A hushed residential cul-de-sac where Whangārei locals kept to themselves was the unexpected scene of a drive-by shooting that has shocked the city's leader.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai was enormously grateful no one inside the house on Brunner Tce in Kamo was injured, or worse – killed, when it was targeted in a drive-by shooting believed to be gang-related around 6.30pm last Friday.
"I am horrified by this crime ... this kind of thing is not normal in Whangārei or Northland," she said.
Shortly after the shooting a stolen white Toyota Hiace van was found burning less than 1km away at the end of Lewis St. Visible signs of the blaze remained on the road at the end of the quiet 200m long cul-de-sac.
Police believed the torching of the van – stolen from Pataua North earlier that same afternoon – was linked to the drive-by.
A resident, who did not want to be named, said she had seen armed police on the street but was unsure about what had happened - until yesterday when Northland Police made the shooting public.
News of the drive-by had both shocked and frightened her.
"At night our street is dead silent. We're all inside our homes just doing our own thing. We all keep to ourselves so it's hard to imagine there would be this kind of thing happening."
Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Crawford, Whangārei CIB, has appealed for the public's help for information about any sightings of the Toyota Hiace van, registration CEA315, its arson, or about the drive-by.
The gun violence comes at a time when the Government has taken steps to make it illegal for "high risk" people including gang members and serious criminals to own firearms.
A new bill to be introduced will involve Firearm Prohibition Orders (FPOs) to combat the "influence of gangs and organised crime to help keep New Zealanders and their families safe", Police Minister Poto Williams said.
A person subject to an FPO would not be able to own, use, access or be around firearms (unless securely stored). They would need to specifically commit a crime, go through a court process, and qualify under the FPO conditions, Williams said.
Serious firearms offences, serious violent offences, an offence of participation in an organised criminal group, and terrorism related offences under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 are included as qualifying offences.
The move comes after growing concern about gang violence and illegal firearms, prompted by a spate of nationwide incidents including a recent shooting incident outside Auckland's Sofitel Hotel – believed to involve the Mongols and Head Hunters.
Three people have been arrested in Northland by police in relation to the serious firearms incident – with a total of seven apprehended so far.
The most recent was on Tuesday when police arrested a 25-year-old man following a search warrant in Whananaki. Six days prior a 48-year-old man was arrested and charged after being found at the same Kerikeri address as a 27-year-old man, who has been charged with serious firearms offences.
The FPOs were supported by Mai, who said she backed any initiative that reduced the risk of firearm harm to innocent people.
"The important thing here is for the community to work with the police. We all need to work together to set standards for our communities."
Anyone with information can contact Crawford on 09 430 4570 or Crimestoppers anonymously, referencing Operation Brantley, on 0800 555 111.