'Bulls***': Nash hits out against former colleagues over gang seizures

Stuart Nash. Photo via NZ Herald
Stuart Nash. Photo via NZ Herald
Stuart Nash has hit out at his former Labour colleagues over changes to laws targeting gangs he wanted to introduce, but which others wouldn’t progress due to fears they would unfairly target Māori.

Last year the Labour government changed the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to allow police to seize gang leaders’ property, such as cars and bikes, if valued over $30,000 and if it could not be proven they were paid for legitimately.

But then-police minister Nash wanted the threshold lowered to $0 - a plan he says was dashed by Labour’s Minister of Justice Kiri Allan over concerns it would hurt Māori and would contravene the Bill of Rights.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning, Nash hit out at Allan, saying at the time his view was “pull your bloody head in”.

He strongly denied that such a move was aimed at or would hurt Māori, saying police were “race-agnostic” when it came to dealing with gangs.

Nash told Hosking this morning the conversation was not held in Cabinet - which would make it confidential - but was a conversation he had as soon as he became Police Minister.

He believed $30,000 was too high a threshold because “you can engineer a sale where you can buy a Harley for under $30,000”.

Nash - who took over as Police Minister from Chris Hipkins when the latter became Prime Minister - said the first thing he did in the role was talk to Hipkins about dropping the seizure limit to $0.

“He said, ‘Well, see if you can get it past Kiri [Allan]. And I went to Kiri and said this is what I want to do. And she said ‘No, we need to leave it at $30,000.’”

Nash then asked to take the issue to Cabinet.

“And she said ‘No, this is what it’s going to be.’ She obviously went to Hipkins and Hipkins said, ‘Okay, we’re going to leave it at $30,000′. Why? Because it’s anti-Māori. Bulls***.”

Nash claimed police were “race-agnostic” when it came to gangs.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re Māori, European, Chinese, Indian, what ethnicity - a gang member is a gang member is a gang member and they need to be held to account.”

Nash said the harm gangs perpetrated across communities, including destroying communities through methamphetamine, meant “we need to go really hard” on them.

“I think the men and women in our [police] service do an absolutely brilliant job. But we, as politicians, have got to give them the tools to do this.”

Asked by Hosking if it was fair to say the incident showed a strong Māori caucus in Labour who were protecting “Māori behaviour and Māori issues”, Nash said that was not a fair statement.

He believed Kelvin Davis - who is Māori - would have backed him if the issue had been taken to Cabinet.

Asked if the spat showed Hipkins was a weak leader, Nash said he believed “in this case, he got it wrong”.

“I think he misjudged New Zealanders’ appetite to really go incredibly hard against the gangs.”

Labour had done some good things - “we changed the firearms rules, actually the bikes that were crushed over the weekend were crushed under Labour legislation...but we need to go harder”.

Nash said Labour would need to position itself as tough on gangs if it had any hope of winning the next election.

Allan said she did not want to comment on Nash’s version of events.

“Let me put it this way. I wouldn’t waste my time or energy responding to a person seeking relevance and attention by misrepresenting facts. If this is how he wants to get into the media, all power to him.”