An increase in Mongrel Mob members in the Gore district is causing community leaders concern.
A Gore District Council mayoral office report states the increase in numbers was a co-ordinated, planned effort by the Mongrel Mob to grow its presence in the South.
The council will discuss the report on Tuesday.
The report says the rise in gang members is not confined to the Gore district but is occurring Southland-wide.
“The Mataura Community Board and Gore police are seeing this through an increased number of newcomers to the town who are connected to the gang, and this is also evident in other towns throughout Otago and Southland,” the report says.
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said there had been several discussions between Gore police’s Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley, Mataura Community Board chairman Alan Taylor, council staff and himself about the issue.
The community board had met to discuss gang developments and sought council support to address concerns.
“However, this is not just a Mataura problem,” the mayoral office report says.
It said it was important the district connected with the rest of Southland and Clutha to ensure unity of approach and that the problem was not driven into neighbouring districts.
Mr Hicks said the discussions centred around getting a “handle” on what was going on.
Concerns about the increased gang presence had surfaced in Hicks said.
“Some people are fearful.
“I think a growing obvious presence has raised some level of concern right across the community.”
Drug use was one of the topics which had been raised by those concerned about the increase in gang membership, he said.
Mr Taylor said the growing use of drugs in the area affected all sectors of the community.
There were more gang members coming into the area and recruitment was also contributing to the increase in gang numbers, he said.
“I think one of the things we are trying to achieve is to bring more of an awareness into the community of the issues that have been raised,” Mr Taylor said.
He was keen to investigate ways of alleviating any problems.
“I keep asking if we keep going down this road, in 10 or 15 years what will our community be like then?” he said.
Mr Taylor was keen to keep the district a safe place to bring up families.
“As elected leaders of the community board and council [that is] what are we here for – we’re not just here to talk but to take action and do whatever it takes to make our community a place in which people want to live.”
noticed a general visibility of gang members in the community.
“It probably indicates there are some gangs that are part of the community.”
“They appear to be living locally and associated through their whanau,” Sen Sgt Fairley said.”
There were recent connections with some drug-related matters which were now before the court, she said.
She had not noticed an increase in gang patches being worn in public.
“Patch members are respecting store owners and have not been causing issues in recent times.”
The benefits of working in a task force with the council allowed the police to focus on the community’s safety.
“We are very community-focused – our main purpose is for the community to be safe and feel safe,” Sen Sgt Fairley said.
“Our focus is always on the prevention of crime and we can help these other agencies with matters they may not have been aware of through this.”
Eastern Southland was a proactive, friendly area and police wanted to ensure the best outcomes for everyone, Sen Sgt Fairley said.
The mayoral report recommends the council approve spending $9200 to implement community resilience initiatives.
It also recommends setting up a working group to drive initiatives.
Community safety measures considered
The Gore District Council is suggesting a community working group to drive forward initiatives to curb the recent gang issues arising in the area.
The group would contain 10 people, with representation from Gore District Council, Mataura Community Board, Gore police and Hokonui Runanga.
A mayoral office report suggested the working group could rapidly implement on-the-ground initiatives:
There will be a united effort to establish a “patch ban” in businesses throughout the Gore district.
A more visible police presence in the Mataura community, including regular “opening” hours at the Mataura Police Station.
The delivery of Keeping Ourselves Safe programmes in primary schools, kohanga and other centres by Gore police school community officers in conjunction with iwi and navigators.
A Safe in the South programme is also being considered for implementation in the area.
There are 26 communities in New Zealand already using the programme to work towards a safe communities accreditation.
government organisations, and community groups are connected and work together to drive initiatives that improve community safety.
It works through four workstreams – road and fire, family, workplace and community.
Through joining the Safe in the South coalition, Gore District Council would become represented at the governance level, be able to contribute to the priorities of the coalition and access the resources and work which has been implemented in Southland and other Safe communities.