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Gangs in New Zealand

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Sign on the Cook Strait ferry DEV Arahura prohibiting the display of gang patches

There are numerous gangs in New Zealand, of varying criminality, organisation and ethnicity. The New Zealand Police have distinguished between "New Zealand gangs", outlaw motorcycle gangs and local street gangs.[not verified in body] They named the three most prominent "New Zealand gangs" as Black Power (not related to the African-American movement); the Mongrel Mob, and the Nomads.[1][not verified in body] Examples of local street gangs are the Junior Don Kings (JDK) and Dope Money Sex (DMS) in Central Auckland.[2][not verified in body]

According to the book Gangs by Ross Kemp,[not verified in body] New Zealand has more gangs per head than any other country in the world,[3][not verified in body] with about seventy major gangs and over 4,000 patched members[4][not verified in body] in a population of 4 million people.


According to sociologist Jarrod Gilbert, New Zealand has had youth and street gangs since the 1950s.[5] By the 1960s, there were four established gangs: Black Power, Mongrel Mob, Head Hunters and Stormtroopers. They had friends in high places with prime minister Robert Muldoon partying at a Black Power pad in 1976 and Wellington Mayor Michael Fowler stumping bail for seven of them after an altercation with the Mongrel Mob.[6] However organised crime gangs such as those which currently dominate the New Zealand scene mostly date from the 1970s. 'Gangsta' style gangs have been a presence in New Zealand since the early 1990s but individual gangs of this type are typically short lived.[1] New Zealand gangs have generally been heavily influenced by their American counterparts. Although Black Power takes its name from the black liberation movement of the same name, in many ways it and similar gangs are much more akin to white American motorcycle gangs such as the Hell's Angels. Since the early 1990s newer gangs have primarily been influenced by African American street gangs such as the Crips and Bloods.[5]

Prison statistics[edit]

Gang members account for a rapidly increasing proportion of incarcerations in New Zealand. A New Zealand Ministry of Justice study showed that in 1991 just under 80% of prison inmates had no gang history, and just over 90% had no current gang membership. Of the prison population, 4% were members of the Mongrel Mob and 4.3% former members, while 3.6% were current and 3.2% former members of Black Power. No other gang had more than one percent of the prison population.[7] A similar study in 2003 showed that 11.3% of prison inmates were gang members. Of these, 35% were Mongrel Mob and 33% Black Power, with no other individual gang having more than 5% of the imprisoned gang population.[8] As of April 2013, gang members and affiliates account for over 30% of inmates, with over 10% of New Zealand prisoners being Mongrel Mob members.[9]

Prominent gangs[edit]

Highway 61 members in Wellington, New Zealand

Black Power[edit]

Black Power was formed in the late 1960s in Wellington as the Black Bulls,[10] and its membership is primarily Māori and Pacific Islander. It has been involved with various kinds of crime, particularly drug dealing. Its symbol is the clenched fist of the American black power movement, and their colours are blue and black.


In 1977 the Nomads split from Black Power.[11]

Head Hunters MC[edit]

The Head Hunters motorcycle club is one of the fastest growing motorcycle clubs in the country. It has chapters in West Auckland, Wellsford, Northland and most recently Wellington and Christchurch after patching over the Epitaph Riders.[12] Its beginning is said to go back to 1967 and has been historically tied to West Auckland although it maintains a presence in Ellerslie through a senior member.[13] In late 2010 members of the Sinn Fein motorcycle club in Wellington have patched over to become part of the Head Hunters motorcycle club.[14]

King Cobras[edit]

The King Cobras are a Central Auckland-based gang[15] with its origins born out of the Polynesian Panthers in the early 1970s whose ranks are predominantly Polynesian but not exclusive of others. Their reputed turf is reported to stretch from the Downtown area to Mangere Papatoetoe and Manurewa.[16] The Cobras also have links and associations with activity in the far north Moerewa Whangarei and North Shore,[17] and an established presence as far south as the Hutt Valley and the Wellington area.[18] In 2009 it was reported that members of the gang had been involved in a multimillion-dollar methamphetamine drug ring organised within Paremoremo Prison, and previously ran another large drug ring along with the Head Hunters.[19] The Cobras maintained a headquarters in Ponsonby up until August 2011 as they are reported to be shifting premises.[15][20]

Bandidos MC[edit]

In 2012, the notorious worldwide Motorcycle Club known as the Bandidos set up in South Auckland [21] and later established a second chapter in Christchurch.[22] The Bandidos have gone on to establish prospect chapters in Dunedin and Invercargill.[23][24]

