Northland community leaders are calling for the Government to crackdown on pokies, cigarettes and alcohol, saying the reliance on personal responsibility has failed and is destroying families.
Moko Foundation founder Dr Lance O'Sullivan appeared on The Nation on Saturday and demanded action.
He says the state needs to make radical changes to combat addictive activities.
"Is there a link between pokie machines, alcohol outlets, cigarettes to the poverty that children in Kaitaia and communities like Kaitaia experience?" he asks.
"And the answer is absolutely yes. There's a very direct link between the people that are using or practising these lifestyles and the fact that children are going without food, kai, in the evenings."
Dr O'Sullivan says politicians' failure to make tough decisions is destroying communities.
"I see child poverty in Kaitaia and then I see policies that allow a proliferation of pokie machines that take probably $100 out of the households of these children per week and millions out of the far north community," he says.
"I'd say that's our Government, whether local or central, not showing the leadership and courage that's required."
Dr O'Sullivan says the state needs to create an environment where people can make the right choices - and this means politicians need to make some tough decisions.
"New Zealanders actually think child poverty's important and most New Zealanders don't think pokies are that critical," he says.
"I agree that individual responsibility and decisions that they make are important, but that's in the context of the environment that we as a country and a society set for them."