Rival New Zealand gangs call for fight tournament to become annual event
Gang members step into the ring after a string of deaths in the region
By Kristin Edge
Rival gang members in New Zealand were left bashed and bloodied and some with broken bones after a fight tournament in Northland and those involved are calling for it to be made an annual event.
And while there were few arrests related to the event, police do not the support the move to hold it again in Whangarei and have vowed to continue to disrupt any criminal behaviour linked to gangs.
The reactions come after a mixed martial arts tournament staged at Portland Recreation Centre, just south of Whangarei, where 12 rival gangs came together under one roof in a bid to sort out their issues in the ring.
It was after five gang-related deaths in the region over the past year, linked mainly to drugs, that the event was proposed.
It gained support and momentum from gangs around the North Island and those behind the day say it was the controlled event they promised.
Northland’s Herbert Rata, an organiser, said the day was a success and there was demand to hold it again.
“It was a controlled fight event like we promised. Everyone went home safely like we promised.”
The feedback was positive and gangs supported Mr Rata staging the event again next year.
“They were asking for it to happen again. We do need to keep doing these events because getting together and talking is a start to solving our issues.
“In the history of the gangs this has never been seen before. There were 12 different gangs there and some shouldn’t have even been in the same room. I think we proved it was a success.”
After the fighting at Portland police reported a relatively quiet night in Whangarei, with some bars closing early.
Whangarei and Kaipara police area commander Inspector Justin Rogers said gangs had always worked together but not in such a public way.
Police were hopeful gangs used the event to solve their issues, but said it would take more than one boxing event.
If gangs were serious about solving their issues, a good start would be to stop their involvement in the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine, Mr Rogers said.
Evidence of that would mean fewer gang members and associates in court of drug charges.
Police did not support the event becoming an annual fixture and vowed they would continue to disrupt gang activities.
He said a majority of people he had spoken to had not supported the event, especially when gangs from outside Northland were participating.
He could not say why members of the Gold Coast Hells Angels gang were at the fight, a question best put to them, but said “it was a long way to come for an amateur fight night”.
Before fighters and supporters made it to the venue they passed through a checkpoint on Portland Rd.
A team of 30 officers checked licences and car registrations and photographed most of those stopped.
There were 108 instant fines dished out during the four-hour-long checkpoint.
Four drivers had their licences suspended, one person was found drink-driving, four were arrested and three vehicles were impounded.
The event was alcohol-free but oysters and crayfish were on the menu at the 34 tables.
Event spokesman Tokomauri Hoterene laced up his gloves and stepped into the ring as part of the 20-fight card.
His opponent got the better of Hoterene, a former Maungu Kaha member but now a community worker based in Otangarei, but he got the biggest cheer from the crowd.
Hoterene left the ring with his white singlet covered in blood, but with a smile on his face.
“This is the way to sort issues and then leave it in the ring,” he said, while trying to recover from his fight.
New Zealand First candidate Shane Jones said he detested the notion that the event could be an annual affair.
“In the north we have a great tourism industry but criminal tourism is not something we should be encouraging. To repeat this event next year which encourages the Hells Angels from Australia and Southern tribes is detestable.
“We need the gangs to be phased out. Gangs do not have credibility while they are trading and prospering from methamphetamine-related criminality.
“At the head of the gangs are hard-nosed criminal profiteers, make no mistake about that.”