Northland town faces up to gang problems

By The Northland Age

Rebel motorcycle club members. Photo / File / APN
Rebel motorcycle club members. Photo / File / APN

Moerewa is facing up to the gang rivalries that over recent weeks have been credited with a drive-by shooting, a stabbing and the torching of cars, but not by isolating those believed to be responsible.

A public meeting in the Northland town last week was reportedly fiery at times, but reached the conclusion that there would be more to be gained from working with those causing the tension than trying to rid the community of them.

Gang members were among the 300-odd people who attended the meeting (which was not open to the media), facilitator Peeni Henare saying the turnout reflected the unity and courage of residents. The gang members had been well received, residents seeing them as part of the community and expressing a willingness to work with them.

"We'd work with gangs in somewhat of a healing and mediatory process. That was a key suggestion from the meeting," Mr Henare said.

"We acknowledged that if we are to deal with the issues facing us then we'll all have to work together, even though there'll be friction at times."

An action group was formed, and would meet to progress suggestions made, Mr Henare saying those solutions had to be "organic," and reflect the whanau of the town.

The issues of drugs, alcohol and parenting skills had also been discussed.

Te Kotahitanga o nga Hapu Ngapuhi co-chairman Pita Tipene said the community had stuck together in its search for a solution. While residents had been unhappy about the gang presence, they had been challenged by those gang members to get their facts right in terms of some of the recent unwelcome behaviour.

Some local people had earlier expressed fears that an innocent person would be maimed or killed as in-fighting between members of the Rebels and other gang-related violence came to a head, the latter including the stabbing of a man in the head.

Before the meeting, Mr Tipene emphasised that it was not specifically about the Rebels or any other particular gang, but a response to concerns raised within the community about a rising level of gang-related problems in and around Moerewa.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 31 Aug 2014 21:36:01 Processing Time: 492ms