Northland towns battle high violence rates


Low incomes and a lack of jobs are being blamed for the Far North featuring on a leader board of New Zealand's top 10 most violent small towns.

A Newshub investigation has revealed Kaikohe and Kaitaia are among the minor urban centres with the highest rates of assaults, sex attacks and robberies last year.

But it turns out they are also communities with hope and heart.

Kaitaia prides itself on being a friendly place where everyone knows everyone and people smile at strangers.

But it's also a community with problems.

Just last year a 12-year-old boy pulled a gun on a dairy owner.

"I don't know the percentages but I do know this community is in crisis," says Ricky Houghton, chief executive of the He Korowai Trust.

With a population of about 5000, Kaitaia punches above its weight when it comes to public place violence.

A Statistics NZ/Newshub investigation reveals the town makes the top 10 list for assaults and robberies in small town neighbourhoods. 

Last year in one part of town there were 49 assaults and robberies -- more than two-and-a-half times the national average.

Northland towns battle high violence rates


In the neighbourhoods to the east it was 39 -- more than three-and-a-half times the national average.

Northland towns battle high violence rates

It's higher because of the lower number of residents there.

"I honestly think if there were more opportunities for our people up here then there wouldn't be such a huge crime rate," says resident Puriwi Harawira.

For the past 15 years Mr Houghton has run the He Korowai Trust, an organisation helping those in desperate need

He believes a lack of jobs and high welfare dependency drive crime.

"Eighty-five percent are on some form of benefit [and] 37 percent are single parents," he says.

"And the average income is $21,000 a year."

Locals spoken to admit Kaitaia has many challenges, but all say they love their town.

"It makes our town sound real hideous but it's not, in reality," one person says.

An hour's drive away in Kaikohe, the numbers are even worse. The crime data shows it ranks as the top regional town for public violence.

Northland towns battle high violence rates


In 2015 there were 68 reported assaults, sexual attacks and robberies in one area -- three times the national average.

But shop owner Ngarai Powdrill believes crime is going down.

"When I first started community patrols I'd go out at all hours of the night and there would be kids, adults everywhere. Now we are not seeing the same."

Back in Kaitaia, Mr Houghton says there is an answer.

"The solution isn't going to come from Wellington," he says.

"It is a community problem that can only be resolved by way of a community coming together."

And he's adamant it's a community that definitely has hope.