Nelson Matters - Gangs in Nelson

I love that Nelson is such a safe place. We have for years had one of New Zealand’s lowest crime rates. My worry is the recent growth of gangs and the escalation in violence and drug crime.

Police report gang numbers have grown nationally by 46% since 2017 from 5343 to 7825. The fastest growth in gang numbers in the country was in our Tasman Police District of 178%, from 68 to 189. The Nelson District Court records gang members held in custody on serious charges more than doubled from 52 to 127 in 2020.

I look with nostalgia on the days when Nelson’s only gang was the Lost Breed. They occasionally caused a ruckus but were relatively benign. The Lost Breed was taken over by the Mongrel Mob several years ago and has subsequently grown into three chapters of Aotearoa, Whakatu and the Barbarians. We now have 15 gangs, including the particularly nasty Hells Angels, Nomads, Outlaws and Bandidos operating in our region. I have for the first time as an MP been told of Nelsonians leaving our region due to gang violence and intimidation.

The Labour Government’s response to the threat from gangs has been soft and inadequate. $100 million has been spent on removing 61,000 firearms from law abiding hunters, but only one weapon has been removed from gangs. Labour has repeatedly blocked Nationals proposed firearm prohibition orders that would ban gang members owning firearms.

I questioned the Commissioner last week at Parliament’s Justice Select Committee on the new instruction to front line police not to pursue a fleeing vehicle even if it had 3kg of meth. Gangs know they can now just do a runner.

We need to back our Police with tough laws and new tools to relentlessly pursue Nelson’s newly established gangs. If we do not, our problems with violence and meth will just get worse.