in front of their hotel.
The young mother was inside playing the pokies. They promptly shut down their seven pokie machines. They didn't hesitate or think of the money they would lose each week, which they estimate will be about $1000.
Gaming machines are a good source of additional income for those that have them. In Rawene I suspect $1000 is not a small amount.
But they informed their customers, "this decision was a simple one for us to make which we think is long overdue. With a high unemployment rate in Northland and most of the people attracted by these gaming machines being in this bracket, we have felt the need to remove these from our establishment".
Some of their customers mightn't agree, or appreciate, their actions but the owners obviously know the harm gaming machines can inflict on a community.
They are prepared to take a drop in income and put the wellbeing of their community first.
In my book that's leadership in action.
They have played a part in creating change. Apparently there are other establishments around the country that have made the same decision and given pokie machines the boot.
But I don't think we'll get trampled in the stampede to turn them off any time soon.
Playing the pokies can be an addictive pastime for some but not all players become addicted. And not all unemployed play the pokies.
I know many older people who regularly enjoy playing the pokies. They might play one night or one or two afternoons a week. They get enjoyment from it, know how much they have to spend and as one person told me, she "enjoys the company".
This surprised me as there is hardly any chatter by those playing. Just the noise from the machines with the players looking intently at the screens.
Pokie venues would go broke waiting for me to come along and play. I hate the pokies. I had a dear friend who got caught up in their attraction. She lost her $50,000 life savings. When I tried talking to her about her gambling she too said it was for the company.
If you're on your own or retired I can understand the need for company and companionship. In my friend's case it may have started out as a way to get out of the house and to see other people, but in the end the pokies got the better of her and it cost her dearly.
By now I presume someone from a government agency has visited the young mother who left her baby outside the hotel. They'll want to check on her home situation, how many children she has and whether the children are at risk. She may already be known to the department. Any children could be uplifted while an investigation takes place.
But here's the problem. What support will be provided to the young mother? Is she on her own, does she understand gambling can be addictive? Is she well? Does she have family support?
The safety of children must always come first but young mothers should not be left to sink or swim.
This is what has happened in the past. Equal effort must be put into supporting them to develop behaviour and habits conducive to their own and their children's wellbeing.
Quality social support services impact positively on family wellbeing, the quality of parenting and child resilience. When this support is provided as early as possible risky behaviour gets reduced.
- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua district councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness.