Town to tackle gang
The Mongrel Mob has had a presence in Mataura for many years but an increase in the number of gang members living in the area has the mayor and community leaders concerned.
Gore district mayor Tracy Hicks said there has been a significant increase in numbers, not just in Gore and Mataura but throughout Southland.
‘‘I’ve had it bought to my attention not just by the police but from other people in various communities. Some people are fearful of people in gang patches.’’
A report from the council’s social capacity and health coordinator Bernadette Hunt, which will be tabled at a Gore District Council meeting tomorrow night, says the increase in gang members is a ‘‘coordinated, planned effort by the Mongrel Mob to grow its presence in the south’’.
The report suggests forming a community working group to implement initiatives to tackle the gang problem.
Hicks said the initiatives weren’t about ‘‘running the gang out of town’’.
‘‘There’s a place for everyone in society and we’re really just being proactive and understanding the motivation behind the increase in numbers. ‘‘Forewarned is forearmed.’’ Some of the initiatives the working group may implement include hosting a meth awareness conference, a rural security campaign focused on gun security, establishing a ‘‘patch ban’’ in shops, and co-operation between police, real estate agents and property agents to manage the purchase and rental of houses and buildings in key areas to ensure that gangs are prevented from ‘‘taking over’’ key locations, building an overwhelming presence, or driving others out.
An ‘It’s Not OK’ campaign may be established, where community ‘‘champions’’ are trained to identify and support women and families who are struggling with domestic violence.
Hairdressers have been particularly and successfully targeted to be champions in other locations, the report says.
The working group would include representation from the council, Mataura Community Board, police and Hokonui Runanga.
Other representatives could include representatives from the Mataura Marae, Youth Council, the shearing industry, mental health services, Salvation Army, Ministry of Social Development, the towns’ GoRetail group, the Southern District Health Board, and people from the education sector.
Mataura resident Amelia Conroy said although there was a gang presence in the town, they had always had that. ‘‘Every town has gangs but like I said they’ve never done anything to me.’’
‘‘If we need something done at the marae, they’ll come help.’’
Conroy works at the kohunga in Mataura she said she often saw known gang members picking up children. ‘‘They take off their patch then come in.’’
Councillors, at the meeting, will also discuss spending $9200 to join ‘Safe in the South’, Southland’s Safe Communities programme, which encompasses Invercargill city and Southland district.
Through Safe in the South, agencies, NGOs and community groups are connected and work together to drive initiatives that improve community safety through four workstreams: Road and Fire, Family, Workplace and Community and Youth and Alcohol.
‘‘There’s a place for everyone in society and we’re really just being proactive and understanding the motivation behind the increase in numbers. Forewarned is forearmed.’’
Gore district mayor Tracy Hicks