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Gang skirmishes on the banks of the Wairoa River marring Matariki celebrations will not be tolerated, says the town's mayor.
Wairoa Police said the fighting between Black Power and Mongrel Mob members, at the Maori New Year celebrations last Friday night, set a bad example for the dozens of children who attended.
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little, who attended the event, was "absolutely disappointed" in Friday's incident and said "the people of Wairoa aren't going to put up with this sort of crap".
The community-organised celebrations attracted mainly families and were held at the Wairoa Community Centre and on the banks of the river, in the heart of the northern Hawkes Bay town.
"By the sounds of things they were young prospects, if you can even call them that ... it was great to see that they were shut down very quickly by the police," Mr Little said. "I'm going to meet with the gang leaders and I'm sure they will be very disappointed at what happened. The gang leaders have actually apologised to the community of Wairoa."
Senior Sergeant Tony Bates, of Wairoa Police, said the event was "blighted" by the fight, which allegedly included the use of a hammer, but by the time police had been notified and arrived at the scene, those involved in the conflict had left.
"This was an unfortunate incident that detracted from the whole event, which was meant to promote community spirit and a celebration of a special event," he said. "Our community deserves to be able to hold these events without fear of violence or gang conflict."
Mr Little said the rival gang battle began after the fireworks and the alleged use of a hammer showed the character of those involved.
"I understand it was thrown and hit someone's leg, nothing too serious in terms of injuries, but it would have been the first thing they saw and something that they just grabbed to bring along ... It shows the calibre of the people we are dealing with."
Mr Bates said police would be speaking with both gangs in the town about the incident and inquiries into those involved in the fight were underway.
- By Sam Hurley of Hawke's Bay Today