Opotiki mayor John Forbes says he believes the death of a
21-year-old man after a fight on Sunday night was
Mr Forbes told TV3's Firstline the town had a gang presence
similar to other towns across the country.
When asked whether he thought the death of Joe Collier, who
died in Whakatane Hospital on Sunday after a fight on Goring
St, was gang-related, he said he was "led to believe it
"There's no reason to think that it wouldn't be," he said.
"We do have a gang presence... we do have an unemployment
He said there was not a violence problem in his town and most
people were waking this morning and "getting on with life".
Police have called for calm and co-operation following the
death of Mr Collier.
At 7pm on Sunday, police were called to Goring St, where a
number of people were fighting. A few minutes later, an
ambulance picked up critically injured Mr Collier, who had
collapsed in nearby King St, and took him to hospital where
he died a short time later.
People living in Goring St and spoken to by the Rotorua Daily
Post said two neighbouring homes, both sharing one driveway,
were lived in by members of opposing gangs.
Although unconfirmed, the Rotorua Daily Post has been told of
up to three retaliatory incidents in the town yesterday.
Police communications manager Kim Perks confirmed a call had
been received about a person holding a firearm and a shot
fired near Opotiki College, although police could not find
any evidence of this.
She could also not confirm if the incidents were
gang-related. Mrs Perks said although two factions were
involved in Sunday night's incident, it was not known what
had caused the initial dispute.
"Just because there are gang affiliations with people
involved, it was not necessarily a gang dispute. We are
working to find out what sparked the incident."
Eastern Bay of Plenty police area commander Inspector Kevin
Taylor said the community were asked to remain calm and to
co-operate with the investigation into Mr Collier's death.
"We fully appreciate that this is an emotive time for the
community of Opotiki and it is clear Sunday night's incident
has caused some tensions in the town.
"It is really important that we are able to focus our efforts
on supporting the family of the young man who died and
identifying the person responsible for his death, rather than
having resources redirected to deal with growing tensions.
"The best way people can assist the man's family is by
co-operating with the investigation and passing on any
information that might assist us as soon as possible."
He said the community could be assured police were taking the
death seriously and had a large team working on the
investigation. A Goring st resident, who did not wish to be
named, told the Rotorua Daily Post people involved in Sunday
night's assault were members of opposing gangs who lived
"From what I understand, there was a bit of a run-of-the-mill
fight between people living in the two homes. They both
called for back up and, in the fight that eventuated, a
weapon was produced with deadly results."
The man said most people in the street would have heard the
"For years we've had red living beside blue, living beside
yellow," the man said. "And that's because nearly everyone is
Police have increased patrols in Opotiki to provide
additional visibility and public reassurance.
Forensic examination of two houses in Goring St are
continuing and police are awaiting the outcome of a post
- Katee Shanks of the Rotorua Daily Post and APNZ