A life member of Black Power Denis O'Reilly says a bill to ban people wearing gang patches in government-owned buildings, including local council facilities, is a waste of time and a breach of human rights.
National MP for Rotorua Todd McClay's bill progressed in Parliament today and was voted through its first reading by 69 votes to 52.
It prevents gang patches from being worn in all government premises, including schools, hospitals and public service buildings such as Work and Income offices.
The bill will now be debated at select committee, and if it passed, would be enforced by police - gang members could be fined up to $2000 and have their patch confiscated and destroyed.
Black Power life member Denis O'Reilly said existing laws already dealt with people who intimidate others and banning people wearing gang patches wasn't the right way to address violence and intimidation.
"We've got more to worry about from men in suits than from chaps in patches - the international financial crash isn't because of some gangster walking around a shopping mall,
"We should be more worried about banksters than gangsters."
"It's a populist policy, it's Michael Laws-type talk back land and it's not an intelligent analysis."
Mr O'Reilly was a regular visitor to Parliament wearing his gang patch and his patch was photographed on the coffin of former Prime Minister Norm Kirk.
He said there is no evidential basis to say that the gang community were an organised criminal group, but agreed people should be punished for intimidating others.
National Party MP and former police officer Mark Mitchell said the Government had to continue to "turn up the heat" on gangs.
"When my Mum or daughters walk into Government offices I don't want them to have to see gang members walking around with patches on - those patches signify one thing, that is that they have committed crimes against our society," he said.
National MP for Rotorua Todd McClay said his bill was an important step in beginning to talk about the harm gangs cause across New Zealand.
"Gangs cause harm and misery in this country and this bill aims to reduce this intimidation."
Labour MP Andrew Little said Wanganui District Council had banned gang insignia in 2009 and it had failed to stop the town's gang problem.
"This bill is a joke, it will achieve nothing,
"Punishing a gang member who turns up at a public library to return their books is not going to stop the gang problem," he said.
- APNZBy Kate Shuttleworth @K8Shuttleworth Email Kate