Pubdate: Fri, 09 Mar 2007
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2007 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins


In the struggle between Otara parents and the tinnie houses, parents
were one step forward last night - just by coming together.

About 150 church leaders, school principals, community leaders and
parents turned out for what was billed as an "Otara Congress" to back
each other's calls to dob in the drug-dealing tinnie houses, seen as
the root of the suburb's youth gang problem.

A co-leader of the 274 youth workers, Allan Va'a, told the meeting
that while his team ran sports for young people in one Otara park
recently, they counted more than 250 cars come and go from a house
where drugs were being sold beside the park.

"There were lines up to 13 long waiting to pick up their drugs," he
said. "All this is happening while we are playing with our kids.

"We talked to our kids and asked, 'Is this normal?' They said, 'Oh,
it's just a tinnie house'. They have normalised it. It's not normal,
and we shouldn't make it normal in our neighbourhood."

He said drugs allowed gangs to offer kids money that they could never
hope to earn in normal jobs. But parents knew where the tinnie houses
were so they could act on it.

A mother who said she was a former drug dealer with one son "in and
out of jail for 14 years" and another about to become a lawyer, Ramona
Albert-McGaughey, suggested that former drug users could set up a
network to counter the drug pushers.

She said people should go to the "head" of the problem - the
Government - to seek fewer alcohol outlets, gambling parlours and

Otara Community Board chairwoman Su'a Marguerita Ekepati-Leilua said
the youngsters getting involved in drug dealing and gangs were the
children of church families.

"Otara is prepared to stand up," she said. "All the families are
getting together and standing up to throw away the drugs."
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