23 Nov 2020

Councillor pushes for long-term action after Ōtara firearms incidents

1:04 pm on 23 November 2020

An Auckland councillor is urging the government to fund more social workers in Ōtara to help stem gang-related firearms incidents by working with young people and their families.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Police officers in South Auckland were carrying guns as a precaution over the weekend as investigations continue into shots fired in the suburb on Friday and Saturday.

Police have confirmed there were six incidents, five involving gunshots, and no-one was injured.

Some reportedly involved shots being fired at houses.

Inspector Wendy Spiller, area commander for Counties Manukau East, said officers carried out searches yesterday and seized ammunition and other items associated with firearms.

Spiller told Midday Report the incidents were linked and police believe they were gang-related.

In May last year, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for greater police resources to bolster the fight against gangs in South Auckland after the Killer Beez president was shot outside a Harley Davidson store near Mount Wellington Highway.

Manukau ward representative on Auckland Council, Alf Filipaina, said his plea was for the government to come on board.

Manukau Ward Councillor, Alf Filipaina

Manukau ward councillor Alf Filipaina Photo: Kethaki Masilamani

"It's concerning, very concerning, for our community and look, government, come on board please about social workers," he told Morning Report.

Filipaina welcomed the increased police presence after the weekend shootings, and said it was warranted for officers to carry firearms, but he wanted funding for social workers in the long term to work with families in the area.

"Because how do we move from say the next couple of weeks or a month, where there are no police there. What happens there in regards to any of the further incidents that occur - what do we do then? That's the issue that a lot of the community leaders are grappling with.

Going back to 2007, when I was Pacific liaison officer within the police, I know that the resources they threw into Māngere, Ōtara, Manurewa, I know it was working.

"Everybody was involved with this, our core community groups, like 274 [Youth Worker Project], like Crosspower.

I saw the work they were doing the impact they were making on our young ones in regards to getting a better pathway. But they just didn't concentrate on the young ones, they concentrated as well with the parents.

They were from the area, these social workers lived in the area where they were working.

"So I know it works, but then the funding was withdrawn when there was a change in government.

"I'm advocating, I'm pushing, I'm getting our community together to say let's have a look at it again, and if the results were positive, and I know they were ... let's have a look at doing that again."

Inspector Spiller said police need the support of the community to curb gang violence.

"Police can't arrest their way out of organised gang violence.

"These gang members and associates live in our community they have whānau and friends in our community and we need the community to step up and stand up against violence, to support the police in curbing gang violence.

The decision to arm police over the weekend was a temporary measure in reaction to the nature of the shootings.

"This was a sequence of incidents that caused us to generally arm because of the random and frequent nature of these incidents that were occurring. That was a separate conversation to full time arming of any ART-type squad."

The controversial police Armed Response Teams (ART) were fiercely criticised by justice advocates and a trial was scrapped in June.