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Act creates Wanganui fashion police

Written By: - Date published: 10:33 am, May 7th, 2009 - 53 comments
Categories: act, law and "order" - Tags:

Last night, Chester Burrows’ bill allowing the council of Wanganui to ban people from wearing the insignia or symbols of any organisation they decide to call a gang was passed. No-one seriously believes banning patches will hurt gangs so we’ve just given a council tremendous unchecked power for no good reason. As Idiot Savant puts it: “Michael Laws will be able to dictate what people wear in Wanganui, and fine them $2,000 if they refuse to conform to his fashion sense”.

The law only passed because John Boscawen, David Garrett, and Rodney Hide (who in an eariler moment of anger revealed that supporting this law is a trade for National’s support on the 3 Strikes Bill) voted for it. More principled libertarians Sir Roger Douglas and Heather Roy voted against it (it was Douglas’s refusal to back this bill that led to ACT announcing their MPs would be allowed to vote against the party line). Locco Burro picks up the issue:

So the party leader, the millionaire, and the ‘tough on crime’ nut tell the personal freedom wing of their party to get stuffed. Whoops, did I say wing? I mean the very thing the ACT party stands for, libertarianism, personal choice and freedom. The question is what do ACT actually stand for anymore?  Roger Douglas has in the past publicly attacked the desperate vote scrounging tactics of Hide and now he gets to watch it first hand in parliament.

The National Party needed ACT for this bill, it could have been an amazing opportunity for ACT to take a stand and show their independence , as well as adhere to their party’s platforms. Instead they prefer to be slowly absorbed as the political wing of the Sensible Sentencing Trust and the private prison lobby and cosy up to National in order to keep the Three Strikes Bill alive.

Locco Burro also gives some key quotes:

Hide: ACT leader Rodney Hide told Parliament he was aware his vote was crucial. He remained a libertarian and believed in personal freedoms but that did not mean people could intimidate each other’. Does he listen to himself when he speaks? I hope ACT voters do, I hope they remember and think again about voting for this man and this party.

‘Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove used the debate to remind Mr Hide of his pledge not to vote for the bill.’It appears that the old values in the ACT Party they are for sale at whatever cost — it’s the free market isn’t it’ Ha, well said.

Green MP Keith Locke: ‘his party was ‘strongly opposed’ to the ‘oppressive’ bill and he was unhappy that a local council would be able to decide which groups would be considered gangs.’

Maori Party Rahui Katene: ‘We do not support solutions that are predicated on exclusion and hate.’ There were other strategies to address violence and she did not think prohibitions would work.’

53 comments on “Act creates Wanganui fashion police”

  1. student_still 1


    Borrows, not Burrows.

  2. Tom Semmens 2

    This is a stupid and most importantly unenforceable law. Ban patches? They’ll just adopt colours. What’ll Michael Lhaws do then? Ban yellow? Ban Blue?

    If you want to ban the gangs, then ban gangs. Funnily enough, I would support a PROPERLY DRAFTED AND THOUGHT OUT law classifying gangs as criminal organisations and banning them.

    • bilbo 2.1

      “If you want to ban the gangs, then ban gangs. Funnily enough, I would support a PROPERLY DRAFTED AND THOUGHT OUT law classifying gangs as criminal organisations and banning them.”

      Agreed….instead we get this pitiful drivel………. pathetic really.

  3. gobsmacked 3

    Funny thing is, “Old ACT” (the Roger Douglas party) did get over 5% of the vote in their first three elections (1996, 1999, 2002). They then declined when Brash became leader of National, and took a lot of ACT votes. Now they seem to be re-inventing themselves, and yet those votes haven’t returned.

    Politics is often about trade-offs. Usually it’s “keep principles, lose votes”, or “dump principles, get votes”.

    Losing both principles and votes is not recommended. ACT appear to have managed it.

    • Rex Widerstrom 3.1

      Politics is often about trade-offs. Usually it’s “keep principles, lose votes’, or “dump principles, get votes’.

      Well put. And indeed Act appear to have twisted and turned so much on this, they’ve tied themselves in knots.

      Mind you, there have been some pretty ugly fashion crimes in Wanganui, and the sooner such noxious displays are forcibly banned, the better.

  4. Maynard J 4

    I feel dirty, but here goes: Congrats Rog Douglas, you’ve embarrassed Hide.

    During the campaign, ACT ran a law and order campaign – I thought it was just for show. Now, I’m not sure – maybe they’ve given up the libertarian/small government aspect and are merely the parliamentary wing of the SST.

    Tough time to be an ACT supporter I says.

  5. SPC 5

    Is it not government policy to focus the collection of fines on those with the ability to pay (does being on a benefit dsqualify you from paying fines?)

