National Party leader Christopher Luxon is calling for Police Minister Poto Williams to be removed from the role, saying she’s “not equipped”.
Luxon has been adamant stronger anti-gang laws are needed to combat the recent rise in tensions, and touted Australian-style laws including allowing police to search for guns with a warrant.
He told Morning Report that Williams should be removed from the position, adding “she could add value to other portfolios, but she’s clearly out of her depth, things aren’t getting better”.
A rivalry between the Tribesmen and Killer Beez gangs has spurred an increase in shootings, up to eight in a single night in Auckland. Luxon said New Zealanders were feeling unsafe.
“It’s another night, another shooting. There’s been 23 shootings in two weeks; violent crime is up 21 percent; gang members are up 40 percent. That’s the reality that New Zealanders are facing.”
He said police did not have the tools they needed to deal with the gangs.
“They want to do the job, they … have the capability to respond to crime, but they don’t have the tools.”
Police officers did not have confidence in Williams, he said, and while she did not need to be removed from Cabinet she should be removed from the portfolio.
He called for the firearm prohibition orders that police wanted in 2017. The government has worked on introducing FPOs but they do not grant warrantless search powers.
“We’ve had two members bills that the government rejected around them, and they give police the powers to actually search our gang members and issue firearm prohibition orders and to seize those illegal guns,” Luxon said.
He said such a tool would allow police to search gang members and gang pads for illegal guns without a warrant.
He would not say whether the infringement of individual’s human rights through warrantless searches was appropriate, but said: “We need to be able to do exactly what we need to do to get illegal guns off gang members.”
“Gangs are not nice people, gangs peddle in misery.”
Last month, Williams told Parliament there were nearly 7700 gang members on the police national gang list, an increase of 2300 in five years.
The government was considering more measures to disrupt gangsafter a series of shootings, and Williams yesterday said all options were on the table.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged gang violence was escalating, and said the government had asked police for ideas on how to tackle it.
She and her deputy Grant Robertson are headed to Australia this week to meet their recently elected counterparts. Luxon said it was important New Zealand continue to raise Australia’s 501 policy.
“We’ve had 2500 501s returned to New Zealand in seven years, and 50 percent of them have reoffended. So, it gets us back to what are we doing around monitoring them and then ultimately what are we doing around the gang violence that we’re seeing?”
But sociologist and gangs researcher Jarrod Gilbert yesterday said New Zealand had seen this kind of gang crime before.
He said people should be wary of politicians promising to lay down the law, particularly when in opposition, adding that legislative change was unlikely to make much of a difference.
Gilbert said solutions needed to target specific problems, rather than targeting the gangs.
However, former drug dealer Rotorua-based Billy McFarlane, who spent half his life in prison, said gangs were a scourge and must be outlawed.
In May, he told Nine to Noon he did not believe the influx of 501 deportations from Australia was to blame for the majority of New Zealand’s gang problem.
“That’s an excuse, in my opinion, for what’s going on.”
Poverty was one of the biggest drivers for gangs, he said.