Over the last week a series of Facebook interactions between good friends, rugby fanatics and passionate countrymen had me seriously thinking about the the blog I was going to write this weekend. It was a serious topic and something I am passionate about: Culture, identity and the conflict they can create (both internally and externally).
Of course, my first published novel The Cry of the Kuaka is essentially a story of country, culture, identity and conflict. And up until now my wife Kate is the only person who knew it is a story of immigration, integration, and a search for identity in a rapidly changing world. It is in fact a story dedicated to Kate’s immigration to New Zealand, her move away from family, her friends and her culture. She is not alone in this, I have spent nearly 20 years of my life living outside of NZ, so I know first hand the feelings of isolation and disconnect in living away from your roots. In living in NZ, Kate reports she has never felt denigrated, devalued or insulted over her country and culture, she feels accepted.
So to end a long story, this week’s blog was going to be an examination and exploration of ‘sense of humour failure’ and ‘cultural insensitivity’.Honestly, these subjects are a deep and dark cupboard of full of values, assumptions and prejudices. After thinking about this all week, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it sussed, I know what I want to say, but tonight’s not the night. I’m too tired!
So instead: I’m going to make a confession, but please don’t tell anyone, in case the police should find out. I am in fact a member of a criminal gang! I’m the only member so far, but I’m growing rapidly. My gang is called the Tahunanui Terror and the police know nothing about me – I’m flying under the radar! Long may it continue!
My confession has been induced by the following article published in the Nelson Mail on September 14 2015 by Jonathan Carson.
Hells Angels gang gains foothold in Nelson
The Hells Angels have gained a foothold in Nelson and are fast becoming one of the region’s most established gangs, police figures show.
There are seven gangs represented in Nelson Bays with a total of 37 patched or prospect members, according to the latest police intelligence.
The figures for June, released under the Official Information Act, show there are six patched or prospect Hells Angels members in the region.
The Lost Breed is said to have 11 members and a gang pad. The Mongrel Mob has 12 members but police say they are scattered and don’t have a pad.
Other gangs represented in Nelson Bays include Black Power (two members); Head Hunters (two members); Rebels (one member); and Southern Vikings (one member).
Police know of 75 patched or prospect members representing 11 gangs across Tasman district, including Nelson Bays, Marlborough and the West Coast.
The figures provide an insight into the region’s gang scene in a post-Operation Explorer and Red Devils world.
Operation Explorer was a police undercover investigation into the Red Devils, launched in September 2009, in response to concerns that the Red Devils would evolve into a Hells Angels chapter.
The investigation uncovered alleged drugs, violence and dishonesty offending, involving 21 Red Devils members and associates, but the case was thrown out in June after a High Court judge ruled that evidence for most of the charges was improperly obtained.
The Red Devils became a “hang around” chapter of the Hells Angels last year, and police believe they are in the process of becoming an official chapter.
Tasman police acting crime manager Detective Senior Sergeant Ciaran Sloan said the Hells Angels were one of the most established “active” gangs in Nelson Bays, second only to the Lost Breed.
He said the Mongrel Mob had been “policed hard” across the district, resulting in a number of high-profile arrests.
Sloan said gangs were more covert and business savvy than ever, using legitimate companies and trusts as fronts for organised crime. He said they were well-versed in the law and ensured their vehicles were compliant. The strategy had made policing gangs more difficult, he said.
“They’re making money through illegal means, but they’re smart.
“They’ve got trusts and legitimate businesses and they do the ‘Cancer Kids’ run. They’re trying to say to the community, ‘Hey, we’re good old boys riding motorbikes’.
“They don’t want our attention. They’re not riding their motorbikes down Bridge St at 3am shooting the place up. They want to be left alone to get on with what they’re doing.”
Sloan said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Nelson Bays’ most established gangs – Hells Angels and Lost Breed – were involved in the manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine, also known as P.
“Gangs exist to make money through criminal activity. In New Zealand at the moment the most profitable way of doing that is through manufacture, distribution methamphetamine.”
Sloan said the number of gang members in the region was relative to the overall population.
He said gangs represented by one or two members were not established groups. “They’re not operating as an organised gang but we certainly want to keep tabs on people like that for the very reason of, why are they here? Are they representing the stronger gang that’s in Auckland, are they part of the business that they’re in?”
Police Association president Greg O’Connor said gangs were setting up in Nelson Bays “en masse”.
“Nelson is almost at the front end of a lot of this stuff now,” he said. “It’s all about trying to carve out territory to commit crime in.”
O’Connor said the police figures did not include the number of gang associates.
“Some of these gangs might only have two or three patched members but have a look at how many people are hanging around them.”
He said while gangs were more covert, they still used violence and intimidation.
Police say there are 32 gangs in New Zealand with an estimated 3500 to 4000 patched and prospect members.