Pockets of violent clashes between patches nationwide are the result of an expanding gang scene, an expert says.
University of Canterbury sociologist and New Zealand gang expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said the expansion that started around 11 to 12 years ago has caused violent "growing pains".
Those pains most recently played out in Kaikohe this week where a spate of "unusual" brutality took place between once-linked gangs the Tribesmen and Killer Beez.
Police were first called to a confrontation between the two patches on Sunday at around 5pm on Tawa St.
Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Dalzell said nobody was injured during the disorder.
However, officers were called back five hours later and arrested a man for unlawful possession of a firearm.
Tensions boiled over on Monday in a third clash where an eyewitness reportedly saw more than 20 gang members beat a patched rival on Kaikohe's main street at about 1.50pm.
The passerby alleged the attackers stomped on the man's head during the assault on lower Broadway.
A day later a man was shot in the leg during a fourth showdown that unravelled on Aerodrome Rd, off Mangakahia Rd/SH15, south of Kaikohe.
When emergency services arrived about 12.30pm the man was reportedly unconscious on the ground beside his vehicle. He was taken to Whangārei Hospital in a moderate condition.
Gilbert said the "conditions were currently set for gang violence" as the Killer Beez - once a "feeder" to the Tribesmen - began to set themselves as their own entity.
He said members of the Tribesmen - most notably Josh Masters - started the Killer Beez in 2003 because traditional gangs lacked appeal for younger people.
"Masters established an LA street style gang that was the Killer Beez. What has happened subsequently was that the young lion has begun to challenge the old lion for his domain.
"The Killer Beez have grown bigger and stronger and now feel like they are an entity in and of themselves. They've broken those shackles if you will," Gilbert said.
"There are rules within the gang scene ... but there has been some serious antagonism between the two gangs in recent years and often that means the rules can disappear."
The fallout of which is being felt throughout the Far North town.
A Kaikohe business owner hopes the violence of recent days was a ''tipping point'' that
will force police — and the wider community — to tackle the town's gang problem.
On Thursday evening the Kaikohe Business Association called a meeting of community leaders to discuss what needed to be done to make the town safe again.
It was attended by business owners, social workers, district councillors, MSD, the Far North's acting police Area Commander Dene Begbie, former MP Shane Jones and others.
Jones said only a ''major increase'' in police visibility would give townsfolk confidence to start addressing the problem.
''The community can't solve this if they don't have a robust police backup ... Visibility will empower people to stand up to an element that is out of control, quite frankly.''
Jones, who had seen CCTV footage of Monday's assault on Broadway, described it as ''gruesome'' and ''feral''.
''We're sick of this stuff, it just grinds us down.''
Pastor Mike Shaw said many people in the town felt it was under-served by police. The station itself was run-down, often closed and had an air of abandonment.
There were also serious gaps in truancy services with a lot of work needed to get disengaged kids back into school or alternative education.
All too often governments lavished money on Kaikohe when there was a crisis, then forgot it again once the immediate problems were over.
In the outcry that followed a group of children trying to kick in the doors of a service station in 2017, ''every politician in the country turned up, they threw money at the town and a youth centre was set up''.
However, the centre closed when funding ran out a few years later, and it was back to square one for the town's youth.
Far North District councillor John Vujcich agreed Kaikohe youth needed more to do.
With an average age of 28 — compared to Kerikeri's 48 — Kaikohe was probably the youngest town in New Zealand.
Hopes were high when the Provincial Growth Fund granted $6.2m for a new sports complex in 2020, but the project seemed to have stalled even though 90 per cent of the funding was in place, Vujcich said.
The Advocate raised this point with Gilbert, who said it was an "incredibly important" one.
"Whenever we see violence we tend to say this a law and order problem, the police need to solve this.
"Now, the police are very effective at dealing with acute issues of violence. However, the medium and longer-term strategies to deal with the broader social and economic issues at play that create gangs and lead young people into joining gangs are not a police matter."
He said they required contributions from other Government agencies and communities.
"Even more than that, the drivers for gang formation and membership stem from educational underachievement, violence in the home, overcrowded houses, drug and alcohol abuse, family violence.
"These are the things that feed the gangs without question. Unless we're prepared to meaningfully tackle those then gangs will always endure."
Gilbert said young people especially needed alternatives that give them the same social and psychological elements that gangs provided.
"They don't join the gang for no reason. It's because it's providing them with something, if you want to get them out then you need to provide them with those same things in a different way."
Another participant at Thursday's meeting, who did not want to be named, said the Killer Beez were actively recruiting among children as young as 11-13 who felt lost and were easily lured by the supposed glamour of gangs.
Glamour amplified by media, Gilbert noted when asked by the Advocate.
"A lot of younger gangs are looking for a sense of status and without question, the undue publicity that they are given is feeding them status. It is exacerbating the problem," he said.
"The gangs make great headlines ... they're deeply interesting. If you were to list the top three issues within crime and justice in NZ gangs wouldn't be in the top three and yet they get far more column inches and political commentary."
Solutions to Kaikohe's gang problems proposed at Thursday's meeting were measures such as seminars by ex-gang members or school visits with ''hard kōrero''.
A participant said engaging with the gangs — especially older members who didn't condone what was going on — was essential to avoid an ''us and them situation''.
Shaw said the town had a number of men in their 40s who were keen to start a community patrol.
''They're not angels but they live here and they want it to be safe for their kids,'' he said.
New World Kaikohe owner Darren Huston said the gangs seemed to believe they could carry out a brazen assault on Broadway and get away with it.
''Doing what they do behind closed doors is one thing. Doing it on the main street is, I hope, a tipping point for the police.''
Acting Far North police Area Commander Dene Begbie, who attended the meeting at short notice, took the comments on board.
''We've got to look at having people there and being visible, and we are doing that already. We have a number of extra staff in Kaikohe now conducting the investigation into the matters that have happened and we have staff doing reassurance work with the community and some of the businesses,'' Begbie said.
''But we're always looking at our deployment and how we can support the community. That's ongoing.''
Meanwhile, another eight alleged offenders appeared in court on Friday — all but one of whom was still in their teens.
Seven youths appeared in the Kaikohe Youth Court jointly charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, namely a cut-down .22 rifle.
The charge is believed to relate to an incident on Broadway, Kaikohe, about 1.50pm on Monday in which one man was assaulted by a large group of youths and men.
The victim suffered head and other injuries and was taken to Whangārei Hospital. The youths are aged 15-17 and live in Kaikohe and cannot be named for legal reasons.
Meanwhile, Joseph Hepi, 23, appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Friday charged with unlawful possession of a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.
His charge stems from an earlier incident on March 13.
Hepi, a forestry worker, is due back in court on April 5.
Three other men appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Thursday.
Peter Edward Moeau, 35, of Ōkaihau, who was charged with unlawful possession of a .22 rifle, possession of cannabis and cultivation of cannabis.
Rainer Mark Hereora, 34, of Waikare, was charged with having an air rifle in a public place.
Both were remanded in custody until a bail application hearing on March 31.
A 34-year-old Kaikohe man appeared for allegedly possessing shotgun ammunition but his charge has been resolved.