Paradise Lost, Crisis In Small Town New Zealand.

Yesterday we blogged about the impending TVNZ Close Up TV special on New Zealand’s toughest towns, today one of the towns was revealed as Kawerau.

From the Close Up website:

“Sex for drugs. Organised fights. Suicide. Issues that no town wants to deal with, especially when kids as young as 14 are involved.

Kawerau was once a busy milling town, a piece of paradise in the Bay of Plenty.

But those days are over. The jobs have dried up and many families are struggling to raise their kids. Some are endangering themselves and others.

The Government is spending millions on Kawerau, but is it making a difference?

The video aired this evening in New Zealand, you can watch it here.

Pay particular attention to what the Families Commissioner Christine Rankin has to say in the discussion after the video and the problems present in Kawaeru.

She’s talking about a typical  New Zealand town, it’s very different to the image of New Zealand that is presented abroad isn’t it, but read the town’s Wikipedia page and you wouldn’t even know that issues like these exist.

The reality is this is a microcosm of what’s happening in a lot of parts of New Zealand.

Our social statistics are a mess, our country’s in trouble in terms of those statistics but they usually go over people’s heads and when you see a story like this you think we must react…

How can it be fixed?

“I would bring more police in because I do think law and order needs to be re established, you know that’s the base of our society. You look at South Auckland they’ve got some major problems and they put 300 extra police on the street and surprise surprise crime has taken a nose dive..

This is a drug town, it’s a welfare town….and it’s a gang town, it’s got a lot of problems….

There are parental failures and we don’t face up to that as a country….”

Principal of Kawerau Intermediate local school talked about the  20 suspected suicides in the community over the last year

“it’s a sign that things aren’t well”

Are you thinking about raising your children in New Zealand, believing it to be a great place to bring up kids? This video may start to change your mind about that. Watch it and reach your own conclusions.

Related story:

Disadvantaged NZ Youth at Bottom of OECD League League (NZ Herald 19 July)

“A leading think tank has slammed New Zealand’s education system for producing disadvantaged youth who are worse off than in any other developed country...”

You may also wish to read our

NZ facts and stats page for Children and Youth

Our Migrant’s Tales series

What Kiwis say about New Zealand

2 thoughts on “Paradise Lost, Crisis In Small Town New Zealand.

  1. Poster is quite right. Towns like Kawerau are not at all uncommon in both rural and urban New Zealand. In fact, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that a large chunk of Auckland and Christchurch is not terribly different. This is what I know from personal experience. From anecdotal and media information, I would guess the same could be said about the greater Hamilton, Napier, New Plymouth, etc., areas. And Whangerei, Kaitaia, etc, etc,…


    Kawerau is grim, but it’s not that far off of many other bleak, poor, drug-ridden New Zealand towns, which differ only in the degree they are able to hide the sh*te from visiting outsiders and the international press.

    They have a pack mentality here, quite outside the Maori mob subculture. You can’t imagine how difficult it is for migrant children. They need their parents to protect them from these social problems, but the parents, as the Kiwis do, have so many woes of their own due to the economy and devastating cost of living that this is sometimes difficult. The schools are too Lord of the Flies for my liking.

    The child of a migrant friend of mine reports stories of his Kiwi father taking him to normal middle-class homes where toddlers suck on beer bottles and stomp on tables. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Pakeha family, middle class. NZ is a place where more lower-class behavior is exhibited by the middle class..It was a shock for us.

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