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ACT's proposed gang policies 'shortsighted' - Māori Party

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 20/07/2021
a man wearing a hat and glasses: Te Paati Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi © RNZ / Dom Thomas

Te Paati Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi

The ACT party is being accused of dog whistle politics and separatism with its latest policies aimed at reducing gang-related crime.

The polices include placing injunctions on gang members and stopping their welfare payments being used for alcohol, tobacco and gambling, by electronically monitoring spending.

The party released its law and order policy document at Wellington CBD's Danger Danger bar.

Danger Danger owner Matt McLaughlin said crime was on the rise on Courtney Place and the surrounding streets.

"We are seeing a massive increase in gang members, two of the well publicised fights that have happened in the past couple of months we know that they're gang fights," McLaughlin said.

"That sort of stuff we've never seen in Wellington and we're starting to see it more and more often and, you know, I just think it needs to change."

McLaughlin loved ACT's raft of policies, intended to crack down on gangs.

But However, Te Paati Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi said ACT's policies would just target the marginalised and the disenfranchised.

"This is absolutely separatist, it is absolutely apartheid, it's state control over who we can interact with - who can be whānau and who can't be whānau - and I'm absolutely really really disappointed that the ACT party has gone down this track," Waititi said.

"But I'm not surprised."

ACT once again failed to understand gangs and why they existed, he said.

"ACT's proposition doesn't address the ultimate cause of the whakapapa of gangs which is deeply rooted in colonisation, the dispossession of our land and our culture.

"Instead, their rhetoric reflects a deeply shortsighted view that lack substance or sustainability."

The real solution was to reconnect people to their whenua and culture, he said.

Community advocate and lifetime Black Power member Denis O'Reilly thought ACT leader David Seymour had "lost the plot" on the policies.

O'Reilly also took exception to ACT wanting to use the National Gang List.

"The commissioner of police has said that the national gang register is not worth the paper it's written on. We see the numbers go up, I keep on burying people I don't see the numbers go down.

"So, it's so loose and it's just dog-whistle politics. It's silly, frankly, and I'm disappointed that David, who otherwise has made a pretty good contribution to the parliamentary term so far, would jump on the band wagon."

David Seymour wearing a suit and tie: ACT Party leader David Seymour © Provided by Radio New Zealand ACT Party leader David Seymour

Seymour said he was a strong believer in a free and democratic society, but asked what use those freedoms were if people were being intimidated by gangs.

The government had been favouring gangs over the safety of law abiding citizens, he said.

"Constantly empowering the gangs is the dangerous side of Jacinda's kindness and we need to reprioritise the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of criminals and criminal organisations."

As well as imposing restrictions on benefit spending, ACT wants to give police the power to apply for injunction orders for gang members.

The person with an order would need to be on the National Gang List and police would need to believe there was a risk of gang related violence or drug-dealing.

Those with an order could be barred from certain areas and made to go through rehabilitation programmes.

They could also be prohibited from associating with certain people - but when asked about what that would mean for family and whānau within gangs, Seymour said "if those family links are strong, I suspect the pressure will come on not to join a gang".

To have the sanctions lifted, people would have to prove they are no longer affiliated to a gang, Seymour said.

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