OPINION: It is no secret that New Zealand is staring down a gang problem. Gang numbers have grown 50 per cent over the past four years, they’ve risen just about as fast as house prices have under this Government.
With more patched gang members have come the stories of increasing gang crime and intimidation. Whole parts of towns are shut down as patched members hang out of cars and take over streets. Reports of violent crime and illegal firearm use become more regular. Even when New Zealanders were doing their bit to stay home while we suffered the current COVID-19 outbreak, we saw reports of gangs not abiding by the rules.
Unfortunately, the thuggishness of gangs has been met by a soft government with no real strategy to keep New Zealanders safe. We've seen a lot of law from this Government, but not a lot of order.
We have seen good work on the frontline of the New Zealand Police, but they need the support of a Government who is willing to back them and willing to hold the line against those who want to make our society less safe.
That's where ACT's plan to put an end to gang criminality kicks in.
We would introduce our policy of Gang Injunction Orders. These would allow courts to impose targeted orders on individual gang members who are most at risk of committing crime. The idea here is to prevent crime and ensure communities are safe.
We would also make sure that criminality doesn’t pay by amending the law to make it easier to go after gang finances. Similarly, if you are a gang member and receive a benefit, we would ensure that the money you got from the taxpayer couldn’t be spent on things like drugs and alcohol.
Finally, if we do catch you commuting violent crime, ACT’s three strike legislation would kick in. Repeat violent offenders will be kept away from the community for longer.
Changing our approach to being tough on those who make choices to harm the community is a necessary step towards curbing the harm gangs cause.
But it’s not the only thing we need to do. We also need to tackle the causes that lead people to crime. We have a plan for that as well.
First, no one who ends up in jail should be allowed parole without completing rehabilitation that will give them skills to give back to and work with the community when they get out. That’s important because eventually people do leave prison and having basic skills helps to break the criminal circuit.
We also need to address the elephant in the room. Our social services are not working for many New Zealanders.
The education system, for example, regularly letting our most vulnerable communities down and, as a result, not equipping them with skills they need to get ahead and succeed.
That’s why ACT was proud to champion charter schools that allowed school to tailor themselves to the needs of their communities. Our education policy would further empower choices in schools and allow more diversity for the diverse needs of our future generations.
The world where gangs are faced down by a Government who is determined keep New Zealanders safe is something we should expect. The tragedy of the situation we fund ourselves in today is that there are ways we could get tough on those who choose a life of crime while also addressing the causes of crime. But we may just need to wait for Government who is ready to prioritise the security of New Zealand to achieve it.
ACT's Justice Spokesperson Nicole McKee
Nicole is a mother of four, has a background in law, and is passionate about firearms reform and freedom of speech.
Before entering politics, Nicole ran her own business providing firearms safety training, and is a four-time New Zealand shooting champion.
Nicole was the coordinator of the nation’s volunteer firearms safety instructors for the Mountain Safety Council and the spokesperson for the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) and its Fair and Reasonable Campaign.
In the wake of our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch, Nicole provided the calm and intelligent voice of reason on firearms law. So much so, she was awarded Communicator of the Year 2020.