Gangs: NZ has 'a clear escalation at the moment' - PM

There is no question there is an escalation in gang activity, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media on Tuesday. In the last two weeks there had been more than 20 drive-by shootings.

“That escalation is causing understandable huge anxiety for the communities where it's occurring."

Ardern said the Government needed to make sure police were well supported and there are enough police.

"That is the response the police are taking, our job is to make sure they have enough police officers, they have more organised crime people on the job and they have the legislation around firearms they need.

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"What we've said to the police is if there is any legislative change that would help you in your current fight against gangs - tell us. We do need to respond to the escalation and tensions we've seen, particularly between two gangs in Auckland in recent times."

She said the Government was working on extra measures around the seizure of assets for organised crime.

While being questioned by National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell, Police Minister Poto Williams said she was briefed last week on recent tensions between two gangs.

"Police have launched a major disruption and suppression operation in response to these tensions, which have so far resulted in 22 search warrants, supported by the armed offenders squad; 22 arrests; 37 charges laid; and 10 firearms seized, along with 300 rounds of ammunition."

READ MORE: 19 arrested over Killer Beez and Tribesmen's Auckland gang war

ACT's David Seymour asked the Prime Minister, "does she stand by her statement on Stephen Colbert in relation to dangerous firearms 'so we got rid of them'; if so, is she aware there were about 20 gang shootings... while she was out of the country?"

Ardern said she was referring to military-style semi-automatic weapons and that New Zealand "still has work to do".

Seymour then asked if she stood by her earlier statement "that she was open to the idea of increasing the civil asset forfeiture regime for gangs using guns; and, if so, why did the Government not adopt ACT's member's bill that would have done just that, just two weeks ago?"

She said the Government was continuing to work through detail on the seizure of assets, where they're unable to demonstrate they've been obtained through legitimate funds. and would be putting out more detail "in the near future".

"We've also said that we're open-minded and continue to work on other measures that we believe will make a difference.

"Let me be clear: the suggestion in this House that the tension between the Tribesmen and the Killer Beez is somehow to do with a Labour Government is patently wrong.

"Do we have tensions in our communities right now? Yes, but show me an area where we have watered down law, when we have done the opposite. We've increased police, we've increased the tactical response model, we have seized assets, and we have seized guns. I would prefer a conversation in this House that is pragmatic about doing something that makes a difference, rather than political pot-shots that do nothing to keep our communities safer or support our police."