Combating New Zealand’s most brutal gangs

New Zealand gangs have a long, vicious, brutal history. It’s important from the start to highlight the sheer brutality of Gang activities on our very doorstep. Gang rapes, homicides, brutal home invasions, stand over tactics, major drug operations, fraud, armed robberies and the list goes on. They also contribute significantly to the supply of all forms of contraband within the walls of New Zealand Prisons. It is difficult to provide a one size fits all solution to the problems that gangs present us as a greater society. Gangs in New Zealand vary in sizes, levels of activity and basic ideologies – the growth of gangs presents us with a myriad of problems, how we solve these problems, is still very much up for discussion.

A gang can represent many things for an estranged, disconnected individual. A brotherhood, a sense of community, a model of cultural replacement for those that have become disenfranchised and at a basic human level, a new family. Gangs, in many cases, are an ingrained, inter-generational part of members lives, and represent some sort of a structured way of life for those that are a part of them. Dr Jarrod Gilbert, in his submission to the 2013 Select Committee sitting on the Prohibition of Gang Isignia in Government Premises Bill, described Gangs as ‘vehicles for social resistance’. Based on this definition one may ask; what is it that gangs are really resisting? Dr Gilbert goes on to state:

“While this country continues to have communities faced with problems such as poor education, overcrowded housing, unemployment, family abuse, poverty and drug and alchohol abuse, New Zealand will always have gangs”

The question then arises – If gangs are a result of poverty and poor social conditions, how do we nullify the growth of gangs within an environment that many are becoming increasingly marginalised within the poverty sub class.

Are there initiatives that could stem the growth of gangs while also making it harder for them to function? If we can pinpoint poverty and all it encompasses as the primary reason for the very existence of gangs, what can we then do to curtail the growth of gangs that are taking initiative in the current circumstances that exist. How can we stop their growth? How can we minimize the influence they have over the criminal underworld, our youth, the drug trade and a variety of other criminal endeavors’ on an increasingly large scale?

In an essay on Gangs and Organised Crime, Dr Greg Newbold, a lecturer at Cantebury University outlined three key strategies/approaches to tackling gangs: prevention, intervention and suppression.

“Prevention focuses on discouraging youths from joining gangs through effective parenting, early childhood education, school activity and after-school programmes. Intervention uses education, work opportunities, counselling and health services to move existing or fringe gang members away from crime. Suppression involves policing and legislation. Suppression has been the most common international approach used since the 1980s. Gang problems have increasingly become treated as law enforcement problems rather than as issues for social agencies or communities.”

Government schemes in the 1970’s attempted to try to actively reduce the growth of youth joining gangs, by providing sporting and leisure opportunities outside of school hours while also implementing programs to ease the transition from school to work life. During the 1980’s millions of dollars were gifted to gang organizations for collective work related initiatives. Some of these funds were well spent on workable initiatives, however it became clear after a while that a large portion of these funds were being used for adverse reasons, such as the beautification of gang headquarters or lavish lifestyles for gang leadership. It is interesting to note that these schemes were implemented at a time when Gangs were still in a relative growth period, membership in gangs has increased considerably since the 1980’s which makes implementing overall initiatives likes the ones above, much harder.

Its pertinent to mention one of New Zealands largest, most powerful and ruthless gangs, the Mongrel Mob. The Mongrel Mob slogan below represents the supposed life cycle of a mobster, while obviously highlighting the mongrel fundamentals of being part of this group.

Born in a brothel (or Kennell)

Raised in a jail (or Cell)

Proud to be a Mongrel

Sieg fucking Heil!”

Gang members pride themselves on brandishing Nazi swastikas, barking like dogs, and in many cases covering their bodies with mongrel mob symbols including the British Bulldog, often wearing a German Stanhelm helmet. These symbols are there purely to cause offence. There are never ending examples of the gangs brutality and utterly horrifying approach to crime. Recent examples that come to mind are of a 26 year old women in Kihikihi, Waikato, who, along with her young daughter, were threatened – then the former was taken into a bedroom and raped.

It was mentioned to me once that ‘Gangs have an entrepreneurial core’. I believe that this is definitely true. However at the moment, the majority of the gang activity is criminal in nature. In order to allow gangs to expose this entrepreneurial core in an effective, contributory manner, they first have to accept, that their core belief system, structure and way of operating – is defunct, immoral and backward.

