Gang tension has been linked to recent violence in Opotiki, with 21-year-old local man Joe Collier killed. The Rotorua Daily Post asked the region's seven political candidates their thoughts on gangs in our society.
Fletcher Tabuteau - NZ First candidate for Rotorua.
I have grown up exposed to gang life in Rotorua, Tauranga and Murupara and I can personally attest to the fact that criminal gangs in New Zealand have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, they are a pox on our society. They are a testimony to a lack of a safe nurturing environment in safe homes. Our youth seek camaraderie, even from those who would use and abuse them. Good jobs in our region are the answer; not everyone wants to live in Auckland. New Zealand First has a very simple and yet strong stance on gangs - we would introduce legislation to ban them all.
Rawiri Waititi - Labour Party Waiariki electorate candidate.
Before we start pointing the finger at patches, we need to address the issues that drive people into gangs; family, connection, identity, mana, a sense of belonging. We must ask ourselves what we are not providing to people to make gangs an appealing option. We lack community leadership, positive role models and more importantly, culture. We need to begin by embracing our whanau; whether they wear red, black or blue because they belong to us and we belong to them. Let's focus on the common ground we share and give them the family, connection, identity, mana and sense of belonging they long for.
Rotorua National Party MP Todd McClay
Gangs are a menace to society. They are organised criminal organisations responsible for the drug trade. They profit from the misery they cause to law-abiding citizens young and old. Last year I passed legislation to ban gang insignia from all Government buildings including schools, kindergartens and hospitals where gang patches are now confiscated and destroyed. This gives police another important tool to disrupt criminal activity, putting the rights of law-abiding citizens before those of gang thugs. A safe community is a basic human right and National is committed to removing gangs and their intimidating and criminal behaviour from our streets.
Tamati Coffey - Labour Party Rotorua electorate candidate.
What happened in Opotiki may have happened here in Rotorua. If you live 'west side' of the lake, you'll notice youth wearing blue. If you live 'east side', red is the colour of choice. It's not a nod to Labour or National - it's gang related. On one hand, gangs and young wannabes who torment, frighten and act illegally need to be dealt with firmly. On the other hand, we, as adults, need to future-proof the problem by engaging young people to ensure they find that sense of belonging in the community, at school, in sport, or in the arts.
Waiariki Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell.
The word 'gang' often implies those involved in criminal activity and under those circumstances they don't have any place in our society. But, there are many different types of 'gangs' present in our society - from clubs through to groups of friends. It seems there's a focus predominantly on Maori gangs, many of whom engage in criminal activity. Violence and crime have no place in our society, which goes for everyone. We cannot eradicate gangs - they have always been around and always will be, so we must remember that gang members are people with families and any attempts to support them to lead better lives must be taken.
Annette Sykes - Mana Party Waiariki electorate candidate.
Mana will provide support and opportunities for all whanau and communities to flourish. We have a host of policies to address the racism (including racial profiling by police), poverty, unemployment, isolation etc, which can lead to gang life. Real investment is needed to give people other pathways - creating jobs, decent incomes and homes, enabling communities to veto pokie and liquor outlets, eliminating racism from our health and education systems and making them free. Mana also has a host of policies to enable gangs to focus on whanau wellbeing, including addressing violence and addictions and opportunities for small business development.
Pat Spellman - NZ Independent Coalition Waiariki electorate candidate.
No, gangs don't belong in our society. Gangs are the result of lacklustre whanau foundation and poverty. We need to be strong on any groups known for violence, peddling drugs and wrecking lives. We can take away from the appeal of a life of crime within a gang by ensuring opportunities for growth exist for our people - a world class education, options for trade training, support for sporting development and employment paying fair wages. That's what our Government should be working towards.