The majority of Stratford district councillors have voted to cap the number of gaming machines in the district at 36.
The vote was made during last week's policy and services committee hearing where the Class Four Gambling Venue and TAB Venue Policy was adopted.
There were eight submissions received on the policy which will come into effect on July 1. The current policy is silent on the maximum number of machines allowed in the district, but the past three years the number of has decreased to 27.
Also adopted was a relocation policy which allows for businesses with gaming machines to relocate to new premises, with a maximum number of nine gaming machines.
All councillors and the mayor voted to cap the number at 36, except for councillor Peter Dalziel who said he would prefer a sinking lid policy.
Peter said he was initially in favour of capping the number of machines but after reading and listening to submitters he now favours a sinking lid policy.
"There's a lot of money going from people who can least afford it, $1.3 million a year — that's a lot out of a small district and 27 machines. I favour a sinking lid."
Councillor Kelvin Squire suggested a cap of 36 machines which the majority of councillors and mayor Neil Volzke backed.
Mr Volzke says the cap signified that council was accepting and recognising the issue of problem gambling and sending a signal to the community that control measures will be put on it.
"This is just one step towards that and is a step in the right direction ... We are recognising the harm here and are working towards bringing some rules around it."
He says there were other online gambling issues in the community and this would be an ongoing problem that government and other bodies should be looking into regulating.
During the hearing, three people read their submissions, including Taranaki Health Board medical officer of health Jonathan Jarman. He says a sinking lid policy was likely to lead to less gambling-related harm — particularly for the most vulnerable communities.
He acknowledged that the funds made by pokies brought some benefit as many clubs and organisations relied on donations from the gambling industry.
"However, I am not sure how many of them would accept the money if they truly knew the grief caused by the money they receive."
He says gambling causes problems within the community and pointed to an example where a young Taranaki father killed himself after stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his employer. He also talked about a Taranaki mother who stole $705,000 from a local business after spending $800 each day on pokies.
He estimates that between 19 and 115 people in the Stratford district are problem gamblers and that in 2017 $1.3m was spent on pokie machines in the district.
"Imagine if this money had gone into helping the households of these people. In Taranaki and New Zealand, poor communities tend to have the highest concentration of pokies and also the highest level of harm."
Louise Tester, of Te Korowai O Ngaruahine Trust, commended the three district councils for the development of a single social impact assessment for the region. The assessment concluded that Stratford had a low risk profile which the trust did not agree with.
"The risk profile does not adequately acknowledge the high risk of gambling to Maori nor the location of the venues in areas of high social economic deprivation."
Louise says the trust wanted the cap to be set at 27 machines, with a sinking lid policy put in place.
"A sinking lid policy protects the existing establishments but protects the community against any further class four venues from establishing. Once a venue closes, and protects the community from any growth in machines."
Jarrod True from the Gaming Machine Association spoke via teleconference call.