22 Jun 2021

Mongrel Mob, Black Power tensions and firearms incidents in Wairoa prompt crackdown

4:49 pm on 22 June 2021

Police are cracking down on gang activity in Wairoa following multiple firearms-related incidents, including one where a house with two children sleeping in it was shot at.

Close up of the back of a police officer wearing a vest.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Operation Atlas was launched on Thursday last week in response to escalating tensions between Mongrel Mob and Black Power members.

Wairoa area response manager senior sergeant Maui Aben said that since 3 June firearms had been shot at homes in the wider Wairoa area five times.

"In early June, a Wairoa man received gunshot injuries, and in an incident last week, two children were asleep in a Raupunga house when it was fired upon from a vehicle.

"Thankfully in that case these tamariki were not injured."

More police have been deployed to the area.

"While these extra staff will remain with us for the next several weeks carrying out disruption and prevention activities, we do understand this is a long-term issue that requires long-term solutions," Aben said.

Police held a meeting this year with the Wairoa community, including iwi leaders, to talk about the gang-related issues and the impact violence and drugs were having on the area.

"We know we can't make lasting change without our community partnering with us. It's time to do something different to ensure different results."

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said the council was supported police as they worked toward solutions.

"This is not a police problem. It is a gang problem," he said.

He said having police on duty 24/7 was a relief.

"That [policing] through the night will be the big one for us, it was happening but on a random basis ... it's happening now so that's a good thing.

"Maybe they'll have to look at that in the future and that might need to happen all the time."

He said more police would mean quicker response times and hopefully prosecutions.

He urged anyone with information to come forward.

"It really worries me that members of the community are protecting their whānau who are involved in this activity, because you're not protecting your community if you're protecting these people.

"Because they just have no regard for their community whatsoever."

Wairoa Taiwhenua chairman and Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Board member Nigel How said the situation was rooted in complex intergenerational issues.

"Alcohol and drug abuse, organised crime and violence is not unique to gangs. These issues are found everywhere and reflect deeper collective trauma experienced by our community.

"Stable community safety will only come with manaakitanga for all. This means we all have an inherent responsibility to support and care for each other through the highs and lows. All of us, not just the continued tireless efforts of some individuals, social service providers and other entities in our community," he said.

"Active manaakitanga by all, for all, including gang members."

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