National's proposed gang crackdown will fail because it does not address the root cause of gangs - poverty - says a prominent gang leader.
Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom president Sonny Fatupaito said the party's law and order proposals reprised old policies which had "failed miserably" and "terrorised Māori ... for generations".
Fatupaito said his gang chapter was formed "out of the ashes of poverty" and that gangs were the most marginalised people in the country.
"If any decent political party was serious about tackling gang issues, they would first tackle and eliminate poverty," he said.
"Therefore, how can any decent minded citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand take Simon Bridges' rhetoric seriously?"
Bridges yesterday released a law and order discussion document, which included a special police unit focused on gangs.
Modelled on the Strike Force Raptor Unit in New South Wales, it would "harass and disrupt" gangs by making it illegal for gang members to hang out with other gang members, shut down gang headquarters for unconsented work, inspect tax records for fraud, or check for liquor licences if alcohol was served at a gang pad.
The party has previously proposed requiring gang members to prove they have no illegal income before getting approved for welfare.
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Fatupaito has led a transformation of his gang chapter over the last two years, which has included an unusual peace deal with fierce rival Black Power. Police remain sceptical about the rebranding, saying that it appears designed to attract new recruits.
The gang president questioned the success of the Strike Force Raptor Unit in Australia, which has absorbed significant resources while failing to stem the rise of gang members or gang-related crime in the country.
He noted the Australian Ombudsman's finding that the unit disproportionately targeted non-gang citizens and Aboriginal citizens.
Fatupaito said he predicated an Australian-style crackdown in New Zealand last year because of the influx of "501s" or Australian deportees from motorcycle gangs, who had led to a rise in gang numbers, drug crime, and violence here.
These problems would not be solved through populist policies, he said.
"Mr Bridges' 'dog whistle' politics are great at playing on people's fears and anxieties but not so good at solving any problems.
"Bridges seeks to blame instead of seeking to understand. What is clear and what politicians need to quickly come to understand, is that we won't address societal problems unless we understand the political and social drivers that shape our lives and our communities."
He invited Bridges to meet with him "to witness for himself first-hand what the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom has achieved in a short time".
"This is no PR stunt, as with Simon Bridges' latest vote-pulling escapade. We will continue to educate, empower and enable our whānau to lead more productive, constructive, positive and healthier lifestyles."
Police said at a press conference earlier this year that New Zealand gangs were evolving, but not fast enough.
"They're legitimising themselves, or trying to and engendering public sympathy," Detective Sergeant Ray Sunkel said.