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Gangs and Organised Crime Bill : Third Reading

Gangs and Organised Crime Bill : Third Reading

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki

Wednesday 28 October 2009

This is an extremely important day for Aotearoa.

On this day in 1835, He Wakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene (the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand) was signed. The Declaration bears the signatures of 52 rangatira, and is commonly perceived as a document which demonstrated British recognition of an independent Maori nation.

Indeed, the 1835 Declaration has become symbolic for many Maori as an assertion of autonomous rights or mana motuhake.

And so, within the context of such a profound event, I am pleased to bring to the House, a very recent example of mana motuhake as it relates to this legislation, the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill.

Late last evening I was sent the resolutions agreed to by consensus at a hui held at Te Rangitahi Marae in Murupara exactly one week ago.

The hui was held by a community who had had enough of living in fear of brutal violence and murders continuing in their rohe.

Their key message is that they seek to unite, to fight the violence not the 'gangs'; believing that actually it is the 'gangs' that can stop this violence.

The first recommendation endorses the decision of all iwi at that hui, namely Ngati Whare, Tuhoe, Ngati Haka/Patuheuheu, Tuwharetoa, Te Whakatohea, Te Whanau-a-Apanui and Ngati Awa, individually and collectively, to publicly endorse the Rahui, to ban gang violence over its entire rohe.

The other motion read that all who have members of their iwi amongst the Tribesman and Mongrel Mob take every step possible to ensure that the gang members comply with the Rahui; declare an immediate truce (cease fire); and sign up to a peace pack in the presence of the Iwi concerned on Rangitahi Marae within the next fortnight.

I have raised the concept of the Rahui through the committee stages of this Bill, Mr Speaker, as I think it an excellent example of communities being empowered, to determine their own solutions.

I talked about the practical application of this rahui as it was expressed in local tangihanga, with our kuia being placed in the extremely distressing position of preventing their own kin, their own whanau members from attending as a result of their gang affiliation.

Mr Speaker, there is probably nothing that could be more profound in te Ao Maori, than to be removed from the process of allowing whanau to grieve at the side of their loved ones, to pay their final respects.

We are talking about initiatives of extremely severe consequence for Maori communities – these are bold and courageous moves – and I fully commend those iwi for their initiative in this respect.

So how does what is happening in Murupara deal with the types of amendments and proposals being entrenched into law today?

I want to say for the record, the Maori Party is proud of our reputation for confronting violence and understanding how best to address these issues of such huge moral significance for the development of our communities.

And I say to Mr Jones, there is no moral ambiguity at all, when it comes to issues of lawlessness and injustice.

But there is moral ambiguity, Mr Speaker, in the very notion of targeting one group of the population over and above all others, and target a range of enforcement tools and penalties to respond to that group.

Our concern has always been about the retributive nature of this legislation and its narrow focus on gangs and not the wider context of organized crime such as corporate fraud and international criminal networks.

The Maori Party has continually advocated that there are more effective, restorative ways to deal with gangs and their offending than by enforcement/suppression and imprisonment.

Mr Cosgrove made constant references to meeting with gangs. Funny that! The meeting with my colleague Dr Sharples referred to builds on approaches which other Governments have introduced from both sides of the House. So let’s be clear, and get it right.

One of the more effective approaches was that taken by the 1981 Committee on Gangs which acknowledged the social causes of gangs with the Community Education Initiative Scheme established in 1981 and the Group Employment Liaison Scheme the following year.

The schemes sought to reduce youth gang recruitment through responding positively to the needs of underachieving students who had difficulty moving from school to employment. It also provided children and young people with constructive recreational and sporting activities outside of school.

The main goal of the GELS programme was to engage disadvantaged groups, including gangs, into various government-funded schemes.

In 1987 the Committee of Inquiry into Violent Offending concluded that many of the schemes “had positive results in reducing the offending and anti-social behaviour of those who participated in them”.

And as for the rest of the hostile rhetoric espoused by Mr Cosgrove this morning, that supporting social justice efforts, is akin to throwing up the white flag in defeat, perhaps he might benefit from talking with his colleagues about their involvement in working with gangs.

He might for instance, talk with Mr Horomia about the initiatives supported under his leadership of the Community Employment Group; or to Mr Chauvel and his more recent discussions with gang members in Farmer Crescent in Pomare.

Mr Speaker, there is nothing wrong with talking with communities, for learning from the local people about solutions that work on the ground.

This is our heartfelt call from the Maori Party – that rather than simply locking gangs up and throwing away the key, we need to respond on the basis of a long term goal, rather than the emotions of short-term hysterics.

If we are to invest in the long term health and wellbeing of our nation, we need to acknowledge that actually, Mr Cosgrove, we can’t just kick gangs out of town and lock the city gates.

Gang members come from families, they have children, their children have children – and so we must have the creative courage to think of intergenerational solutions.

What we know is that different strategies to gangs produce very different results.

In essence, there are two schools of thought; a) Elimination through Enforcement, (the Los Angeles approach) or b) Ensuring Public Safety through Gang and Community Engagement (the New York approach).

In Los Angeles, a strategy of suppression and punishment has led to a huge increase in the number of gangs and gang crimes. The policy has resulted in thousands of young people killed in gang conflicts, billions have been spent on policing and surveillance and databases and long prison terms.

Spending on gangs has far outpaced spending on preventative programmes or community development. And what is the great outcome of such a massive enforcement programme? Very simply, LA is now home to six times the number of gangs and at least double the members.

While across the state in New York city, a strategy of community development, educational attainment and opportunities, urban renewal has led to a decrease in gangs, to a point where total gang population is estimated to be around 500 people.

Investment in job training, mentoring, after-school activities, recreational programs has made significant dents in gang violence.

What we are calling for is to invest in communities, to restore balance to the debate, not just to overload the prison cells with yet another punitive approach.

We are calling for an even-handed approach to policing and justice – a balance between enforcement and restoration.

Despite the talk in principle, the practice as enforced in this legislation has been the overwhelming prioritization of enforcement.

We are too hasty to call for the rule book, to slam down laws of enforcement, to punish and to sentence, without understanding that the solution might be as simple as a work scheme, or in supporting communities to determine their own approaches, such as that put forward at Murupara.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party recognises that one of the keys to dignity and respect, and the reduction of reoffending, has to do with the right to work.

Instead of locking away the problem, the Maori Party calls for the House to face its fears, to provide opportunities for communities and individuals to address confrontational behaviour, and to focus on solutions.

ENDS

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