Many government initiatives look to address gang membership and gang operations at a macro level. It is my strong belief that gang issues vary from gang to gang. Therefore, focused and concise strategies should be constructed on a gang by gang basis. Each gang has its strengths and weaknesses, these need to be exposed and used to the detriment of the gang in question. These initiatives can not be completely suppressive in nature. There needs to be multi faceted action plans that address the full spectrum of gang life, functionality and operation. This needs to include discussion with gang members and hierarchy themselves.

New Zealand is a free country, we have freedom to associate and freedom of speech and expression. When implementing anti-gang initiatives the government can look to clamp down on the basic human rights of certain individuals, but it needs to then ensure that the even more basic rights that humans, especially children, require are not overlooked. It is the lack of attention to these basic needs, that create the perfect breeding grounds for gangs to flourish, grow and develop.

In conclusion, I found it fitting to once again quote Dr Jarrod Gilbert. His insight into gangs and anti gang endeavor’s was the most comprehensive I came across. This chilling quote provides pertinence to the government anti gang initiatives to date, showing their inadequacy and highlighting the dire need, for a new, refreshing way forward.

“Just as steam is an inevitable result of water being boiled, gangs are similarly resultant of certain social conditions. And just as one cannot stop steam by putting a lid on the pot, gangs will not be countered by efforts to forcibly suppress them; and indeed, the pressure that is built up by such undertakings may cause greater problems than those that were seeking to be solved.”


The New Zealand Maori Rugby Team – A model of Affirmative Action – or a step closer to Apartheid?

The New Zealand Maori Rugby Team, recently coined the Maori All Blacks, were the first ever New Zealand sporting team to tour abroad beyond Australia. Known at its inception, as the New Zealand Native Football Team, the team has always been an amazing ambassador for New Zealand Rugby, Maori Culture and the proud bi-cultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. Last year, the Maori All Blacks completed a clean sweep, two game tour of Japan. This took the teams winning streak to 18 straight games, all against quality international opposition including the likes of England, Ireland and the United States.

But is this team, which first toured in 1888, merely an ongoing reminder of the separate set of standards we have created for New Zealanders based on their cultural or ethnic background. A standout premise of this team is the fact that one has to have whakapapa/genealogical links to Maori ancestors in order to be eligible for selection.  One may ask why we do not have a national representative rugby team for Chinese New Zealanders, Samoan New Zealanders or New Zealanders of European Descent. Why are these teams non-existent? And why do they not receive the same level of recognition, funding and exposure on the world stage.

When we look at presumed racism and the intent that lies behind mechanisms that some might consider positive/affirmative in regards to cultural progress and identification, it pays to look more closely at the definition of Racism. The United Nations does not define ‘racism’ specifically; it defines ‘racial discrimination’ in its Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as;

“the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

From this relatively robust definition, it is fair to infer that the true premise of racial discrimination, lies in intent.  For example, the definition mentions ‘purpose or effect’, which highlights the fact that when intent is averse, there is more than good reason to question the validity or credibility of an institution or entity.

This leads us to ask a few key questions that more carefully determine whether or not the core intent of the existence of the Maori All Blacks Team, is progressive or antagonistic. Questions such as:

Do the Maori All Blacks exist to promote the superiority of the Maori race over that of other cultures within the Aotearoa New Zealand cultural context?

Is the primary purpose of this team to spite non-Maori in any antagonistic or belittling manner?

If it is OK for us to have a Maori All Black team, why is it not then feasible to have a similar team for other select ethnic groups?

My answer to the first two questions is a resounding NO! The New Zealand Maori Rugby Team has history, purpose and exists as a positive mechanism. It highlights to the global community New Zealands bicultural foundations and the importance and relevance of its indigenous culture in contemporary NZ society. The intent or purpose for the existence of this team is in no way linked to trying to offend those from other cultural groups. There is no question that New Zealand is a contemporary multicultural nation – this team helps to reinforce the fact that the nation we have today is proud of our bi-cultural foundations.

This leads on to another very important question on the back of everyone’s minds:

Why is it not then politically correct to have a European All Black Team? Or to add to that an All Black team representative of any other of New Zealands many cultural groupings?

 I believe the answer to this question is relatively straightforward – there has never been a Pakeha All Black team (besides the one that excluded its Maori countrymen on various tours to South Africa during the 1900’s). The intent that would lie behind the establishment of such a team would most definitely be odious and (based on the attitudes perpetuated by those in the media) would probably be based on unfuelled spite and emotion, rather than any true reason of cultural progress or benefit to race relations within the Aotearoa New Zealand context.

