Rhetoric, politics mean gangs 'left to rot' in NZ - Harry Tam

Source: 1News

Gang members in New Zealand have been left to rot for the last 30 years, honorary member of the Mongrel Mob Harry Tam says.

He said it's because there's very little incentive for agencies and the government to help gangs and those involved.

"We're so locked in this rhetoric of they're bad [gangs], but we don't understand why they're bad, how they've got to this stage and there in-lies the problem."

Tam said Aotearoa has more gang members now than ever before and it's a reflection on the government.

"There was a period of time between 1981 an 1987 which is the only period in the history of New Zealand where gang membership actually dropped.

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"The difference in that period was you had a prime minister that was prepared to go and talk to the gangs themselves and find out what they considered to be solutions," Tam said.

"You cannot legislate a social problem out out existence, you cannot ban people because of bad behaviour, we've got to try and understand what's happening with those people, what's happening in those communities."

Gangs are treated as a political issue rather than a socio-economic one which is part of the problem, Tam says.

"Until we depoliticise it, we're not going to get anywhere, similar to the whole law in order issue is that parties continue to play party politics over votes rather than over people and that's where the problem is."

READ MORE: $600m for police to tackle gangs, more officers, rehabilitation

Also weighing in on the issue this morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “We want to prevent our young people in particular joining gangs in the first place.

"From finding those situations where there are those levels of deprivation and community that they seek to find incomes and family support through gang membership."

It comes after a spate of gang shootings across the country in the past month, especially in Auckland.

The feud between the Killer Beez and the Tribesmen gangs is also fuelling the escalation in violence.

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

Earlier this month Ardern said “that escalation is causing understandable huge anxiety for the communities where it's occurring."

"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.

As part of Budget 2022, the Government announced $600 million to be rolled out over the coming years, to increase police numbers, tackle gang violence, and extend rehabilitation programmes.

On Saturday, National leader Christopher Luxon announced a commitment to introduce tough anti-gang laws if brought to power next year, including banning gang insignia from social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.