Brawls in two nearby North Island centres, including one between Black Power and Mongrel Mob members, resulted in arrests at the weekend but local mayors are defending their area, saying it does not have a gang problem.
Police trying to break up a fight in Wairoa between up to 70 people who had been at two parties were turned on early yesterday.
Detective Sergeant Mick Lander said officers had to back away from the Apatu St area after their patrol car window was smashed by a piece of concrete. Those involved were also armed with pieces of wood and a bat and bottles were thrown at police. Off-duty officers were called to assist.
Three men were arrested and charged with assault and are due to appear in the Gisborne District Court today. Police said yesterday that more arrests were likely.
Three people were taken to hospital, including one man who was initially flown to Hastings Hospital with head injuries. The 33-year-old was later flown to Waikato Hospital and was last night in a critical condition.
The fight was not thought to have been between rival gang members as reported in an earlier police statement.
But on Saturday night, police were called to break up a fight between Black Power and Mongrel Mob members on Ormond Rd, Gisborne, shortly after 11pm. Emergency services recorded 12 111 calls made about the fight. No arrests were made.
The incident follows a string of gang confrontations in the area, the latest in December.
Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said Saturday night's brawl was the first time in years the town had had a major gang fight. He said the nearby town of Wairoa was worse.
"They've been around for a long time in our district. It would be nice if they traded their patches for Maori wardens or something better. Wairoa tends to have flare-ups more often. It's sort of like a stronghold."
But Wairoa Mayor Les Probert said that was untrue.
"Of course we don't have a gang problem. People are always saying that of course, going back into history, but we have no more of a gang problem then anywhere else in New Zealand.
"We haven't had any problems here for a while. There are young people causing problems all over New Zealand and the Government is bringing out legislation hopefully to deal with it."