5 Jul 2023

Chris Luxon rejects Chief Science Advisor's report on gang harm reduction

10:27 am on 5 July 2023
National Party leader Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon says gangs peddle in misery and suffering, and want all the rights of being a New Zealander without being prepared to accept the responsibilities. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National Party leader Christopher Luxon is disputing a report which says the country cannot arrest its way out of the gang problem.

The Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor's report into gangs warns targeted enforcement runs the risk of strengthening gang cohesion and reinforcing anti-social attitudes.

The report - based on studies from New Zealand and overseas - concludes there is no quick way to reduce gang harm, which would require tackling underlying issues like intergenerational trauma, inequity, housing and family violence.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon told Morning Report he totally disagreed with the report's statement that a 'zero tolerance' style of policing could risk fuelling gang membership by increasing gang dislocation and isolation.

Hitting back at the suggestion the report showed National's gang-targeting policies were likely to make the problem worse, he said gangs peddled in misery and suffering, and wanted all the rights of being a New Zealander but were not prepared to accept the responsibilities.

"I make no apologies for being tough on gangs, we're going to ban those gang patches. We're going to give the police dispersal powers for criminal activity break-up powers, warrant and search powers. We will make it an aggravating factor."

It was essential to rehabilitate gang members while they were in prison and National would work on the causes of crime as was evident in the party's social investment strategy, he said.

"But that's not an excuse for saying you don't be tough on crime and tough on gangs, you need to ... have both stick and carrot, it can't just all be carrot."

Put to him that gangs were a politicised issue - with National making accusations Labour was soft on crime - he said it was not.

"It's not a politicised issue, We're being really clear about the causes of crime," he said. "They are soft on crime. Crime is going up ... this government's operating in a very different way, it's sent a message from the very top that they're soft on crime."

He used the example of the $2.7 million given to the Mongrel Mob for rehabilitation services.

"That's insane, that's insane, they're the people that create the drug dependency in the first place, there's much better rehabilitation providers than the Mongrel Mob."

Luxon was also questioned over how he could dismiss the report, given his party was quite happy to quote from the Chief Science Advisor when it backed his genetic modification policy.

He said he had looked at other evidence - from Western Australia where (former Premier) Mark McGowan had "done an exceptionally good job of cracking down on gangs", as well as evidence from Queensland.

Juvenile youth facilities necessary but need better management - Luxon

Luxon said juvenile youth facilities were necessary because there were vulnerable but also very troubled young people who were a risk to society.

Oranga Tamariki said that a video that had been circulating online of two teenage boys attacking one another at the youth justice facility Korowai Manaaki in Auckland on 16 June was filmed by a staff member.

Luxon said the questions were who was accountable, who was running the facility, and who was setting the culture for staff.

"What you've got here is a management problem, a leadership problem ... you know, the problem in these major facilities where staff members stand around watching an MMA [Mixed Martial arts] type fight and it's sickening."

The facilities needed much better management, leadership, mentoring and support to work with the young people, he said.

"Yes they're being punished in some degree and they're keeping the rest of the public safe by putting them in these facilities but ... they need to be able to deal with their issues, whether it's addiction, whether it's numeracy, whether it's literacy, you know a whole bunch of trauma, a whole bunch of issues."

The experience could be a positive one for the young people, but the right staffing, leadership and culture in the facilities would be needed for that to happen, he said.

"It starts with the minister, the minister is only fronting after these issues come into the media domain, beyond that he's not fixing things."

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  • Oranga Tamariki controversy: 'Totally unacceptable' staff member filmed fight
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