Debate is growing in New Zealand over a proposed law banning
gang members from wearing their insignia in the town of
After passing its first reading in New Zealand's Parliament
earlier this year by a vote of 106-13, the proposed law is
now being considered by a committee.
There are thought to be at least 3500 so-called "patched"
gang members in New Zealand, who can often be seen wearing
tattoos or clothing adorned with gang emblems.
Wanganui, on the North Island, has been identified as a
hotbed for gang crimes and last year a two-year-old girl in
the town was caught in the middle of gang warfare.
She was allegedly murdered in her home during a feud between
the two largest gangs in the country - the Mongrel Mob and
Radio personality and Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws has
championed the proposed law, which was endorsed by about 65
percent of residents last year.
"Gangs are petty terrorists and they blight literally
hundreds of communities throughout our country," Mr Laws said
in a statement today.
Local MP Chester Borrows, from the main opposition National
Party, brought the matter before the New Zealand parliament
Although the council could create a local by-law, it needed
the backing of parliament because of concerns the new law
could breach New Zealand's Bill of Rights.
The new bill would ban the display of gang regalia, including
patches, gang colours, and even some tattoos, in public in
Mr Borrows told AAP he thought the bill would ultimately be
passed into law, despite the concerns of civil liberty
"Intimidating people is a breach of their civil liberties and
I am more interested in protecting the innocent than
protecting those that have offended against the law," Mr
He said although the law would encompass people wearing gang
tattoos in public, he expected police to take a commonsense
approach and only arrest those who were threatening.
The ruling Labour Party backed the first vote in Parliament,
but a spokesman for Police Minister Annette King said a ban
on patches may not be the solution to the problem of gangs.
"We were quite happy for it to go to select committee, for
the ideas to be debated, but that doesn't mean in the end we
will vote to ban gang patches," he said.
"We just think that a simple answer of banning gang patches
is not the answer."
Meanwhile Auckland's former top gang detective Cam Stokes
told the New Zealand Herald the ban would be
ineffective and result in police being attacked.
"Gang members are unlikely to surrender their 'colours'
lightly," he said.