Hells Angels MC[edit]

The Hells Angels motorcycle club founded a chapter in Auckland in 1961 and has since taken over gangs in Wanganui. New Zealand had the first chapter of the Hells Angels outside the US.[4]

In 2011 the club made headlines when it tried to register a lottery.[25] It made headlines again in late 2015 when it shutdown Nelson's long-standing Lost Breed MC to stamp its mark on the city.[26]

Highway 61 MC[edit]

The Highway 61 motorcycle club was founded in 1968 and was the largest outlaw motorcycle club in New Zealand during the 1980s, 90s up until 2010.[27] It has chapters in Auckland, Hastings, Rotorua, Northland, Wellington and Christchurch, and by 2008 had expanded into Brisbane Sydney and the Gold Coast in eastern Australia.[28] They are mainly European and Maori in descent.[citation needed]

Mongrel Mob[edit]

The Mongrel Mob was formed and organised in Hastings about 1968 and, like its Black Power rivals, is primarily Māori and Pacific Islander. The gang has been active in organised crime and has been involved in several murders. Its symbol is a bulldog wearing a German Stahlhelm helmet, and the gang makes use of other Nazi imagery. Their colours are red and black. The Mongrel Mob is currently the largest gang in New Zealand.[29]

Rebels MC[edit]

In 2010 members of the Australian motorcycle club the Rebels have announced they will be establishing a presence in New Zealand in 2011. Rebels MC members have been sighted wearing their patches in various places throughout the North Island in early 2011.[30]

Road Knights MC[edit]

The Road Knights motorcycle club operates in the South Island.[31] They are based in Invercargill, Timaru and Dunedin.[32]

Tribesmen MC[edit]

The Tribesmen is a prominently Māori motorcycle club formed in the 1980s in Otara, they have a presence in South Auckland and as far south as Rotorua[33] and Murupara.[34] The Tribesmen are also rivals with the Mongrel Mob.[35]

Killer Beez[edit]

The Tribesmen have a feeder youth street gang called Killer Beez (sometimes Killer Bees, Killabeez, or KBZ),[36] possibly a reference to the hip hop group Killa Beez, a name given to Wu-Tang Clan affiliates who also wear yellow and black.[37] Killer Beez was headed by Josh Marsters,[38] formerly a vice-president of the Tribesmen gang. Marsters was one of 44 people from both gangs arrested in a police swoop in May 2008. In total 60 Killer Beez were arrested in an operation[39] that involved 110,000 intercepted messages.[40] Charges included supplying methamphetamine, conspiracy to supply methamphetamine and money laundering. Masters pleaded guilty but as of October 2011 was fighting to have that overturned.[41][42]

In 2010 member Latu Savelio Halangingie Kepu killed Jason Palmer, a prison guard in Spring Hill Corrections Facility.

In 2011 Vila Lemanu was the most senior Killer Beez member not in prison, he was on the run for several months[43] before having his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal and a new trial ordered.[44]

The Killer Beez controlled the record label Colourway Records[45] until all its assets were seized in 2008.[46]

Red Devils MC[edit]

The Red Devils Motorcycle Club has a presence in Mt Eden along with strong ties to the Hells Angels[citation needed]. In 2012 the club was involved in a high-profile anti-drug operation which later fell apart under heavy scrutiny in court. A range of charges laid against twenty one club members and associates were stayed, and later dropped altogether, in the belief that police had committed a "gross abuse of process" in posing as court officials to obtain a fake arrest warrant. The case against the club was officially dropped in early 2015 with the final charges dismissed on July 1. Police now believe that the Nelson chapter has become a full-fledged prospect chapter of the Hells Angels.[47][48][49][50]

Other gangs[edit]

Motorcycle gangs[edit]

  • Filthy Few MC (Tauranga, Rotorua, Waihi and Matamata)[51]
  • Greasy Dogs (Mount Maunganui)[52]
  • Huhu MC (Tokoroa), started as a largely bush crew from the early 1950s, MC in the early 1970s.[53]
  • Satans Slaves MC ( Wellington )[54]
  • Devils Henchmen MC (Timaru)[55]
  • Outlaws MC (Napier - patched over to the international club in mid-2014) [56]
  • Magogs MC (New Plymouth)[57][58][59]

Race-based gangs[edit]

