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Ōpōtiki homicide: Closed schools a 'shocking' illustration of lawlessness- National

Bay of Plenty Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 13 Jun 2023, 2:42pm

Ōpōtiki homicide: Closed schools a 'shocking' illustration of lawlessness- National

Bay of Plenty Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 13 Jun 2023, 2:42pm

The closure of Ōpōtiki schools for up to a week because of gang tensions is a “graphic and shocking illustration” of the extent of lawlessness in parts of New Zealand, the National Party’s acting police spokesman says.

It comes after Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was “unacceptable” that Ōpōtiki has been brought to a standstill after a gang president’s slaying brought gang members to the area and fears of retribution.

On Sunday, police named Steven Rota Taiatini, 45, as the person killed in the “disorder-related incident” on St John St, Ōpōtiki, on Friday . Taiatini was understood to be the president of the Mongrel Mob Barbarians. Police have started a homicide investigation.

Police said in a statement today they are seeking information on a burned-out vehicle.

In a media release today, National’s acting police spokesman Paul Goldsmith said today was “a day of shame” for the Labour Government.

“Labour’s inaction and hand-wringing has allowed criminal brazenness to take hold to the extent that a gang can now shut down a town.”

Goldsmith said the situation was a result of Labour “having no plan to deal with gangs”.

He said gang membership was up 66 per cent since Labour came into power six years ago.

 “Instead of getting tougher on organised crime, Labour has given large sums to gang associates to run meth programmes,” he said in the statement.

“Labour’s only target in justice is to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent, irrespective of the level of crime In New Zealand’s communities. This has encouraged a culture of excuses for crime and emboldened gangs.”

Goldsmith said the tragedy in Ōpōtiki underlined the need to “crack down on those peddling misery, intimidating towns, and harming the Kiwi kids who will this week miss out on even more class time”.

He said National would give police the power to issue dispersal notices to stop gang members from congregating in public where they often intimidate, threaten, and sometimes assault innocent people.

Goldsmith said a National government would ban gang patches, give police non-association powers to prevent gang members from communicating and planning criminal activity and give police the warrantless search powers they need to take the guns out of the hands of violent armed gang members.

Minister of Police Ginny Andersen has been approached for comment in response to Goldsmith.

Earlier, Hipkins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking that schools closing and services such as public transport stopping due to the increase in gang activity was not acceptable.

“That clearly indicates that there is a situation that police need to get on top of,” he said.

“It’s unacceptable to be in a position where gang tension is leading to schools being closed and so I do expect that police will do something about that.”

Hipkins said he “absolutely backed” the presence of increased police resources in the town.

“It is utterly unacceptable that this is happening, and I think it’s important to back police to do the job that they need to do, and they need to do that independently of politicians,” he said.

Ōpōtiki mayor David Moore told AM that he and police are working to calm tensions in the town.

He added that people in the town were carrying on as normal, using the fact that he was able to go out and walk his dog as normal this morning as an example.

Moore said there was some concern about a retribution attack.

“We are doing our best to prevent that from happening, but we can only do what we can.”

Moore couldn’t give the number of how many police officers were in the town, but said “we’ve been reassured with what’s been sent to help us”.

He said schools closing for a few days was probably a good idea, with some schools located close to the tangi.

“The schools that were open yesterday, a large number of children were away anyway.”

He said gang members were still members of the community.

“We just have to give the whānau some respect and hopefully the police work quickly to solve this case.”

Gang members and vehicles yesterday lined a street near an Ōpōtiki address where it is believed Taiatini is lying.

A tangi for Taiatini will take place in Whakatāne tomorrow.



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