Napier MP Stuart Nash has hit out at Napier mayor Kirsten Wise for publicly stating concerns for the safety of her city, and has suggested her council should enact a gang patch ban instead.
Wise told media this week that people in her city believe they are unsafe. Her comments were published the morning before Outlaws Motorcycle Club member Peter Michael Lui was fatally stabbed in Napier's Pandora industrial area.
"I've written to the Minister of Police, following the community meeting last week, to say that the people of Napier are very concerned about their safety in their streets and in their neighbourhood," she said.
Napier MP Stuart Nash said the mayor putting that narrative in the national media was high-risk.
"I don't think Napier is unsafe at all, but going out and telling the country, through the national media that Napier is unsafe is very risky," he said.
In response, Wise told Hawke's Bay Today she remained concerned about the escalation of crime in the city, and said her council had limited power to deal with it.
"I will continue to advocate for greater support from central government and will be asking that they partner with us to find the right solutions for the Napier community," she said.
Nash told Hawke's Bay Today that Napier, like every city has their issues, and acknowledged that the area has a gang problem.
"In my three years as Minister of Police what I know is the gangs do not target civilians," he said.
Nash said incidents, like the shooting at Thirsty Whale, where innocent bystanders were caught up is rare.
"Sure, we had an incident in Ahuriri, which was unfortunate, and we had an incident in Taradale about two years ago, but by and large these are gangs fighting gangs," he said.
Nash said gang patches were intimidating to the public and he called on Wise and council to enact a bylaw.
"You are not allowed to wear a gang patch at any central government office or agency, the council has the ability to do exactly that now," he said.
"They could say 'in any Council building or facility you're not allowed to wear a gang patch', this also relates to sports grounds and playgrounds."
Nash on Wednesday took to social media, replying to a Central Hawke's Bay councillor's comment on the mayor's Facebook post regarding her national interview.
Councillor Jerry Greer commented on the post and congratulated the mayor and added they just need "local members of Parliament to go into bat for us a lot harder."
Nash replied to this and said: "Jerry Greer what total BS! How about the Napier council get hard and ban gang patches from all council sports and playgrounds. I would back this move but central government can't implement this; only the council can."
When asked about his reply and use of the term "BS" the MP told Hawke's Bay Today that he will call people out who he fundamentally disagrees with.
"The implication there is that the local MPs are sitting there and doing nothing - this couldn't be further from the truth," he said.
"We stand up for our local communities."
Greer said he was offended by what Nash said and expected a more articulated response.
"It's not becoming of an elected parliamentarian to our region to handle a public comment like that. I was quite taken aback actually," he said.
Nash said in response that English is a "colourful language and so I decided to give him a colourful response".
Nash said gangs are more visible than they were five or 10 years ago and violence for gang on gang is increasing but he said it has always existed, ever since they formed.
"In Hawke's Bay it has been exacerbated by the 501s coming in from Australia, starting chapters, and what you're seeing in response to that is the patching up of the big ethnic gangs," he said.
He said the Government is working hard to deal with the situation and are building more housing, providing opportunities for young people outside of the gangs; they've increased penalties for gun crime and are increasing the police's ability to seize assets from the proceeds of crime.
Wise said Napier City Council would focusing on what they can do and were investigating the option of implementing an ambassador approach in the city, similar to the Hastings City Assist patrols and planning to expand and upgrade the CCTV network.
"In the meantime, our CBD and community patrollers continue to work with police to focus on hot spots," she added.