Bay of Plenty gang members double-dipping by claiming the dole and amassing money through crime sticks in the throats of most hard-working New Zealanders, according to opposition leader Simon Bridges.
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National yesterdayreleased a new discussion document about its policies on social services, which would see gang members and their associates unable to access welfare if they have an illegal income.
The announcement comes after revelations, published by the Bay of Plenty Timesearlier this month, that the number of patched gang members in the Bay of Plenty had risen by 30 per cent since 2017.
There are 1380 patched gang members currently recorded as living in the region compared to 1058 in 2017.
Bridges told the Bay of Plenty Timesthe policy National was proposing was "very simple".
"We're going to block gangs from having the job seeker benefit if they can't prove they don't have legal assets or income.
"Some people think gangs are community organisations. National's view is that they peddle misery in the form of crime, drugs and violence."
Bridges said the increased numbers of gang members and an increase in serious violence in the Bay of Plenty, as well as the rest of the country, needed to be addressed.
"I'm intimidated seeing these patches every weekend and I'm sure others are too. We could pussyfoot around this or we could try and really deal with gangs and we're trying to do the latter."
Bridges said proof of assets was one of a range of measures National would implement to pressure and harass the gangs - and he was aware they would not take it lying down.
"But if we want to deal with the increase in gang numbers, the methamphetamine problems and violence in our communities, then we have to do this."
Bridges said it should not be hard for gang members to prove where an asset came from if they had got it through working or owning a business.
Asked if the families of gang members would be unfairly punished if the policy was implemented, Bridges said he did not believe so.
"The policy is aimed specifically at the gang member but, also, it is inarguable that being involved in a gang whānau comes with incredibly negative consequences for little ones."
Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said every time National was desperate for ideas, the party whacked struggling families and demonised New Zealanders on a benefit.
"It didn't work with their state house meth-testing scandal, and this latest rehash of an outdated idea looks just as ineffective," Coffey said.
"Where is National's witch hunt for white-collar tax evaders? People in suits commit fraud too, but National makes no acknowledgement of that, despite being led by a former Crown Prosecutor.
"Simon ignores the fact that the vast majority of people entitled to a benefit are hardworking New Zealanders with families, who need support to get back on their feet."
Coffey said the Government was empowering the police, Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development to fairly go after all benefit fraud and tax fraud - whether or not someone had a patch on their back.
"We know that removing income from struggling families incentivises crime, rather than targets it. That's why we are growing wages, creating jobs, increasing police numbers, and initiating new strategies to break the cycle of reoffending within our communities."
Billy MacFarlane from Rotorua's Tikanga Aroro Charitable Trust said he believed every New Zealander should have to prove their income was legitimate, not just gang members.
"You have to be really careful with that stuff. It's easy to label gang members but you have to remember that not all crime in New Zealand is committed by gang members."
Tommy Wilson, director of Tauranga social agency Te Tuinga Whanau, said the country needed to focus on finding the good in gangs.
"There are good people and bad people in all walks of life ... There are some good people in gangs who don't deal in misery and those are the people we are focusing on.
"There are 22,000 kids who are impacted by having a parent in jail. We want to do the hard work and reconnect these whānau, not take the easy way out and punish them more."
Minister of Police Stuart Nash said National's latest policy release had reheated old ideas.
Nash said gang numbers started growing when the Rebels Motorcycle Club from Australia established a foothold in 2011 and the following year, police numbers fell by 150.
"The social services discussion document released today spells out the problems [National] created after nine years of neglect but is devoid of solutions."
"National has no new ideas around either gangs or benefit fraud. This is more desperate political grandstanding by Mr Bridges who seems to have only just realised that gangs have a presence here."