By Carla Penman

Gang members would be treated like terrorists under a proposed hardline policy, a gang leader says.

The Government yesterday announced an $82 million drug addiction policy, which includes new police powers to search gang members' cars and houses at any time to search for firearms.

During that announcement, Police Minister Paula Bennett said serious criminals had "fewer human rights than others" - a statement which sparked a backlash and led to Prime Minister Bill English acknowledging today that the comment was a mistake.


Tribal Huk leader Jamie Pink, who has been leading an anti-P crusade in Ngaruawahia, told NZH Focus the policy would effectively treat gang members like terrorists.

He says there are powerful syndicates, who don't wear patches on their backs, who are driving the country's P trade.

Pink says the policy's "too heavy handed" and "a cheap shot" from National 19 days out from the election.

University of Canterbury sociologist Jarrod Gilbert agrees with Pink that the policy unfairly targets gang members.

"If we are quite prepared... [to] strip people of human rights in quite sober circumstances... certainly not when there's not a massive pressing threat, yes gangs are an issue, yes methamphetamine is an issue... but nothing that existing provisions can't tackle."

He asks what will happen if the Government is tested much more significantly than at present - say, during a terrorist attack or immediately after.

"If we're prepared to so easily strip away rights now, then I fear what we might do under those circumstances."

Gilbert says gang members are entitled to the same rights as anyone else.


New Zealand Bar Association president Clive Elliott, QC has also condemned Bennett's remarks.

"No matter how unpopular you are or whatever wrong you may have committed, you are entitled to be treated in the same way as anybody else, according to law," Elliott says.

And Green Party leader James Shaw says the Government's approach is deeply concerning and reflects a backward approach to drugs.

"Human rights are not something you can take away from people because it is politically convenient.