Give up on small towns, Jordan Peterson tells NZ

Controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson says New Zealand could reduce its youth suicide rate by giving up trying to keep small towns alive.

Dr Peterson, a Canadian professor in New Zealand on a speaking tour, told RNZ the world is going urban.

"The small towns are disappearing, evaporating, everyone's moving to the city," he told RNZ's Checkpoint on Saturday, ahead of his talk at Auckland's Logan Campbell Centre.

"If you're stuck, so to speak, in a small isolated community and there's very little to do and no economic future and very little hope, and a fragmented community because so many people have left, high rates of poverty and single families and multi-generational histories of alcoholism and so forth, then you set the stage for nihilism and suicide. That's where I would look first.

"The idea that these smaller communities are viable is just simply not the case. We don't know how to make them viable, and so sustaining them as if they could be viable is not a helpful option."

Jordan Peterson.
Jordan Peterson. Photo credit: File

His advice contrasts with the Government's efforts to boost the country's regions through the Provincial Growth Fund, headed by NZ First MP Shane Jones.

In January, Newshub revealed the $3 billion scheme had to that point created only 54 jobs.

"Despite my heroic rhetoric, it is quite a red tape process," Mr Jones explained.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says regions set to benefit from the fund include Hawke's Bay, the West Coast, Manawatu and Northland.

More than 660 New Zealanders took their own lives in the year to June 2018, increasing for the fourth year in a row.

New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world, according to Unicef. It's twice as high as the United States', and five times higher than the UK's, BBC News reported in 2017.

Dr Peterson's views on gender, race and diet divide opinion - but that hasn't stopped him racking up nearly 2 million followers on YouTube.

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