A prominent Mongrel Mob president claims National’s gang policies are devastating, a breach of their human rights, and will create a “psychological war”.
Speaking exclusively to the Herald, Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom leader Sonny Fatupaito said after reading up on the proposals, he believes they will cause chaos.
“I think that punishing everybody actually feels like it’s a prison.”
He said the dispersal notice policy, which would give police power to hand out seven-day public non-association orders to those they suspect are in gangs, would prevent people from attending tangihanga, birthdays and other events they should have a right to be at.
This, Fatupaito said, would particularly impact those who have siblings in gang organisations.
National’s proposed gang policies also include making gang membership an aggravating factor at sentencing, with the intention that convicted gang members would face “tougher consequences” for their crimes.
As well as this, the party would ban gang patches in public places and boost police powers to enable warrant-less searches to find guns held by gang members, to prevent some gang members from communicating and to restrict their public meetings.
Although Fatupaito said banning gang patches wouldn’t be as much of an issue for his chapter because they wore it in their hearts, he said others would struggle.
“I feel that we have every right to be like every New Zealander, they have the same rights that we should have. The right to be to express who we are, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, it’s a human right.”
He believed they had made “tremendous progress” over the last few years and although he said National’s policies would have a negative impact, he was open to sitting down with them.
“The Kingdom has always had an open-door policy with anyone, especially politicians, you know, if they wanted to come down and sit down and allow us to be part of the process.”
National’s police spokesman Mark Mitchell said they would not be “threatened or intimidated” by gang members.
“If you choose to remain in gangs, peddling drugs and misery in our communities, life will be a lot more difficult under a National-led Government.
”There is a simple solution though. Leave the gangs at once. National will work with and support any gang members, especially those with families, who wish to leave and rejoin society.”
Fatupaito also raised concerns about those who were whānau of gang members who could be impacted, and feared the relationship local police had built with some chapters may suffer.
“It must be hard for some of the police, you know, they got those positive relationships [with gangs] and now they’ve been told, you know, you have to go in there and go kick them in the balls.”
His message to other gang leaders was to start looking after their people and educate them about the proposed policies.
Act, which will be in government with National, wants to introduce Gang Control Orders to crack down on gang members and increase the power police have to seize assets of members found with illegal firearms.
Both parties would use the National Gang List to implement the policies. The list has been criticised for its limitations, with gang expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert telling RNZ in 2021 the list could be “double the reality”.
Paula Ormsby, the leader of the Wāhine Toa women’s chapter, said what concerned her most about the policies were how broad the dispersal notices were.
“Basically, the police can issue a dispersal notice to anyone that they reasonably suspect of being a member of an identified criminal organisation. So again, that ‘reasonably suspect’ is open to police interpretation.”
She felt the policies would be, “making our culture actually illegal to practice”.
“This consorting prohibition notice, around stopping gang members from associating and then they’re not able to communicate with each other for three years. That’s going to destroy families. It’s absolutely going to destroy families. They’re ripping us apart, all I see is divide and conquer here.”
Ormsby said Labour made progress around policing and communicating with gangs, and now she believes National will “turn it all upside down”.
Katie Harris is an Auckland-based journalist who covers social issues including sexual assault, workplace misconduct, crime and justice. She joined the Herald in 2020.