A newcomer to the Bay of Plenty gang scene, the notorious Mongol Nation, has become involved in more tit-for-tat conflict with a rival gang.
The Mongols are one of the most notorious bikie gangs in the world and their arrival in the region last year - the first chapter in New Zealand - has fuelled simmering tensions with chapters of gangs already established in Tauranga, such as the Greazy Dogs and the Mongrel Mob.
About 20 patched Mongols are believed to be under the leadership of a 28-year-old man deported from Australia in 2018, JD Thacker, one of thousands of "501s" so nicknamed because of the "character grounds" section of the Australian immigration law used to remove them.
Police had warned that Australian newcomers such as the Mongols and Comancheros would radically change the criminal landscape because they were hardened from inter-gang warfare with firearms.
It didn't take long for conflict to arise. Earlier this year, a barbershop linked to the Mongols was hit by a suspicious fire and, in retaliation, nearly 100 bullets were fired at a home of a Mongrel Mob leader.
This led to a daytime shootout on a rural road in Te Puke, although peace talks between the Mongols and the Mongrel Mob seem to have eased tensions since.
Two associates of the Mongols were arrested on a charge of unlawful possession of a pistol in February, and in April another associate was charged with possession of a semi-automatic rifle, methamphetamine, and $40,000 cash.
• From Harley Davidson to wheelchair: Inside the downfall of Killer Beez boss
• Patching over: Mongrel Mob leader's brother, nephew join rival Comanchero
• Gangs of New Zealand: Why gang numbers spiked by 50 per cent
• Inside the gang tensions which brought Tauranga to a standstill
• How a Sydney airport brawl changed NZ's gang scene forever
• The rise and fall of Josh Masters and the Killer Beez
• Inside the comedy of errors in NZ's biggest drug bust
While a truce of sorts has been reached between the Mongols and Mongrel Mob, the Herald understands simmering tensions between the Mongols - marked by their distinctive symbol of Genghis Khan riding a motorcycle - and the Greazy Dogs gang are close to boiling point.
A large number of Greazy Dogs recently turned up at the Matapihi home of a senior Mongol, the sergeant-at-arms known as "Wolf".
A fight broke out in which some neighbours reported hearing gunshots, although others say no weapons were fired. No one was shot and police did not find any bullet or shell casings left behind.
Vastly outnumbered, the Mongol and his family - including a heavily pregnant woman - fled by jumping over a high fence at the back of the property. One of the family members suffered a badly fractured ankle from the high drop.
The Mongol member is alleged to have been carrying two shotguns with him, which he stashed in the property of a frightened neighbour for safekeeping.
He was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and declined bail when he appeared in the Tauranga District Court last week.
The police investigation is ongoing to identify the Greazy Dogs involved. The Herald was unable to reach Tauranga police for comment.
The confrontation is the latest in a string of incidents in which the Mongols have been targeted by rivals since establishing themselves in the Bay of Plenty last year.
A few months before the barber shop was vandalised and burned, three cars parked outside the Papamoa home where senior Mongols were living were destroyed in a suspicious fire.
The arrival of the Mongols - who went on to "patch over" disaffected members of their arch rivals, the Hells Angels, in Christchurch - comes at a time of unprecedented growth in gang numbers.
Police data shows gang members now number more than 7000 for the first time, up 50 per cent between December 2016 and December 2019. In the Bay of Plenty alone there are 1439 gang members - the most of any police district.
One reason for the growth is the arrival of the Australian gangs dating back to 2010 - first the Rebels, then the Bandidos and Comancheros - as well as a recruitment drive in response to the newcomers from existing New Zealand gangs such as the Head Hunters, Filthy Few and Mongrel Mob.
Profits from New Zealand's burgeoning and lucrative methamphetamine market is also a factor in the spike in gang numbers, police allege.
"New Zealand isn't a big place. Everyone was sharing the market, taking their slice of the pie," Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said last year.
"But we've seen gang numbers grow, arming up [with firearms], which shows that something has changed."
The Mongols were first established in the United States in 1969 and spread to 12 other countries, including Australia recently where they quickly earned a reputation for ruthless violence.
Law enforcement spokesmen consider the Mongols to be the "most violent and dangerous" motorcycle gang in the US.
A decade-long prosecution ended in December 2018 with a Californian jury finding the Mongol Nation to be a criminal enterprise guilty of racketeering, conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and drug dealing.
The case was the result of an investigation, Operation Black Rain, in which four undercover agents successfully infiltrated the Mongols to become full-patch members.
Four other agents also went undercover to pose as their girlfriends. The undercover agents developed and maintained biker personas, and they had to undergo rigorous scrutiny by the Mongols to be accepted as members.
When one of the agents received his patch, one of the gang's members said: "Being a Mongol promises you one of two things – death or prison."