Street/youth gangs

  • Junior Don Kings (Roskill South)[63]
  • Darksiders (Connected to Black Power, Wellington)[62][64][65]
  • Dope Money Sex (Central Auckland) (Also under the Crips Umbrella).[66]
  • T.O.C. (Thugs of Canal) Avondale based street gang which is named after the street they hold ground on.[67]
  • J.C.B. (Junior Crip Boys) Otahuhu based crip gang.[67]

Legal opposition[edit]

Some politicians have called for gang patches to be made illegal.[68][69][70]

In 2009 the Wanganui District Council voted to ban gang patches, but it was overturned following a judicial review instigated by the Hells Angels.[71] The council tried again in 2011, this time restricting the ban to just the central business district, malls and parks.[72]

A law banning gang patches from government and public buildings was introduced in 2012 by National MP Todd McClay.[73] Police welcomed the law,[74] but others said it was racist against Māori.[75] It was passed as the Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Act, and has been in force since August 2013.[76]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "New Zealand Police Criminal Investigation Branch: Organised Crime". Archived from the original on 13 January 2007.
  2. ^ Gower, Patrick (20 August 2007). "Gang pack rapes random, alcohol-fuelled". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  3. ^ Kemp, Ross (2007). Gangs. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-7181-5328-1.
  4. ^ a b Kemp, p 50
  5. ^ a b Gower, Patrick (18 August 2007). "Bash, bling and blood". The New Zealand Herald. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  6. ^ Trust: A true story of Women and Gangs. Pip Desmond. 2009. Page 26
  7. ^ Ministry of Justice - Census of Prison Inmates 1991
  8. ^ Corrections Department - Gang Membership.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Egarr, Tristan (14 July 2008). "Gang Land". Salient. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  11. ^ Denis O'Reilly, 'Nga Kupu Aroha: Words of Love',
  12. ^ Ensor, Blair (20 November 2015). "Head Hunters set up Christchurch gang pad". Stuff.
  13. ^ "Bridget Saunders: Fight night at the Headhunters' HQ". The Sunday Star-Times. 11 May 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  14. ^ "Schoolgirls pay to party at gang HQ". The New Zealand Herald. 15 August 2003. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  15. ^ a b Hurley, Bevan (7 August 2011). "Exodus for weakened Cobras". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  16. ^ Taylor, Phil (15 November 2003). "Dope houses low on police hit-list". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Fisher, David (11 January 2009). "Millionaire prisoner involved in drug ring". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Hells Angels pursue rejected lottery plan". 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011. Imagine the Hells Angels running a housie night? No, nor could the Department of Internal Affairs
  26. ^
  27. ^ Newbold, Greg; Taonui, Rāwiri (13 July 2012). "Gangs – Motorcycle and white supremacist gangs". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  28. ^ "Highway 61 bikies dig in at Yatala". 28 January 2008. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008.
  29. ^ Kemp, pp 47-71
  30. ^ "Kiwi police ready to fight Aussie gangs". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 28 January 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  31. ^ Thorne, Dyland (20 June 2008). "Gang tensions on knife edge". The Southland Times. Retrieved 3 July 2008.
  32. ^ Stokes, Cam. "Motorcycle Gang Locations". GangScene. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
  33. ^ "Rotorua man jailed for bar robbery". 15 August 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. A Rotorua man was jailed for more than seven years today for his role in the armed robbery of a bar two years ago.
  34. ^ "Murupara cursed by gang violence - Judge". 3 News. 12 December 2011.
  35. ^ King, Andrew (9 December 2017). "Tribesmen migrate south and motor straight into trouble". Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  36. ^ Savage, Jared (12 February 2011). "Gang's NZ offsiders have notched up 170 years' jail time". Retrieved 8 October 2011. The Tribesmen have been weakened by successful police operations targeting the drug dealing of the gang and feeder gang the Killer Beez.
  37. ^ "New Zealand Parliament - Young people and gangs in New Zealand". 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. Publicity has surrounded the Killer Beez (KB), an affiliated criminal youth gang. Originally formed in Otara in 2003 to provide recruits to the Tribesmen gang, the KB identifying colours are yellow and black.
  38. ^ Johnston, Kirsty (25 May 2012). "Killer Beez boss to have his say in court". Fairfax New Zealand.
  39. ^ Laxon, Andrew (2 July 2011). "Out in force on the mean streets". Retrieved 8 October 2011. But in 2008 police smashed both gangs wide open with a six-month cannabis and methamphetamine sting operation that arrested 60 Killer Beez members and put many of the gang's leaders in jail.
