Politicians have long talked, generally in election years, about banning gangs, but it will never happen.

Not in a free society. For all their nefarious activities, a blanket ban would run counter to every democratic principle we hold dear, including freedom of association.

The best we can hope for is that the police will arrest gang members when they break the law, as they do, and that the courts will punish them accordingly.

And when that doesn't happen, it's up to us to make it clear that some anti-social behaviour, even if not regarded by the law as criminal, is totally unacceptable.

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That is the case with the two men who harassed three German tourists at Ahipara, telling them that they were on Maori land and must pay koha, and share their cigarettes.

They were also invited to employ these two cretins as guides if they wanted to know where they should try fishing.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis has more than once lamented the departure such behaviour represents from the Maori tradition of manaakitanga, the displaying of hospitality for which Maori are known and respected in this country and around the world.

Police have decided, probably rightly, that no criminal offence was committed. The tourists were upset and intimidated, one of them reduced to tears, but it wasn't clear that the 'offenders' had threatened or unlawfully detained them, at least not clear enough to warrant charging them, despite the victims' claim that they had been told to leave for Auckland immediately, for their own safety.

These two men, according to the police, are well known members of the Mongrel Mob. A good name that. Why any organisation would choose such a name defies rational explanation, but then so does much of the gang's behaviour.

We can all understand the appeal of out and out criminality, perhaps, particularly when money is to be made, but that's about as far as it goes. Those who succumb to the temptation to bail up three easily-intimidated tourists in the hope of picking up a few bob, and some cigarettes, have no place here or in any civilised society.

These Mongrels (a mongrel is defined as a person of mixed descent, which we all are, or less offensively as a dog of indeterminate breed, not the result of intentional breeding) offended against us all when they soured these tourists' experience in the Far North.

The best that can be said is that they are a couple of clowns, of less malignant intent than the two Kaitaia men who have been jailed and sentenced to home detention respectively for their part in robbing two tourists, also at Ahipara, in March last year, after scaring the wits out of them and assaulting one.

It's a fine line though between physically attacking a vehicle and a person and placing them in a position where they fear that they might be hurt.

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The inevitable outcome is that the victims will go home and spread the word that New Zealand, or at least the Far North, is a dangerous place, a destination to be avoided. Therein lies these drongoes' offence against their community.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis has more than once lamented the departure such behaviour represents from the Maori tradition of manaakitanga, the displaying of hospitality for which Maori are known and respected in this country and around the world. Making visitors welcome is fundamental to Maori (and Far North) culture, a tradition that makes behaviour of this kind even more egregious.

It cannot even be defended as some sort of moral stand against the even unwitting abuse of Maori land rights, an issue that has gained some prominence at Ahipara over recent years.

This was simply an attempt to rob these tourists, even if the law doesn't quite see it that way, or not sufficiently clearly to lay charges, an attempt to fleece them, on the assumption that they could be coerced into paying for access to the beach and the 'privilege' of holidaying there.

There would be little point in trying to explain to these two men that the economy that provides them with the means of feeding themselves increasingly depends upon the tourist industry. Quite apart from their right to feel safe and to be safe from molestation, every visitor who comes here contributes to that economy, without being robbed.

We can be thankful that the practice of looting tourists' vehicles has waned over recent years. There was a time when anyone who parked at Cape Reinga, Te Paki or any of several other popular tourist attractions did so at great risk of losing everything but the clothes they were standing in.

That still happens, as often as not at Ahipara, but not with the same regularity that it once did. And it might still be some consolation, albeit not an excuse, that it is not only the Far North that saw/sees tourists as easy pickings.

Three young Irish women who lost almost everything they possessed at Te Paki some years ago told the writer that stealing from tourists was as bad if not worse in their country.

On the other hand there have been numerous stories of tourists who have travelled the world, including some of the poorest countries on the planet, where genuine poverty might provide some excuse for stealing from supposedly wealthy foreigners, who had had only good experiences until they arrived here.

Quite apart from the indisputable fact that stealing from tourists has a negative effect on the visitor industry's ability to create employment and reward those who invest in it, preying on visitors, even in the bumbling, inept manner displayed by these two men at Ahipara, is a source of enormous shame to those who set themselves a higher standard of behaviour, and whose natural inclination is to make visitors welcome.

There is nothing quite as soul-destroying as talking to someone who has come here to enjoy all that this place has to offer, and who is preparing to go home without the possessions they worked hard, often over many years, to acquire, and worse, without the fond memories that they had been expecting from what for most was the holiday of a lifetime. Without exception they are sad, disillusioned and, despite often benefiting from great generosity in recompense, inconsolable.

It is often of no solace at all to them that the great majority of Far Northerners are kind, generous, welcoming people, or that many of them respond with compassion when their plight becomes known. In the writer's experience the beneficiaries of such kindness are unfailingly grateful, but the damage has been done. In almost every case, all they want to do is go home, as quickly as they can.

Three young Germans can no doubt be added to that list of shame now, because they had the bad luck to run into two idiots who were looking to score a few dollars and some cigarettes with no effort on their part.

The victims were understandably anxious to leave Ahipara, but, to their great credit, they did not do so before buying some beer for the local person who had pulled their vehicle out of soft sand. They bought and delivered the beer under police protection, hardly needed perhaps, but it was not difficult to understand their fear of further intimidation.

They were much better guests than these two Mongrels/mongrels were hosts.

'Mongrel' has long been a derogatory term, although British author Jilly Cooper once wrote a book to prove that dogs of 'indeterminate breeding' could be intelligent and loyal, qualities that do not seem to be shared by human counterparts.