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Harm reduction bill a 'misnomer'

Thursday 20 Jun 2013 9:29 a.m.

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The Salvation Army has taken aim at the Government's attempt to minimise gambling harm, saying its watered-down version of a Maori Party bill might actually make things worse.

The Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill originally had pokie profits going back to the community, tracking devices attached to machines and councils given the power to shut down venues.

But yesterday Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain presented a watered-down version, which saw many of its harm reduction clauses removed or significantly weakened.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira called it a "dead rat", and this morning on Firstline Salvation Army social policy spokesperson Campbell Roberts called it a "tragedy".

"I think there's been immense pressure on the Government from the industry, and I think the tragedy is their voices become stronger than that of the community, which sees some of the damage that's being caused," he says.

"I think it's a lack really of creative and courageous leadership amongst our politicians that's allowing this to happen."

The Maori Party's Te Ururoa Flavell says it's better than nothing.

"We compromised, sure, there's no doubt about it, but we believe it's far better to get some gains than get absolutely nothing at all," says Mr Flavell.
But Mr Roberts questions whether the bill will result in any gains at all.
"The difficulty is the people who come into us daily as a result of gambling harm – the families we're dealing with – that's not going to reduce in any way.

"In fact, it's going to increase as a result of this bill, so it's a misnomer to be calling it a 'harm reduction' bill because it's not really going to make any difference."

Mr Roberts says the bill is a missed opportunity.

"We run gambling help programmes throughout New Zealand, and unfortunately the level of people who are wanting to come to that is very significant, so there's real stress on that. The sadness is there was an opportunity to lower that number at this point."

More than 30,000 submissions were made on the bill, which is expected to have its first reading in November.

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