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This has been an unprecedented time in our history as a nation, and one that has affected all of our services across all sectors, and all service provision in particular. My thoughts at the moment are firmly placed on those of our workforce that are on the front lines of helping whānau and our communities through gambling addiction, and the family members that are exposed to the stress that new behaviours may bring about - in this escalated time of anxiety. Nga manaakitanga ki a koutou katoa, kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui, manawaroa. 

As the new National Coordinator for Prevention and Minimisation of Gambling Harm therefore, it has been an interesting month so far to say the least.  I have returned to the whānau of Hāpai Te Hauora after 6 years of tertiary education and health management. My eye has always squarely been on the health and social services sector - which gambling and other addictions are of course a part of, with a particular focus on workforce and professional development. This has put me in good stead to enter this mahi with a broad view on what our sector may face externally in the year to come (Covid-19 being the ultimate unknown variable here).Our greatest asset is our workforce. 

We were humbled to host our PMGH Expert Advisory Group (EAG) earlier in March, where we attempted to reset our terms of engagement as a roopu. The priorities laid out from this meeting were based on how as the wider infrastructure group we can best support the PMGH workforce and how together, we can support new initiatives e.g. Consumer Network and contribute to future developments for the sector.  Many thanks to Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins for her leadership over the past 3 years. 

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any ideas that we can discuss further as a roopu. The representatives on our EAG are listed here if you would like to make direct contact or korero with them. https://www.hetaumata.co.nz/cont...

There has been an influx of Covid-19 related information over the last two weeks, and a lot of projects, stakeholder meetings, Gamble Jams, advisory meetings and the Ministry of Health’s  RFP for Preventing and Minimising Gambling Harm Services – Intervention, Public Health and Asian Helpline & Information being cancelled or paused due to the pandemic and declaration of the National State of Emergency by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. One area of concern for our sector is the potential increase in online gambling amongst our communities. Anecdoctal international evidence shows that gambling activity such as sports betting is being replaced by an increase in ‘riskier’ online casino and pokies activity that will require a daily spending cap, to help minimise harm in this sector. We invite discussion on this area if you have insights as providers at the coalface. 

We will be busy working on our EAG defined priorities, collating local council gambling policy review timelines and information to disseminate, offering resources for the sector, and keeping our ear to the ground in the evolving online gambling space. We wish all the clinical staff, public health staff and providers well, as we all scramble to redefine what service provision looks like in a ‘contactless’ space. Let’s all strive to aim for physical distance, but social connection through this time - Ma to tatou ariki tatou e manaaki, e tiaki. 

(Korero and picture c/- Rachael Ka'ai-Mahuta and Stacey Morrison)

Noho haumaru, noho ora atu, 
Maria Ngawati 
Kaihautu, National Coordination Service - Prevention and Minimisation of Gambling Harm 

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