The boxing event at Portland on Saturday tells us that gangs are well entrenched in Northland.

It's something that police know only too well.

On the face of it, the event was about gangs settling differences in the ring.

One fighter donned an anti-meth T-shirt. Meth is big currency for gangs.
They make it, distribute it, sell it.


Meth is at the core of a lot of gang disputes, one fighter observed.

Organising the event would have taken a significant amount of co-operation and co-ordination between rival gangs.

Selling tickets, for example - it's likely certain numbers of tickets would have been allocated to certain gangs.

Otherwise, one gang could dominate numbers in the crowd - and that could be a bad thing. And seating arrangements - much like organising a wedding for two dysfunctional families, who sat next to whom would be important.

The event was alcohol-free - on the face of it a responsible thing.

And there was apparently a strange atmosphere within the venue.

If it was all about the boxing, the crowd weren't showing much enthusiasm. They sat in their ranks.

A local dance crew performed, obviously with no qualms about being associated with a gang event.

Outside in the rain, the police did what they could. They stopped multiple people at checkpoints, made several arrests and issued a lot of tickets. Inside, the Portland Events Centre, an unprecedented gathering of gang leaders and members.

If it's all about the settling differences in New Zealand, what were the Australian gangs doing here? A boxing event? Or a "conference" about how rival "businesses" can work together so they all benefit.

Methamphetamine is a relatively simple business model. You need raw product, manufacturers, distributors, sales people and customers.

It's no different from making pies.

Except you are unlikely to be locked up for baking pies, or rob a dairy high on steak and cheese.

Northlanders need to decide whether this is the sort of event we want to become known for.

The boxing event brought New Zealand gangs together, and it grabbed the attention of Australians as well.

Criminals networking, strengthening their power base.

If it was truly about settling differences and stopping the damage meth causes, they will put down their tools and walk away. If that happens in the next few months, or year, then the boxing event was about a truce - not war.

If meth continues to wreck the lives of Northlanders, then Whangarei has just become the venue for what organisers hope will become an annual gang event.

And we need people other than police to resist.

Community leaders and ordinary people need to stand up and say "we've had enough, we don't want your people or your product here".