Drug and alcohol use and addiction were considered to be a significant social problem in Taumarunui. Participants identified that poor socio-economic conditions were an impacting factor. The relationship between drug and alcohol use and violence, in particular family harm, concerned participants.
“Unemployment is probably the start of it. Economic conditions more than anything else. It’s difficult to discuss in an open way. Probably the bigger one is alcohol in terms of alcohol abuse. People might disagree with me but that’s almost the lesser of the evils. Methamphetamine is the worst.”
“It came up about the problem of P and they were really concerned that in the community there was a real problem and that it was related to violence, because in the local paper there is always something about violence. Somebody is getting hurt by somebody. And it’s always related to drugs or alcohol or both. And they said that they had referred to the police 129 situations of violence over a period of time, I couldn’t remember how long it was but it was a short period of time. And it seemed like such a lot of violence to me”.
“You know, you read the reports about family harm and it’s very sad. I don’t know what proportion of our population that represents but you can’t help but know it’s occurring here. We’d all like to do something about it.”
“I looked at some stats that Women’s Refuge presented and I thought, ‘That’s awful for New Zealand, for this year.’ And it wasn’t. It was for Taumarunui. A huge number of families violence incidents every week. Every day in the newspaper, family violence on Monday, family violence on Tuesday, so many cases.”
“What we need is a completely collaborative approach. We can only solve this if the whole community, and I mean the whole community comes together to solve this. There’s some people who should take responsibility who are simply not doing that.”
The actions of some licensed premises also drew concern from several group members.
“They have vans to drop people home and that works well for a lot of people who are urban based but they have an alarming practice for people who live out is that they’ll deposit the person at their vehicle outside the town boundary and they’ll drive home… It’s good that people are socialising but I’m very concerned about the practice of taking rural people who have been drinking and over the limit out to where they’ve stashed their cars. I don’t think the police are stupid, they must know about it. It’s just not on. And our country roads are very narrow and driving at night, and that’s a worry.”
Concern was expressed about the trucking traffic through the town in terms of safety and noise affecting the amenity of the township.
“You drive anywhere around here and there is truck and trailer units everywhere. And it ruins our main street. … there’s an adequate rail system through the middle of the north island. It gives employment because there’s truck depots here but also the roads were never designed for this many trucks. So it is a big issue.”
Crime was perceived by group participants to be reasonably common in Taumarunui.
“You just look on Facebook and it’s always something has been stolen. There’s a lot of family harm and quite a lot of burglary. Things go missing, you see, ‘Oh my bike, it was in my yard and it’s gone missing, or my car’ and maybe it’s just Facebook that’s making it seem more, maybe it was already happening but maybe we can see it more because people will put it on Facebook. I’m not sure if it’s more or if we’re seeing more of it on Facebook.”
The impact of family dysfunction and poor mental health in young people was raised as a concern.
“There’s also, I just see more kids that can’t cope. They can’t cope. And it’s not low socio-economic children. It’s, you know, life’s just… they’re getting more and more. Kids just aren’t carefree and it’s happening more and more. I mean you can understand some kids’ issues. I don’t know if its mental health but some kids just find life hard. And there’s a cohort of kids with tremendously anxious parents…”
“I think the issue that we’re overlooking is the parents of these children. There are a lot of dysfunctional families in this community. And they don’t care what the kids do or where they go or what they’re learning. And the kids turn up at a high school on a Monday and over the weekend they’ve been having a smoke of their parents’ pot and it’s pretty sad in some ways and there’s not any easy answer.”
“It really resonated with me when my daughter moved away and she said she got up in the morning and said, ‘There’s nobody yelling and I can’t hear glass getting smashed.’ And that’s what she was living in and I think, ‘Isn’t that awful?’ So those are the issues and if it’s all boiled down to one thing and I’m utterly convinced that if we can have a good level of sustainable economic activity then that means jobs, it means hope, it means skills. People have got something to look forward to. Why are they on the drugs? I don’t know. They just need to get out of it for a while. They get hooked in, it’s a way of being somewhere else when you’re in a shit hole. In their own shit hole.”
“The hardest thing I did was take my son to the funeral of a friend who killed himself. And you know, it’s all this stuff, having these conversations with my kids that you never wanted to have with them. And a lot of their friends don’t have families that would have these conversations. We went to the funeral and there were all these kids the same, you knew them all, you’ve worked with them all, and it’s like, oh God, please let this be the only one. Please let this be the only one. And it isn’t. It won’t be. That’s my biggest concern for our community. Having kids and seeing what these other kids go through and how they live.”