The New Zealand government is considering more action to crack down on violent gang behaviour but has dismissed the idea of a ban on wearing gang patches in public.
There have been a number of shootings and arson attacks in Auckland and Northland in recent weeks linked to escalating tensions between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report the government had asked police what other tools they wanted.
She said she expected to receive further advice soon.
She said changes had been made to widen the criteria for asset seizures and firearm prevention orders legislation was currently before select committee.
It was clear that the current outbreak of violence centred on escalating tensions between two gangs and the clear advice from experts was about the need “to come down hard on that behaviour”.
The police had taken such action with multiple arrests, multiple search warrants executed and 600 rounds of ammunition seized.
‘More tools needed?’
“We’ve asked them [police] to tell us in that environment are there more tools that you need,” she said.
The government had met them again last week and she was expecting more advice from them soon.
“We are moving as fast as we can where the police identify issues we can support them on.”
New policy would not go before cabinet later today — changes did not happen in a day or a week but the government was seeking to have the work expedited.
Asked if it would include increased stop and search powers and banning gang patches in public as suggested by opposition National Party leader Christopher Luxon on Saturday, she said the police were in the best position to identify what would work best.
“This idea of gang patch bans — it’s been tried in other countries. It’s often a reactionary response you can see from politicians and when they’ve gone back and looked at whether it’s made a difference, review after review in different parts, for instance in Australia, has proved it hasn’t.
“Why don’t we put our energy into things that are going to make a difference.”
She invited National to bring forward other ideas on what would help solve violence from gangs.
“We will be engaging in the ones that the police tell us will make the biggest difference.”
Asked about changes affecting Māori in particular, she said any proposed legislation always went through a Bill of Rights process.
“But what we also always factor in are New Zealanders’ rights and their sense of safety and at present we see an escalation in tensions between gangs. Their behaviour includes examples of blatant lawlessness and that needs to be addressed.”
Reception from new Australian government pleasing
Ardern has hailed her visit to Sydney as a “reset” of a trans-Tasman relationship which had soured in recent years — primarily over Australia’s intransigent stance on its “501” deportation policy.
Following talks with new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, after which he said he had “listened” to New Zealand’s concern, Ardern said it was a significant improvement on any feedback she had received from Canberra previously.
She agreed Australia has stated its clear intention to continue to deport people which was exactly the same as New Zealand’s approach.
It was those “at the extreme end” of the spectrum who were in effect Australians with no connections to Aotearoa that the government was most concerned about being sent here, she said.
It had secured from Albanese a commitment to look at that aspect.
“We’ve not received a reception like that to these issues for a number of years.”
With a ministerial meeting due to be held in three weeks Ardern said she will be looking for signs of progress but it was too soon to expect a timeframe for action.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.