    ACT long ago gave up supporting freedom on social policy votes (they use the conscience vote angle to split their votes) – its an economic freedom/privatisation party which is an arm of sensible sentencing trust on law and order policy.

  6. Lew 6

    ACT’s led their electorate a merry jig with this bill. They voted against the first reading, then for the second reading, and then split on the third reading, despite Rodney Hide’s categorical statement to the contrary:

    I said that the ACT party would vote for the bill to go to a select committee. We could never vote for its third reading, but I thought the debate would be useful.

    This points to a factional crisis within the party, between the liberals and the authoritarians. Rodney seems to have picked the authoritarian side, having found electoral fame by appealing to the vindictive, punitive segment of the electorate formerly served by parts of NZ First. It’s a shame – I’ve long disagreed with Rodney’s policies, but admired his adherence to political principle.

    Plenty of genuine liberals and libertarians around the ‘sphere are pissed off about this, as well.


    • Quoth the Raven 6.1

      As Lew makes the point genuine libertarians. Act are not libertarians and never have been. They’re just some sort of vague neo-liberals and neo-liberalism has little to do with libertarianism. Along with this laughable episode, Act wants to increase the number of police and increase the size of the military. No genuine libertarian could possibly go along with that. They even gave up talking about drug prohibition to any extent in public long ago. A look at Act’s voting history will reveal a very confused party with many conservatives, some of them voted against prostitution reform, against lowering the drinking age and against a euthanasia bill. They’re things any libertarian would go along with. So to call Act libertarians or even liberal is laughable. They’re just a confused bunch of crony-capitalists, neo-liberals and conservatives. Their hypocrisy would be funny if it wasn’t so sad that some people acutally voted for these losers.

  7. Are neo-Nazi skinheads covered by the Gang Patch Bill?

    Or is it only an issue if the gangs happen to fail the brown paper bag test? Because if it is, then there seem to be echoes of the French school headscarf ban.

    captcha: linden FranceinPoolB

  8. gingercrush 8

    Well I agree entirely with the legislation being passed and I welcome that some Act members chose to vote with National to implement this.

  9. Why GC? What will change because of this legislation? Where is the cost/benefit analysis so trumpeted by the National party for its legislative programme?
    The police already had similar powers, this is just giving out knee-jerk powers to local councils. This legislation was a waste of time and money.

    • gingercrush 9.1

      Not everything has to have a cost/benefit analysis. Anything that weakens gangs in any way for me is a good thing. This gives the local council and the local people of Wanganui more power to do something about gangs. Its funny you lot on the left are right now decrying National and Act’s movesin Auckland because it takes away the rights of local people. Well the people of Wanganui demanded this. It has great support in Wanganui and yet you want to deny this to them? That isn’t fair.

      I am aware this has problems in that it may push the gangs underground etc etc and ultimately I too like others would want completely rid of gangs. But actions in themselves can be a powerful thing and that is what’s important here.

  10. Pascal's bookie 10

    “Anything that weakens gangs in any way for me is a good thing”

    No matter the cost? (and I’m not talking about money, but things like costs to civic freedoms)

    • gingercrush 10.1

      For me PB yes. Though I also favour entrenching the Bill of Rights and enlarging its role in all legislation that goes through the house.

      • Richard 10.1.1

        So what qualifies as gang insignia? Rotarian ties? Salvation Army uniforms? Business Roundtable pinstripes? Destiny Church black shirts……now there’s a thought.

        • bilbo

          Careful Richard I fear you may have soiled your panties.

        • Lew


          Good question, despite the daft examples. The matter of whether a given thing qualifies as insignia for a gang is determined by a judge – and the matter of what constitutes a gang is determined by the Wanganui District Council. So in summary: it’s not clear.


          • Richard

            Daft examples? I mentioned two of the most notorious gangs in NZ.

      • Pascal's bookie 10.1.2

        I don’t actually believe you GC, or rather I’m not sure that you are aware of what you are saying. I say this because you contradict your first sentence with your second.

        You are in fact doing a cost benefit analysis, and saying that for the benefit of any weakening of the gangs you will discount the cost to your civil liberties to zero. ie, it doesn’t matter what the ‘cost’ is, if it weakens the gangs even a little bit, that’s a cost you are prepared to pay.

        Think about some things that such an analysis would justify. What powers could we give the state to harm gangs if we didn’t take civil liberty costs into account. Surely there are many things you can think of that you would not agree to?

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox

          What about Wallabies supporters, are they allowed to wear their Wallabies stuff in Wanganui?

          • Pascal's bookie

            Yeah, it has to be intimidating to qualify.

          • Lew

            Yeah, it has to be intimidating to qualify.



          • The Voice of Reason

            What about Wanganui Rugby supporters? The Blue and Black is awful close to Black Power colours.