The continuing existence of the New Zealand Maori All Blacks is definitely not a bad thing. It may not seem politically correct when phased in line with the misinformed social construct of ‘equality’ that is so frequently misused within the New Zealand political context. We only have to log on to the statistics New Zealand website to be exposed to statistics that reinforce the socio-economic demise of Maori, giving even less relevance to the ‘we are all one people’ argument. But it is not a bad thing that we are not all ‘one people’ – the true racism lies in trying to reinforce the fact that we are all ‘one’; when we are anything but.

This team at its very LEAST, provides positive role models to a generation of young Maori/New Zealanders that in may cases do not have much to look forward to.  At its MOST it provides a positive pathway for young Maori to show the world why the Maori culture is still relevant, is continuing to grow and is unique to New Zealand. It gives a clear message to the world that New Zealand is leading the way in indigenous revitilisation and social progress through the existence of social mechanisms that support positive and ongoing partnership between Maori and wider New Zealand society.

A combined approach – when holistic meets enforcement half way

If one thing is clear in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, it is this. Many Maori have lost all faith in the governmental mechanisms that exist to further their cause, to facilitate their progress and to ensure that Maori are able to retain some Mana as a socially and economically progressive indigenous people. When we talk about Tino Rangatiratanga or sovereignty, especially at an individual or focal level, we talk about the ability for any given individual to achieve his or her social, economic and cultural destiny given the means and resources they have access to in order to achieve this.

When we look at addressing social issues and how different local or national bodies are attempting to tackle these issues, the Hamilton City Council presents an interesting case study. There has been a marked increase in the presence of homeless individuals and inner city crime in the Hamilton City CBD. Through this article, I hope to link and give relevance to the link between government initiatives and the true journey towards self determination at an individual level – through more carefully examining the interdependent link between the individual and various societal/governmental strategies and models of development/progress.

First things first. We all acknowledge that implementing council bylaws to reduce this type of ‘anti social’ behaviour requires a certain level of increased policing and enforcement. However enforcement has one key consequence; it increases any given individuals interaction with the justice system. This further precipitates a negative relationship with the state while then further deteriorating an individual’s view of oneself.  When we speak about an inter-departmental approach to social issues, for many of those who regularly come in contact with social services in New Zealand, this means a decentralised amalgamation of various agencies that have a varying number of roles and processes. To the average person looking for help, it is this very beauracracy that can often mean it is easier to sit on the backburner and deal with issues at an individual level, rather than battle their way through a myriad of tedious application forms and follow up meetings.

All of this highlights the benefits in taking a more centralised, multi-departmental approach that centres around effective community consultation and efficient processes.  This in turn promotes a fully united and interdependent approach to solving key community social issues. The Peoples Project/Central City Safety Plan is the Hamilton City Councils answer to increasing crime and homelessness in the Hamilton CBD as well as cumulative calls from city residents that they are feeling increasingly unsafe in the City Centre. A main precept of this of this plan is fusing several government agencies, including; Work and Income, the Police and various Mental Health Providers – in a centralised building site in the cities most central location – Garden Place.

The strategy also involves increasing the activeness of various dedicated task forces within the central city boundaries including, but not limited to, the cities current CitySafe working group and also an increased presence from Maori Wardens within the central city, especially at what is considered ‘peak’ times. These types of groups are the eyes and ears of the Councils working endevours. It is also extremely important to acknowledge the important work of front line homeless shelters and those involved in actively working with those who have nowhere else to go. It is these individuals and organisations that know these problems best. It is in the council’s best interests to continually grow and build on relationships with these front line social progress organisations.

How are other organisations attempting to tackle social problems? The Maori Parties Whanau Ora scheme is worth having a look at. One of the Maori Parties key claims to fame, is the establishment and implementation of the Whanau Ora. Tariana Turia once outlined her vision for Maori in New Zealand as;

‘that our people are restored to being strong and independent people so that they can contribute to their own well being, and therefore contribute to this country. So this country can be far more united than it is today.’

Whanau Ora at its core, to me anyway, promotes a collective, community and whanau based approach to social redress. It emphasises the keystone principles of the Maori health model Te Whare Tapa Wha (spiritual, physical, mental and family health) and ensures that each of these principles is addressed at an individual level, with a focus on healthy inter-dependent relationships that provide a basis for strong, progressive individuals.

