The "somewhat calm relationship between the gangs and the distribution of methamphetamine" has been disrupted in Tauranga, according to the city’s mayor Tenby Powell, who said the influx of the drug into New Zealand needs to be addressed.
Mr Powell appeared on TVNZ 1's Breakfast today alongside Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust's Tommy Wilson following a public meeting last night about the spate of gang-related violence in the city.
An increase in serious violence in Tauranga over the past few weeks has seen a double homicide in Omanawa and a deadly shootout on a busy highway.
A woman’s body was also found in the Tauranga suburb of Brookfield over the weekend.
Mr Wilson said there were a number of bases that needed to be covered in addressing the issues caused by methamphetamine use, including associated health problems.
“We’re chewing through about 12kg of P a day, everyone over the age of 40, 30 per cent of them have tried P," Mr Wilson said.
“We can get past the fear issue, we fear most what we understand the least, I think what they did last night with Tenby and other (Western Bay of Plenty District Council) mayor Gary Webber, they took away the fear element, people left less scared than we they arrived."
Mayor Powell said the violence in his city primarily came back to methamphetamine and how it was distributed.
“While what we are focussing right now on is gang violence, the primary cause is the distribution of methamphetamine,” he said.
“I know we’re NZ’s fastest growing and fifth biggest city but in land size we are very small, we’ve seen a dynamic change here that has caused disruption to the existing and somewhat calm relationships between the gangs and the distribution of methamphetamine.”
“At some stage we’re going to have to address the influx of meth into the country, a substance which is destroying the fabric of our society.”
The gang issue could be addressed by reengaging with people, according to Mr Wilson.
“I have four gang member families working with us, everyone wants to belong somewhere, they want to belong, giving them a sense of belonging whether it’s homeless, whether it’s gangs.”