Tauranga’s mayor is calling the government to take action on a “turf war” between gangs in the Western Bay of Plenty.
Mayor Tenby Powell says the shootings in Te Puke and Hairini and an alleged arson at a business in Greerton, are a part of two gangs fighting for distribution of the drug trade.
Tenby wants to speak with the Police Minister Stuart Nash about the best way to deal with the issues and if the area needs increased police numbers while gang activity is high.
“It's only a matter of time before the collateral damage spills over from property, in the case of Greerton, to people in the Tauranga Moana area.
“I've been contacted by many people who, if I can paraphrase it, really are scared.”
“I've just observed an increase in activity to the point where over a period across 72 hours it got to what I would call from a military perspective, operational tempo, which was alarmingly high.”
“Gangs shooting at each other on No. 1 and 2 roads in Te Puke and now it's ended up in Greerton with this barbershop being burnt down, which is alleged to be arson.
“They're fighting each other for distribution in particular areas. There's no doubt about that. They could be fighting each other for other reasons as well, I don't know. It's not [just] me saying it, it's what everybody is saying.
“There's no doubt in my mind that we're a small place, to get a slice of the action in terms of drugs, distribution, they're going to have to find a way of doing that and it would appear that at the moment it's causing an awful lot of activity.
“The money to be made from drugs distribution is just astronomical, and the gangs are starting to fight with each other in what is effectively a turf war.”
The scene of the stabbing on The Strand, Tauranga. Image: Daniel Hines/SunLive
Neither Tenby nor the police would confirm which gangs are involved but it’s believed to involve the Mongrel Mob and Mongol Nation.
The incidents began on January 25, with the smashing of windows at Greerton business Bladed N Faded barber and tattoo studio, the same business has been gutted by a suspicious fire on January 27.
A stabbing occurred on January 26 where two men are alleged to have stabbed a man on The Strand.
During one of the defendants’ first court appearance Judge Michael Crosbie said he had been told by police the pair are allegedly prospecting for the Mongol gang.
On January 28 shots were fired in Hairini, police responded to a firearms incident just after midnight.
Later that day, police attended an incident on No.2 Road, Te Puke, where shots were reportedly fired and roads were cordoned off.
“The police are doing an absolutely stunning job, amidst trying and challenging circumstances,” Tenby says.
“We need government help that's the bottom line. Now police are doing a stunning job. I don't know this for sure, but I wonder if they’re resourced to the level to cope with this level of operational tempo and I wonder if we don't need an immediate surge to assist.
“If the level of activity gang activity continues then I will be asking the [Police] Minister for a surge in police numbers and the police that are trained in dealing with armed conflicts.
“I would welcome a conversation because I'd like to sit down with Stuart and Clifford Paxton and say let's understand together the lay of the land and all the issues that we need to contend with.”
Western Bay of Plenty Police continue to investigate a series of recent incidents involving damage to properties and shots being fired, says Western Bay of Plenty area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton.
“We are investigating each of these incidents separately, as well as any possible links between them, and any potential gang involvement.
“We know our communities are understandably concerned about recent events.
“We continue to maintain a visible presence in those communities where there are heightened concerns, and will continue to assess this on a regular basis.”
Investigators at the scene of the Hairini shooting. Image: John Borren/SunLive.
Tenby says one way to curb the violence is to reduce the amount methamphetamine coming into New Zealand.
“It's more than gangs, it's around the distribution of meth, it's drugs. That's the issue and if the supply can be taken away, I truly believe that we'll make good in roads into this distribution violence abating.
“From my perspective, the solution is to cut the head off the monster, which is to stem the supply of meth into the country.
“It's not easy because it's very resource intensive. It's going to take a lot of people to do that and it needs good intelligence gathering and it's expensive as a consequence of that. But as I see it, I think that cost would pale into insignificance as compared to the damage being done to society.”