Whanau Ora represents the new age of social progress models. The combined interdepartmental approach mixed with a focus on holistic improvement and centralised strategy and engagement, shows that the Hamilton City Council and its approach to reducing central Hamilton city crime can be closely correlated to the goals and ideals of the Whanau Ora Strategy. Creating strong, empowered individuals means that we have a strong society. Maori culture has a focus on the collective; in my view, it is the collective approach that will see us through to a more prospering, powerful and enriched generation of Maori social progress.

Te Reo Maori – Taonga or Trash?

A young John Key once came home from a day at Burnside high school a tad irritated. There seemed to be a problem. The fact that he was not learning a foreign language, meant that he was restricted from entering the form group that boasted the schools highest academic achievers. As his mother was originally from Austria, and spoke fluent German, he proposed to her that she should have taught him the language. Mrs Key responded horrified ‘You’re never going to Europe, what use is German? The whole purpose of education is to do something with your life and German will never do anything for you’. That was the end of that. Given the huge influence that John Keys Mother had on him and his political foundations, I am of the strong belief that the Prime Minister’s attitude toward Te Reo Maori and its proliferation within the context of modern day Aotearoa New Zealand was fostered and given foundation through this short, but very pertinent and purposeful conversation.

Te Reo Maori; an official language of Aoteroa New Zealand, a language unique to Aotearoa New Zealand and a language that has seen significant trends toward revitalisation and cultural reintegration. A language that most non-maori probably see as separate or irrelevant within their cultural make up or identity (outside of the obvious realms of the haka and a few other gimmicky words that is).

We seemed to be faced with a question of cultural introspection. How important is our identity as New Zealanders and how much relevance does the Maori culture of which the reo is an integral part; have in this day and age.
If we look at traditionally monolingual countries that have English as a primary second language, nations of a similar size to New Zealand such as Norway and Denmark come to mind. Their native language is an integral part of their cultural make up, of their education system and of their country as a whole. These countries are better off because of this. I don’t think the relevance of the language on a world stage or in a business context plays a part in how they view the relevancy of their language. It is a part of them. It defines them.
What we have here in New Zealand in reflection, is a large part of the population base that want to deny that the Maori language holds the importance that any native language unique to a country should. We have scare mongers claiming that they are protecting their children’s rights by arguing that Maori is ‘irrelevant’ or ‘dead’.

Some, including John Key, argue that if any language was to be made compulsory within New Zealand schools, it should obviously be Chinese Mandarin. The American Defence Language Aptitude Battery considers Chinese Mandarin a Category four level language or in other words one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world, especially for English speakers. It is my opinion that those who believe that New Zealand schoolchildren could gain fluency in this language with a few classes a week without being immersed in a fully drenched mandarin speaking environment, are in effect, pissing in the wind. Te Reo Maori on the other hand presents us with words and sounds that we as New Zealander’s are familiar with and that we can use in our conversations with fellow kiwis.

With te reo Maori we have a language that already surrounds us, is part of us and helps us unite as New Zealanders. The path to the understanding and appreciation of the uniqueness of New Zealand’s cultural beauty lies within this language, if people would step back and accept this, maybe we wouldn’t be having tedious arguments. Should it be compulsory for New Zealand children to learn about an important part of their cultural make up? I think so. At the very least it should be encouraged. It will take the majority to change their views before the Maori language gets the recognition it deserves.

So what does the future hold? To me, it holds a society that contains a large group of Maori that are continually bitter towards the dissentful, unwillining and narrow minded masses that refuse to acknowledge Te Reo Maori as a taonga that is pertinent to all New Zealanders. The beauty of this cultural treasure supersedes any relevance that Te Reo Maori has within a world business context or as a language that is only spoken by ‘x’ number of people.  This type of attitude does not just extend to the Maori language, it extends to many cultural arms of Maoridom. It is pure cultural hypocrisy to actively and fervently devalue and minimise one of the most important aspects of Maori culture, while then expecting Maori to adhere and succumb to a reduced influence within a country that they are becoming increasingly marginalised.

The mantle of Victimhood – A Maori Problem? Or a Pakeha Fallacy?

