A turf war between the Mongrel Mob and the Mongol Nation is believed to behind brazen tit-for-tat shootings with semi-automatic firearms and a suspected arson in the Bay of Plenty last week.
The Mongols are one of the most notorious bikie gangs in the world and their arrival in the region last year - the first chapter in New Zealand - has fuelled simmering tensions with established Tauranga gangs like the Greazy Dogs and the Mongrel Mob.
Around 20 patched Mongols are believed to be under the leadership of a 28-year-old man deported from Australia in 2018, one of thousands of "501s" so nicknamed because of the "character grounds" section of the Australian immigration law used to remove them.
Police had warned the new Australian newcomers, such as the Mongols and Comancheros , would radically change the criminal landscape as they were hardened from inter-gang warfare with firearms.
Predictions of armed conflict came true last week as a residential home in the Tauranga suburb of Hairini was riddled with bullets on Tuesday morning.
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Five children were believed in the lounge at the time, with shocked neighbours saying "sheer luck" was the only reason no one was killed or injured.
Police have collected dozens of bullet casings, believed to have been fired by semi-automatic firearms, from the property which is believed to be linked to the Mongrel Mob.
The daytime shooting at a suburban house is suspected to be an act of revenge, or warning, following the suspicious arson of a Greerton business a day earlier.
The Faded N Bladed barber shop and tattoo studio on Chadwick St was gutted by fire on Monday morning, damaging neighbouring businesses, just a few days after the windows were smashed on Friday night. The property was also set ablaze on New Year's Eve.
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Police believe the barber shop, which is yet to open for business, has links with the Mongols.
Detectives investigating the shooting at Hairini are working on the theory the attack was ordered by the Mongols, who blame the Mongrel Mob for the barber shop fire.
The conflict escalated within hours, with reports of semi-automatic gunshots at a rural address in Te Puke where members of the Mongol Nation live.
Several 111 calls were made by frightened residents on No 2 Rd around 1.50pm on Tuesday, which led to a large number of police cars, including the new Armed Response Team and the Eagle helicopter, swarming the area.
The following day, two Mongol associates, aged 19 and 23, were charged in the Tauranga District Court with unlawful possession of a pistol.
The pair were granted interim name suppression and bail, although the investigation into the arson and both shootings is ongoing.
"This behaviour and level of violence is completely unacceptable and has no place in our communities," Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner said in a press release.
"Members of the public can continue to expect a heightened police presence in the area as we continue to make inquiries."
The tit-for-tat firearms conflict is unconnected to a stabbing on The Strand in the early hours of Sunday morning, which left a man with critical injuries.
Two alleged associates of the Mongols, Quentin Tame-Pohe Holt, 21, and Elijah David Wanoa, 20, have been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The Mongols were first established in the United States in 1969 and spread to 12 other countries, including Australia recently where they quickly earned a reputation for ruthless violence.
The arrival of the Mongol Nation in the Bay of Plenty was first reported by NZME in October , at a time when New Zealand gang numbers were exploding and tensions between rival gangs rising.
Less than a fortnight later, three cars parked outside the Papamoa home where senior Mongols were living were destroyed in a suspicious fire .
There have also been reports of tense confrontations between Mongols and members of the Greazy Dogs.
Figures released by Police Minister Stuart Nash estimated there are now 6500 gang members in New Zealand, an increase of 26 per cent in the past two years.
Of those, 1380 live in the Bay of Plenty - up from 1058 in 2017.
One reason for the growth is the arrival of the Australian gangs dating back to 2010 - first the Rebels, then the Bandidos and Comancheros - as well as a recruitment drive in response to the newcomers from existing New Zealand gangs such as the Head Hunters, Filthy Few and Mongrel Mob.
Profits from New Zealand's burgeoning and lucrative methamphetamine market is also a factor in the spike in gang numbers, police allege.
"New Zealand isn't a big place. Everyone was sharing the market, taking their slice of the pie," Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said last year.
"But we've seen gang numbers grow, arming up [with firearms], which shows that something has changed."