Revitalised biker gangs heading south

The expansion of the Bandidos bikie gang into Christchurch and Dunedin represented the ongoing revitalisation of outlaw bikie clubs. Photo / Thinkstock
The expansion of the Bandidos bikie gang into Christchurch and Dunedin represented the ongoing revitalisation of outlaw bikie clubs. Photo / Thinkstock

The expansion of a notorious motorcycle gang into Christchurch and Dunedin represents the revitalisation of outlaw motorcycle clubs, a University of Canterbury gang researcher says.

Gang expert and lecturer Dr Jarrod Gilbert said the expansion of the Bandidos bikie gang into Christchurch and Dunedin represented the ongoing revitalisation of outlawed bikie clubs generally.

"The scene in New Zealand had been on a steady decline for more than a decade but is now experiencing an obvious expansion," Dr Gilbert said.

"The Bandidos were first rumoured to be establishing under a former Highway 61 leader in south Auckland in 2012. Now there is no doubt they are here.

"In Christchurch, a new group, the Rock Machine, have been taken over by the Bandidos in a patch over. What this means is the group is more likely to survive over time because the worldwide Bandido nation, as they call themselves, will lend the local chapter support," Dr Gilbert said.

"Traditionally around the world the Bandidos and the Hells Angels have been bitter enemies. The Bandidos and the Rebels have also had serious conflicts in Australia.

"Whether or not these conflicts emerge in New Zealand is unclear, but I do feel that in a growing scene gang violence becomes somewhat inevitable. In a crowded room, somebody is always going to get elbowed.

"The gang scene throughout New Zealand is on an upswing and Christchurch, as it always has been, is a bellwether city. What happens there is often an accurate reflection of what happens nationally.

"In Wellington and Auckland we are seeing the growth of new clubs and the expansion of others. How many of the new groups achieve longevity is impossible to say, but putting on colours is easy - being able to defend them is another story.

"The existing clubs have had to fight for their right to survive and some may be reluctant to see new groups emerge without challenge. While New Zealand has been remarkably peaceful in recent times, the prospect of gang wars is significantly increasing and I believe is inevitable."

Canterbury professor of sociology Greg Newbold said the general public had little to be concerned about from the gang's expansion.

The Bandidos, established in Texas, was known as one of the "big four" outlaw motorcycle gangs in the United States, along with the Hells Angels, the Pagans and the Outlaws, he said.

"They are a serious group, but being a serious group they are not the kind of group that would go around starting fights and creating a high profile for themselves.

"They'll probably mind their own business as long as people leave them alone, and I would say the general public doesn't need to worry about it," he said.

The Bandidos had an estimated 2500 members and 210 chapters in 22 countries, including Australia where there were 17 official chapters.

Its motto was "We are the people our parents warned us about".

Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, of the Southern district organised crime squad, said police were aware "small groups" of people were working to establish a Bandidos presence in the area.

As part of his PhD thesis, Dr Gilbert spent 10 years with New Zealand gangs researching his book Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand, which recently won the New Zealand Post Book Awards People's Choice Award. He is now working on a second book, looking at murders in New Zealand.

- Additional reporting: Otago Daily Times

- APNZ

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