If someone asked me to raise a hand for every instance in my life to which I have played the victim card;  I would hope to morph into the multi limbed Hindu Deity – Ganesha, who boasts anywhere from  two – sixteen arms. Only then could I truly hope to accurately represent the number of times to date that I have wollowed in my own sorrows and felt like the world was against me; like I was the victim of a cold, cruel hearted world that wanted to confine me to a bleak, pointless existence.

I must start by placing context to what I am discussing. Victims of serious or violent crime may obviously find it hard to frame their horrific experiences in a positive manner. The purpose of this article is not to attack victims of any sort in any way. This article is looking to analyse Maori and Non-Maori attitudes at a focal level within the realms of the Maori/Crown relationship within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Most Maori probably dont want to be seen as a culture that plays the blame game on their fellow European countrymen. Tariana Turia put it most famously when she attributed specific Maori social issues to her famous ‘post-colonial traumatic stress disorder’. The mainstream New Zealand media was exceedingly quick to provide an overwhelmingly spirited and often personal rebuttal of Tariana Turia’s views as to why Maoridom existed in a state of poor socio-economic standing. Many years later, then Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples suggested that Maori were being unfairly treated by the police and that the police, courts and corrections “systematically discriminate against Maori’. Once again the Mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon, with the general consensus that Maori are once again using excuses to provide some type of constructive reasoning for the committment of crime. It was also common consensus that Maori, who were arrested at three times the rate of non-Maori, were experiencing this increased interaction with the police because; you guessed it, they committed crime at a higher rate than those from other ethnic groups.

To the Pakeha side; the suposedly oppressed majority in a country where they see inequality abound and call for one rule of law for all. Pakeha dont have their own rugby team, they definitely dont have a specificially determined set of white only electorates for promoting white rights and grievances. They call for equality for all based on a set of rules that cater for the entire population rather than a subset. They call for an end to race based representation at any level, be it local health boards, city councils or any form of representation that is race specific. It is not the fault of the Pakeha that many Maori live below the breadline and are over represented in almost every negative health and social statistic that is available and measureable. How can it be?

All Pakeha want is Equality! But what is equality? Equality seems like such a simple concept. An ideology that makes perfect sense and boasts a society of fair and equal treatment for all its constituents.

But, we cannot confuse “equal” with “equality”. If you place two people side by side and one is really tall and the other short, and ask them to both get something from a high shelf, obviously the shorter one will need a footstool to reach, where the taller person won’t. In order for equality to happen, all factors must be equal to begin with – which they obviously arent. It is a game of catch up – a game that needs to be played for as long as it takes. This premise is not to render Maori incapable or to provide excuses for the state they have found themselves in, but to show, the myth of equality in this country is nothing but an idealistic social state that European New Zealanders have convinced themselves that this country is in need of.

I do believe Pakeha could benefit from asking themselves a few hard questions. The first question being this; When have I ever experienced true and bona-fide racism during my life to date? That is, when have I been in a situation that I have felt truly discriminated against because of the colour of my skin or European origins. I would put all of my money on the fact that most Maori would have 10 examples of real and true racism for every European individuals one.

Are Maori or Pakeha victims in some way or another within the current political context? Maybe. Does the victim mentality within the context of race relations ensure that ensure we move backward as a country as opposed to forwards. Definitely.  Am I trying to take away from the fact that Victims experience hardship, suffering and intolerance – No way.

It seems that European populations throughout the commonwealth wish to assume the mantle of victimhood when any endeavours are introduced to encourage equality or when resource based funding is offered to indigenous minorities. A level playing field such as the one that many non-Maori suggest, would more than likely do nothing except further increase the enormous social disparities that already exist. Many Maori most probably lack the confidence needed to interact with a system that has failed them on so many levels. While many Pakeha probably cant bring themselves to understand why.

It is fair to suggest that many Pakeha are happy to acknowledge the Maori culture in a selective capacity – the All Blacks Haka, Hangis and a few NZ made Maori movies here and there. Unfortunately the Maori culture is so much more than that. Maybe Maori would be lifted in spirits if they were to see non-Maori on mass providing their input as to constructive way forward for the Maori people. But why would they? They are not Maori, and Maori are the ones with all the Treaty Claim money right!?

Maori look to the past to explain and the present, and to prepare for the future. Pro active solutions to ongoing problems ensure that issues facing Maori are solved at a front line level.  This requires damning commitment from political institutions and a renewed vigilance from all sectors of society to commit to solid, measureable action plans that see an improvement in Maori welfare and wellbeing.

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