Tauranga leaders have reacted to the fallout of what one called "LA-style gang warfare" after police shot a double-murder suspect dead last night. READ MORE:
• Man linked to Tauranga double homicide shot dead by police after pursuit
• Child seen running from Tauranga home where two men shot dead at McLaren Falls
• SH2 closed: Delays, congestion, people encouraged to work from home
• Tauranga has plenty on offer to keep boredom at bay over January
The shootout left a police patrol car riddled with bullets and the officers who fatally shot the man - a suspect in a double murder earlier this week - were distraught, district commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said this morning. The suspect was wanted in connection with a double homicide at McLaren Falls, near Tauranga, on Tuesday.
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell said despite the unprecedented frequency and severity of gang violence, the community was in safe hands.
"Our police are world-class . . . and they have done an incredible, professional job at handling dynamic and fast situations."
He said tackling drug-related gang activity needed to address both supply and demand. Meth distribution, in particular, was big business but it was "destroying the fabric of our society", Powell said.
"We're not just talking nickel and dimes," Powell said.
Addressing the demand required a "longitudinal approach" that gave drug addicts the support they needed and the Bay of Plenty was fortunate to have recently been booked to receive a new mental health facility in Tauranga and Whakatāne.
Cutting the supply long-term would involve a joint strategy working with several agencies. This included the Port of Tauranga to see what measures could be put in place to limit the amount of illegal substances that made it ashore.
National Party leader and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the recent shootings would have a big impact on the Tauranga community's "sense of security".
"Tauranga has always been viewed as a safe harbour . . . [but] we're no longer a little village. We're a big city with big-city problems like LA-style gang warfare."
Bridges believed the contributing factors to the "turf wars" included the proximity of the Port of Tauranga and Tauranga Harbour which provided a gateway for illegal drug imports, together with the nearby "prosperous population" to sell the drugs to.
Bay of Plenty Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark said she was saddened and concerned about the gang-related shooting, but she was not surprised given the demand for drugs.
"There is a lot of money involved [in meth] . . . it's a huge industry."
She commended the police's work and urged people to not panic amid the heightened police presence in Tauranga in the coming days.
"The police are here to keep us safe and they are doing everything they can. We don't need to feel threatened by them."
There needed to be a focus on providing addiction services to help cut the demand for drugs, not just cracking down on crime, she said.
Labour MP for Waiariki Tamati Coffey posted on Facebook that he woke up to read the news of the shooting. He said had been in contact with Police Minister Stuart Nash regarding the "tragedy".
Meanwhile, gang expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said the public had a right to safety and to be concerned, but should not be too alarmed given the shootings.
"These events, dramatic as they are, are between the gangs. They're not terrorist groups actively targeting the public.
"Often significant incidents are not the beginning of things but the culmination. Much gang activity occurs without the public knowing about it."
When the activity became openly public, police took significant action which "dampened down" any further incidents.
Gilbert believed there was no one way to stamp out gangs in New Zealand. Part of this was the police solving crimes and bringing people to justice, but "it's also vital to show that the community isn't prepared to tolerate such activity and there are consequences for those actions".
But this would only solve short-term issues. In the long term, Gibert said "sophisticated thinking" was needed in dealing with the drivers of such issues.
He did not think the port, harbour or population was a significant factor in the gang activity, given other areas in the country had gang problems without these factors.
Te Tuinga Whānau's Tommy Wilson said he worked with gang members every day and said it was important to find common ground with gangs to work towards a solution and look at why people joined gangs.
"People need to know there is often a good person behind a patch. We fear what we understand least."
Wilson believed there would always be a market for meth, regardless of whether gangs existed.
Earlier today police district commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said the suspect being pursued by police last night had fired several "volleys" of shots at officers.
"In the exchange, the offender was wounded," he said.
"The vehicle slowly came to a stop - the police officers went forward and then called for medical assistance.
"The offender was later pronounced dead at the scene."
The event was dramatic for the officers involved, McGregor said, and the patrol car had several bullet holes in it from the exchange with the fleeing offender.
After the shooting, they were distraught and shaken. The officers started work to patrol the Tauranga area in a bid to add reassurance to the public that they were safe.
No members of the public were injured during the exchange, McGregor said.
"I just wanted to reassure the people of Tauranga, the community there, that they are safe. That we are talking about one motivated offender here, who did not want to be captured by police."
Local police were doing everything they could to ensure the Tauranga community was feeling safe, he said.