  40. ^ Stickley, Tony (2011). "Police bugs track 110,000 gang messages". Retrieved 8 October 2011. Police intercepted more than 110,000 phone and text messages between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gang members during a major three-month drug operation in South Auckland and the Waikato.
  41. ^ "Gang boss badly beaten in prison". 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  42. ^ Gay, Edward (28 September 2011). "Killer Beez boss seeks to have guilty plea revoked". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  43. ^ Fox, Michael (7 October 2011). "Killer Beez boss on the run". Stuff. Retrieved 9 October 2011. Constable Louis Solia of Otara police said Lemanu was probably the most senior Killer Beez member on the street and warned he should not be approached.
  44. ^ "Vila Lemanu | Bag-snatch Co-Accused Sentence Quashed". Stuff. 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2011. In August, the Court of Appeal quashed Shadrock's murder conviction and ordered a re-trial which is due to take place at the High Court in Auckland next June.
  45. ^ "New Zealand Parliament - Crimes Amendment Bill, Local Government Amendment Bill, Sentencing Amendment Bill (No 3) — Third Readings". 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. I ask members to consider a gang called the Killer Beez. It has its own hip-hop record label called Colourway Records. What does it do? It makes music videos—recruitment advertisements for gangs, thinly disguised as music videos, that are played on mainstream
  46. ^ "44 in dock after drug raids". 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. During the operation, police seized $200,000 in cash, 538g of pure methamphetamine with a street value of more than $500,000, nearly 400g of cannabis, 15 vehicles under the Proceeds of Crimes Act, 12 firearms and all the assets from the business premises of Colourway Records in Otara.
  47. ^ "Further fallout from police gang blunder - National - NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 25 October 2012.
  48. ^ "Judgement of Simon France" (PDF). High Court of New Zealand. 24 October 2012.
  49. ^ Carson, Jonathan (16 June 2015). "Graham McCready to prosecute police for misconduct in Red Devils case". Stuff. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  50. ^
  51. ^ Vass, Beck (14 March 2007). "Armed drug raid on city gang pad". Bay of Plenty Times. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  52. ^ ""Greasy Dogs" among gangs hit in crackdown". Newstalk ZB. 16 March 2007. Archived from the original on 15 August 2007.
  53. ^ Jaram, Dannielle Moewai (2009). "Joe Harawira: the emergence of a matauranga Maori environmentalist". MAI Review (1): 4. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  54. ^ Cowlishaw, Shane (9 May 2012). "Newtown: Eight Gangs Living in Suburb". The Dominion-Post. Retrieved 22 June 2012. Satan
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^ Meng-Yee, Carolyne (17 August 2008). "Xin Xin's family flee over Triad gang threat". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  61. ^ "Drug crusader admits threat to pharmacist". Waikato Times. 7 August 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  62. ^ a b "Jurassic Roar". August 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  63. ^ Gower, Patrick (20 August 2007). "Gang pack rapes random, alcohol-fuelled". The New Zealand Herald.
  64. ^ "Nga Kupa Aroha/Words of Love". Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  65. ^ "Nga Kupa Aroha/Words of Love". Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  66. ^ Collins, Simon (31 January 2007). "Residents share tales of terror from youth gangs in 'dead-end' street". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  67. ^ a b Boyes, Nicola (31 October 2005). "Peace talk starts small in the neighbourhood". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  68. ^ Berry, Ruth (29 January 2007). "Sharples calls for tougher line on gang problems". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  69. ^ Young, Audrey (30 January 2007). "Sharples' gangs call divides opinions". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  70. ^ Lundy, Sharon (5 March 2007). "Gang patches could be banned nationwide". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  71. ^ "Wanganui to try new gang patch ban bylaw". 3 News NZ. 14 March 2011.
  72. ^ "Whanganui amends gang patch bylaw". 3 News NZ. 20 December 2011.
  73. ^ "Gang patch bill set to pass". 3 News NZ. 29 August 2012.
  74. ^ "Gang patch outlawing welcomed by police". 3 News NZ. 7 November 2012.
  75. ^ "Harawira: Proposed gang patches ban 'racist'". NZ Herald. 22 August 2012.
  76. ^ Nash, Stuart (5 May 2018). "Prohibition on display of gang patches". NZ Government. Retrieved 22 August 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gilbert, Jarrod (2013). Patched: the history of gangs in New Zealand. Auckland University Press. ISBN 9781869407292.

External links[edit]