We have a gang problem.

Our MPs have started to say it out loud in the year of an election, cops have known this for decades.

But what do we do?

Like anything, there are some dos and some don'ts.


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Some dos ... do stand up, come forward and make statements about gang behaviour, says Superintendent Tania Kura.

She is right. But when people are scared about retribution, that's challenging.
Consider this though - if we don't step up, who wins?

Awhi each other. Give people brave enough to do this your support. And trust police to support you as well.

Other dos? Understand that the solution is a "sum of its parts" scenario. And try and understand a little more about the power that lies with Maori culture.

Mongrel Mob and Black Power have a high proportion of Maori members, who have gravitated toward their ranks for the lifestyle, and perhaps a bastardised concept of what they think is mana ... money, drugs and power.

Ex-gang members commonly cite the sense of family and belonging that gangs offer, as an attraction.

It makes sense, that someone who has lost their sense of place within their whanau, and their culture, finds a gang culture attractive. And so it makes sense that connecting a gang member with their Maori culture has benefits.


How to do that, though?

There is much to be liked about the rangatahi court that will operate in Hastings.

Young Maori offenders will be introduced (or reintroduced) to tikanga principles, including learning their pepeha and how to communicate the land and the people they are connected to. It is a healthy concept that is universal across all cultures.

And in providing a sense of where you are from, it can help provide a sense of where you are going.

Potentially, a rangatahi court will keep young Maori out of gangs and stop prospective Mob Pups becoming Dogs.

Which still leaves the challenge of reconnecting adult gang members with the culture they were born into.

It would seem logical that the argument behind a rangatahi court could be applied to adult offenders.

And it seems logical that solving the cultural connection conundrum lies within the principles of tikanga Maori, and the traditions that engender pride.

And the answer seems to lie in establishing and enabling that connection proactively, rather than reactively.

The thing is, gang members are not unaware of marae, or the need to respect tikanga, but sadly it is death that often enables a gang member's interaction with a marae.

But marae are not just a place to grieve - they are a place to celebrate, and to learn as well.

Any individual with a sense of place, pride and direction is a powerful person. That can be achieved within Maoridom.

Perhaps it's time more of us acknowledged that Maori culture holds the answer to a large chunk of the gang problem, but Maori should not be blamed for the gang problem nor expected to solve it alone.

Tired, unintelligent, racist rhetoric has no place in this discussion. Perhaps that's the biggest "don't" in this debate.