Monday, February 26, 2007

Wanganui and gang-patches

Last year, the Wanganui District Council floated a plan for a bylaw to ban gang patches in an effort to force gang-members out of the city. The plan was quickly shot down on the basis that, human rights concerns aside, they simply did not have the legal power to do so - but now its back, in the form of a Local Bill to be brought by National MP Chester Borrows. The bill has already been "looked at by police national headquarters" and is expected to be brought before the House in the next couple of months, with the full support of the National Party.

There are obvious problems with such a bill. Firstly, it would clearly violate the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association affirmed in the BORA. But by creating an essentially local offence of "wearing a gang patch in Wanganui", it would also undermine the certainty people could place in the criminal law. When considering the recent Manukau Prostitution and Manukau Graffiti bills, the Local Government and Environment Committee expressed a strong preference against the creation of this sort of local offence, raising the spectre of a patchwork of local jurisdictions, with different criminal law in each. Parliament clearly does not want such a situation, and hopefully they'll say so clearly at the bill's first reading.


"But by creating an essentially local offence of "wearing a gang patch in Wanganui", it would also undermine the certainty people could place in the criminal law."

Unlike liquor bans?
Or differing cark parking laws?
Or having different Annual Plans that mean something that doesn't need RMA approval in one place does in another?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 2/26/2007 01:18:00 PM

Graeme: you may have noticed the word "criminal" there.

Dean Knight notes that the power of arrest to enforce liquor bans is very unusual, and specifically provided for in the Local Government Act. But even then, it serves to enforce what is effectively a national rather than local policy objective. Wheras WDC wants what is essentially a purely local criminal offence - fine in a federal system, but not in a unitary one.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/26/2007 01:32:00 PM

I think you can park your cark as long as it's not differing.
Seriously Chester, if you ban patches the naughty gangs will all go away, seriously Chester.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/26/2007 03:29:00 PM

I did notice, so perhaps should have phrased my third example this way:

Having it so that some actions will attract fines of up to $100,000 and prison terms of up to 2 years in some parts of the country, and will be legal in other parts of the country (because of differing annual/regional/etc. plans)

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 2/26/2007 03:35:00 PM

The RMA applies to actions, like putting up a building, that can reasonably be subject to some consideration and enquiry as to the relevant district plan. It would also be impractical to have a system of planning control that did not apply different considerations for downtown Auckland and a South Island paddock - just a question of practicality.

What we don't need is a rash of ill considered laws on gang patches, graffiti, prostitution, etc. much of which contradicts national law. Local authorities in NZ are there to provide services and implement policy within a nationally decided framework - we do not have a federal system and they are not sovereign states.

If we did move towards such a system, the first thing we'd need is an enforcable BORA to set boundaries.

And what are the Police doing assisting with this bill? - helping local authorities create their own private legal codes isn't down as an output in their annual report.

Posted by Rich : 2/26/2007 04:42:00 PM

Paula from Auckland says what has gang patches and alcohol have in common. These guys have been wearing patches for as long as I can remember. What is the problem all of a sudden. My whanau run one of the gangs and they are tangata whenua from Whanganui. It is the skin-heads who do not belong their remove the skin-heads and all will be ka pai.

Ko au ki te awa, ko te awa ko au!!!

Posted by Anonymous : 2/26/2007 07:39:00 PM

Indeed... remove the skin heads - every single one of them, so there is nothing left.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/26/2007 11:20:00 PM

My thoughts turned into a blog post... Fashion tips for liberals

Posted by Anonymous : 2/27/2007 12:51:00 PM

The correct remedy then will be to extend Chester Borrows' Bill to the whole country and forbid gang patches averywhere

Posted by Anonymous : 2/27/2007 01:04:00 PM

First ask, "What is a gang patch?"

Is it a flag stitched to the back of a jacket? Is it a specific set of gestures or code phrases? Is it an appropriately coloured bandanna on your head? Is it a specific piece of jewlery? Is it a tattoo?

These have all been used to indicate association with a gang. How are you going to enforce a ban on any one, or all, of them?

Another badge would be chosen, it's as simple as that.

Pointless small minded politics. The problem isn't what they wear, or who they are, or even what they do, it's why they're there (i.e. it's easier to make a living as a gang member than it is to work).

Posted by Bloodrage : 2/27/2007 05:21:00 PM

You're debating the workability of the law whilst overlooking the reason it was drafted in the first place: Michael Laws' unquenchable thirst for self-aggrandisement.

Of course gangs won't disappear if patches are banned,and a better means is simply to tighten existing control on behaviour with better enforcement. But that wouldn't generate the publicity and have us all blogging and calling talkback.

What if a group of Coffin Cheaters from Australia decide they like the new Wanganui tourism push so much and arrive on holiday wearing patches? Will Michael call Chester and have a quick amendment passed?

And since the cops are flat out writing the rest of us tickets, the poor slobs in Wanganui's "citizens patrols" will no doubt be the ones asking Black Power and Mongrel Mob members to take off their jackets and, in some cases, pants.

Now if he really wanted a headline, Laws would be out leading Wanganui's fashion vigilantes himself. Something tells me he'll be otherwise engaged, though.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/27/2007 07:19:00 PM

I thought "Coffin Cheaters" came from Tauranga? Or is that just Coffin Dodgers?

Posted by Rich : 2/27/2007 10:50:00 PM

Coffin Cheaters were originally an Australian Motorcycle club that have recently added a chapter in Norway.

Not sure about Coffin Dodgers, major outlaw mc in Bay of Plenty are the Filthy Few MC.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/28/2007 11:39:00 AM

"Coffin Dodgers" was an attempted funny reference to the number of old people who live in the bay?

Posted by Rich : 2/28/2007 01:22:00 PM