End fighting, rivals told

LAWRENCE GULLERY
Families of Flaxmere's youth gangs want regular mediation between the rival groups to prevent gang violence from escalating in the Hastings suburb.
About 100 people, gang members and their families, gathered at Flaxmere's Te Whanau House last week in an attempt to bring about peace, letting the young groups speak about their grievances.
Te Whanau House co-ordinator Andrew Birch said many of the youngsters in the gangs were aged from 12 to their early 20s.
Young gang members at the meeting stood to say fighting had occurred primarily because of gang-retaliation incidents, while parents, brothers and sisters also spoke hoping to reduce gang confrontation in their community.
"One of the grandfathers of one of the gang members, Joe Eriha, had some strong words to say about the fighting," Mr Birch said.
"He really grilled the young guys and they listened to him."
Mr Birch said there was a perception at the meeting that many of the confrontation incidents had also been fuelled by alcohol.
"A lot of the young guys want peace out there and a lot of the fighting is a result of retaliation, which occurs when they're moving through Flaxmere." Mr Birch said people in the suburb were worried "youth gang retaliation" might flare up again, as it did about a year ago.
At that time, Mr Birch had been making regular visits to Hawke's Bay Hospital, where fights had left youngsters with serious injuries.
Some of the injured had been struck on the back of the head with metal bars while others had facial injuries, and had "their teeth knocked out".
The first mediation meeting was held shortly after those incidents last year.
A second was held earlier this year and the most recent mediation, to bring more gangs together, was chaired by Mr Birch's brother, Malcolm, who is also a supervisor at Te Whanau House.
Mr Birch said Malcolm told the young men that while they were fighting each other, their parents were actually connected through families ties or as friends.
"So the purpose of this meeting was to bring peace between these groups and that's what took place after the meeting," Mr Birch said.
"We know this doesn't mean its going to be the end of things but it will help keep the peace."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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