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Winston Peters calls Opposition 'lemon suckers' as Govt challenged over gang member numbers

Winston Peters called the Opposition "lemon suckers" today as National challenged the Government over what they say is a sharp rise in the number of gang members in New Zealand.

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National Deputy Leader Paula Bennett says nearly 1600 patched gang members have been added since the Government took power. Source: 1 NEWS

In Parliament today, National's Deputy Leader Paula Bennett said nearly 1600 patched gang members have been added since the Government took power.

She altered a Labour chart used by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to tout new housing figures yesterday to illustrate her point.

Ms Bennett's chart read "delivered 1594 more gang members" with the Labour Party logo in the upper left-hand corner.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters - who was answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister - wasn't pleased with Ms Bennett's assertions, stating the previous National government was to blame for any rise in gang member numbers.

He also took issue with the altered chart.

"Holding up a chart like that is actually rather sad because what that chart represented yesterday was the highest house-building rate in this country since 1973," Mr Peters said. 

"This fantastic news that should be celebrated has now been, by the No.1 lemon suckers in the country, turned around into a chart about gangs."

The exchange comes as there will be more police on the streets of Western Bay of Plenty and Manawatu following a string of violent gang-related incidents recently.

Earlier this week, two men were killed at a semi-rural property at Omanawa, about 25 minutes from Tauranga.

It's believed to be gang related and is the latest incident in the region after weeks of rising tension, which has seen shops destroyed and a home peppered with bullets.

Police respond to rampant gang violence in Bay of Plenty with increased presence

Yesterday, Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell pleaded for more police, and today, his request appears to have been answered.

"We know tensions between gangs have caused fears for safety to arise, however we would like to reassure people that general members of the public are not the focus of those tensions," Clifford Paxton, Western Bay of Plenty area commander said in a statement.

"That being said, gang violence in our community is not acceptable and will not be tolerated."

There will be an increased police presence in the area, he said.

Gangs expert Jarrod Gilbert believes the crime wave is linked to new gangs, which includes deportees from Australia known as the 501S, as well as US imports the Mongols.

"So what we're seeing is really growing pains within the gang scene and we haven't seen that in a long time," he told 1 NEWS yesterday.

Yesterday, police in the Manawatu region made a similar announcement - vowing to boost officer numbers on the street after a string of gang-related violence in that area, too.