Simon Bridges is sticking to his story about witnessing a gang fight in the Tauranga Hospital car park, despite police and the hospital casting doubt on any gang involvement.
Yesterday the Tauranga MP wrote on social media that: "Patched gang members had taken over the entrance and someone was being badly beaten up in the carpark in a gang fight."
Police said yesterday they were called to a "disorder" incident in the hospital carpark but had no information about it being a gang incident, with CCTV footage confirming "it didn't involve gang members".
In a statement on Facebook today, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board said a "minor incident took place in our carpark which the police were called to, and that this was resolved quickly.
"However, we are not aware of any situation where gang members allegedly took over the hospital reception area and so far no staff on duty yesterday, including our security team who are based at the hospital entrance, have been able to validate this."
The district health board said it had started an investigation and asked any witnesses to the reported incidents to come forward.
"Meanwhile we can assure the public that our security team will be maintaining presence at the hospital entrance as normal."
A police spokesperson said yesterday they were called to a "report of disorder" at the Tauranga Hospital carpark at 3.15pm.
Police said it followed an incident where "a motorist was involved in some sort of altercation with a couple in the carpark".
"One police unit attended, spoke to the parties involved and advised there were no issues."
The police spokesperson said initially that there was nothing on their file to suggest it was a gang fight.
It also appeared that there were no arrests.
They later said staff had reviewed CCTV footage of the incident in the carpark and "confirmed it didn't involve gang members".
In a comment on Facebook today, Bridges said he was surprised at the police comments given police were not present until "some time after the gang members had gone and the fighting had finished".
He said his wife called 111.
"I'd note that when we came out quite some time after, there were still a bunch dressed in red. But I suppose for the police that's just all a coincidence. Let's downplay everything gang related and hope it goes away shall we?"
Police had no further comment.
The Bay of Plenty Times reported last month that there were now more gang members in the Bay of Plenty than anywhere else in New Zealand, according to police figures.
Gang Intelligence Centre (GIC) records of the National Gang List (NGL) show there were 1493 gang members in the Bay of Plenty last month.
The figure was a 41.12 per cent increase on the October 2017 total of 1058.
Bridges said at the time the figures highlighted a "crisis" that was going unchecked, meanwhile, a man who works directly with gang members says public perception needs to change.
"What's depressing for our region and Tauranga is we've got the highest number of gang members in New Zealand," Bridges said.
"This is a crisis ... what worries me greatly is that we're becoming numb to this and it's becoming normalised."
Bridges did not blame the police for the increase, citing a lack of resources to stem growth.
University of Canterbury sociologist and New Zealand gangs expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said the NGL numbers were of "little value".
"We have to be very careful stating them as fact because they're likely to be highly inaccurate. It's very easy to get on [the list] and very difficult to get off.
"That's not to say there isn't been growth in the scene because there is but these exact figures give the impression we are more certain about the percentage growth than we are in reality."