The six-month extension to police Operation Tauwhiro, which targets organised crime, dominated news headlines when it was announced in September.
But what does the takedown of criminal groups actually mean to the everyday Northlander?
The Advocate caught up with Detective Inspector Bridget Doell, of the Criminal Investigation Branch, to talk about how everyone benefitted from steps to counter organised crime.
"There are organised crime members in all of our communities," she said. "They are preying on and hurting vulnerable people...whether it is a family member, friend or neighbour."
Hence why nationwide operations such as Tauwhiro were crucial to disrupt and prevent serious offending by organised crime groups.
In the six months since Operation Tauwhiro was launched in February to prevent gun violence among criminal groups, 987 firearms and $5m cash was seized, and 865 arrests were made.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the first initiative in the Organised Crime Strategy had made a "significant impact" in targeting the harm caused by those groups.
A key element of the strategy was to address the social drivers behind organised crime and the harm it breeds.
Doell said criminal groups hurt communities by exploiting people's drug addictions – profiting as they did so.
"Organised crime groups have no regard for the devastation or harm caused to vulnerable people in our community who are addicted to drugs."
She said drug users were known to commit high-volume crimes such as car thefts, burglaries and fraud in a bid to fund their drug habits.
"Drug addiction reaches all communities and no part of our society is immune.
"Having a relative, friend, or neighbour who is addicted to methamphetamine doesn't just affect them, it affects everyone around them and the impact is significant."
The proof was in the personal stories shared from Te Ara Oranga, Northland's Methamphetamine Harm Reduction initiative launched collectively by the district health board and police in 2017.
A Whangārei mother said she hit pause on her relationship with her son, whose meth addiction drove him to overdose, until he had been clean for two years.
"I fully understand when people say to me meth destroys families because that's what it's done to my family. Including my parents, my other children, my son's children, the school," she said.
"As wide as you could look, there's been an effect."
Other harm included the "fear" of serious offending by organised crime groups, Doell said.
Police had seen "many cases" of violent clashes between gangs boil over in a public setting where "there is a risk to the general public".
"This causes fear and uncertainty in the community and we take any serious crime such as this seriously, as we want our community to feel safe."
Gang members of the National Gang List (NGL) were involved in a number of firearms incidents in Northland.
From March 2019 to July 2021, New Zealand police attended 50 shootings that involved people recorded on the National Gang List, according to Gun Safe data.
This is from a total 307 shootings nationwide. Of those, 21 were in Northland. The most occurred in Counties Manukau (63), and the least in Tasman (3).
However, the Gun Safe database does not record whether the gang members fired the shot/s, were a target or a bystander - just that they were involved.
Police did not disclose the districts where these 50 shootings involving patched members unfolded, to avoid identifying those involved.
Doell said sometimes gangs selling drugs in another gang's patch was a catalyst for conflict – but causes could vary.
So who are the organised crime groups in Northland?
National Gang List (NGL) data revealed 15 gangs resided in the region, with a total membership of 405 patched members – the most members recorded since the list was established in 2016.
Twelve gangs were recorded as being in Northland when the NGL first started. This peaked in 2019 and 2020 with 17 but dipped this year, with Comanchero and Mothers motorcycle clubs removed from the list for the region.
Motorcycle gangs Bandidos, Filthy Few, Head Hunters, Hells Angels, Highway 61, Outcasts, Rebels and Tribesmen continued their longstanding presence in Northland. This was alongside Black Power, Killer Beez, King Cobra, Mongrel Mob, New Zealand Nomad and Stormtrooper.
But Greazy Dogs Motorcycle Club, whose original foothold was in the Bay of Plenty, was a new addition to Northland this year, according to the NGL.
University of Canterbury criminologist Professor Emeritus Greg Newbold said gangs were hyped by media and politicians.
"There are organised crime groups that aren't gang-related. They aren't as visible but they're still highly active."
He said there were instances where families had formed criminal groups but flew under the radar.
"They don't use violence and the police definition of organised crime is that they use violence to achieve what they want."
However, Newbold said these alternative criminal groups were more prevalent in bigger cities. The Northland experience mostly involved gangs.
"Police can't stamp it out but they can control it, keep it down to manageable levels and stop it from affecting the lives of the average citizen."
Doell said people can play a part in the solution by reporting suspected drug offending or suspicious behaviour to police – and to be "brave" if the person is a close family or friend.
Alternative pathways and existing opportunities were key to supporting people away from patched culture and towards positively contributing to society, Doell said.
"We need to try to break the cycle for younger generations so that they see a better future and a life outside of gangs. However, this is not just a police or justice issue."
The "whole community" would need to work together to make a "real difference", she said.
An example was Te Mira – a Kaikohe boxing gym, which provides re-integration via health awareness for people, predominately ex-gang members, who have been through the justice system and are most at risk.
Gym members receive support in the form of drug rehabilitation, family violence issues, mentoring and role modelling; and are connected to employment opportunities via the Ngā Puhi Iwi Social Services.
Northland police District Māori Responsiveness manager Sheryl Davis said Te Mira encouraged teamwork and modelled what the right support can help a person achieve.
Getting support right – especially within the community - was crucial as Northland's demographics had "different needs at different times".
"It's hard at times to quantify the positive effect it has but we can think about what happens when the harm from weapons and drugs, and so-called wealth and money, stops continuing in our communities," Davis said.