National's plan for a specialist police Strike Force Raptor gang unit is back - in everything but name.
"It will be 'The Gang Unit' not 'Strike Force Raptor' because that's an Australian term and we're very clear about what we do - we use plain language here in the National Party," said leader Judith Collins
"It is 'The Gang Unit'."
National made headlines last year when it proposed an elite police squad to target and harass gang members modelled on the Strike Force Raptor unit in New South Wales.
Their Raptor unit can check for liquor licences if booze was served at a gang pad, inspect tax records for welfare fraud, take away drivers' licences if traffic fines were unpaid, and use council rules to shut down gang clubhouses for shoddy workmanship or unconsented work.
The hardline Raptor unit was also partnered with a strict immigration policy which saw hundreds of "501s" deported to New Zealand. The Herald revealed last year this changed New Zealand's criminal landscape.
Then-leader Simon Bridges strongly endorsed Raptor calling it "devastatingly effective", but criminologists and former detectives said the plan had not worked in Australia.
National's police spokesman Brett Hudson this year then made a U-turn on the policy, telling RNZ if elected they would not direct the police to set up a specialist unit akin to Strike Force Raptor.
"I wouldn't step too far over the line to be seen to be directing police on how they deal with their operational procedures and models. The police commissioner has that responsibility," Hudson said in June.
But the specialist gang unit is back on National's books in their law and order policy document released on Tuesday morning.
Bridges, now justice spokesman, was asked if the proposal was any different to Strike Force Raptor.
"In terms of the policy - no," he said.
"It's very much modelled what they've done there and that's because it's worked. It's going after the gangs, harassing and disrupting them everyday and making sure the police have the resources to do it."
And he rejected the Strike Force Raptor unit had become a laughing stock.
"No, it's something to show New Zealanders that we mean business but obviously that's the name for New South Wales, not the name for New Zealand."
Bridges promised to implement the specialist unit "as soon as possible" if elected.
National would also target gangs by:
• Give police greater powers to search the homes and cars of violent gang members
for firearms through Firearm Prohibition Orders.
• Create new criminal offences targeting violent gang crime and introducing tougher sentences for gang-related crime.
• Set tougher parole conditions for gang members who return to associating with a
gang after release.
• Create a new aggravating factor in the Sentencing Act that would capture offending done while a member of a gang, or offending done in association with gang members and/or a gang.
• Change the onus of proof on gang related income. If an individual is identified as
member of a gang on the National Gang list they have to prove their income came from a legitimate source, rather than the Police proving their income came from an illegitimate source.
• Ban all gang insignia in public places.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said police needed to be supported to tackle the issues of gangs and methamphetamine and referred to the Government bolstering frontline numbers by 15 per cent.
Ardern wouldn't be drawn on National dropping the Raptor name.
"It's obviously not something we would, or did, implement."
Bridges said on Tuesday the police's gang units were "simply not" working because if they were New Zealand wouldn't be seeing "the proliferation of gangs on our streets".
Figures released by Police Minister Stuart Nash show the total number of patched gang members in New Zealand has increased by 26 per cent since October 2017.