          • Rich

            Seriously, in the UK (and a few other places) sporting colours are associated with thuggery in just the same way as gang colours here.

            If a touring bunch of Millwall supporters were to front up (possibly confused by the number of rugby teams called the Lions), would they be covered by the ban.

      • Chris S 10.1.3

        For me PB yes. Though I also favour entrenching the Bill of Rights and enlarging its role in all legislation that goes through the house.

        Interesting. You realise that this law is not consistent with the Bill of Rights?

    • bilbo 10.2

      I think the point is this is unlikely to weaken the gangs to any extent, they’ll still distribute drugs, intimidate, thieve and contribute squat to society in general.

      As to the gangs rights to enjoy civic freedoms .. fuck them.

      • felix 10.2.1

        No, it’s our rights to enjoy civic freedoms that’s in question.

        Jeez, if I need to explain that then there’s really no chance you’re going to understand it.

        • bilbo

          “No, it’s our rights to enjoy civic freedoms that’s in question.”

          No it’s not dipshit ………. I’ll agree that you have a point when I see the first person arrested for wearing a soccer club kit or a Hurricanes shirt.

  11. The Voice of Reason 11

    Just spent the morning in Whanganui, saw the usual number of gang patches I usually do; none.

    What a pathetic waste of time this legislation is. There is no gang problem in Whanganui other the same one that is in every other town in NZ. The biggest problem the city faces is Michael Laws.

  12. gingercrush 12

    I clearly don’t understand what a cost/benefit analysis is then.

    • felix 12.1

      Hardly matters if you do really, you’ll just applaud anything the govt does regardless.

      Cue petty whinging and mock offense.

  13. felix 13

    Worth noting too that David Garrett spoke quite passionately and, it seemed, quite honestly and from the heart against this bill (was it the 1st or 2nd reading?) and then voted for it.

    There goes a man (and party) of principle.

  14. BLiP 14

    This Act is proof positive that we’ve gone from the Nanny State to the Daddy State.

    “You’re NOT going out in THAT!”

    . . .

    ROTFLMAO – Captcha: Public roots

  15. Pat 15

    Greg O’Connor was on Radio Live about 12.35pm. He was scathing about “gang apologists” who opposed this legislation in parliament yesterday. He stated the public grossly underestimate how important the patch is gang members, and thinks the legislation is an important first step for police to deal with criminal gangs such as the Mongrel Mob, Black Power etc.

    If the police are supportive of this new policy, and the people of Wanganui want it, then what is the harm of letting it be trialed in Wanganui? Test and measure, I say.

    Don’t forget that you can only earn your patch through committing a crime. These bullies have had things their own way for long enough. (Personally I’d take an Israeli approach and bulldoze their gang pads).

    • Maynard J 15.1

      “(Personally I’d take an Israeli approach and bulldoze their gang pads).”

      And starve them out and bomb the schools their kids go to? And systematically attack the police forces that could keep some semblance of order? Wait..the police attacking the police? My metaphor just surrealised itself.

      Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

      “If the police are supportive of this new policy,” – some police thought that it would make gang activity harder to identify. I am not so sure – if two groups of large hairy bastards are running at each other with wood bars and metal sticks aplenty, I doubt our police need patches to identify them so it’s interesting to read what you wrote, Pat. I did not hear the article but hell, it is through now – let’s see how it goes. Could have been better defined but as you say test and measure. Poor sods in Wanganui – guinea pigs for new laws, and they have Laws.

      An addendum: “Gang Apologists” Don’t be a cock matey, civil liberties trump a lot of things, and most of us like some thought given to the manner in which they are restricted in our name.

      • Pat 15.1.1

        “Gang apologists” were O’Connors words, so don’t call me a cock, matey.

        O’Connor was in a pretty heavy mood, considering he had just lost a member in the line of duty. But he was pretty definate about the police support for this new legislation. I had thought it would make the police’s job harder, not easier, e.g. gang members would brazenly oppose it my wearing their patches downtown. So I was surprised that O’Connor reckons that they value their patch so much, this won’t be the case.

        He seemed to be saying that gang members who wear patches act the part accordingly. Remove the patch, and you remove the behaviour to some extent. If gang members want to wear red T-shirts then they will look more like an overwwight touch rugby team, and so lose much of their ability to intimidate the public by their appearance.

        No-one suggests it is a fix to clean up the gangs as our worst orgainised criminals. But it is a first step. Lets see how it goes.

        • BLiP


          But it is a first step

          So, the organised crime legislation, the power to enter and/or destroy gang property, electronic communication interception warrants, the under cover officer programme, specially resourced anti-gang police units, and harsher sentencing for gang crimes were . . .

          My main complaint with this Act is that it doesn’t target the real criminals: they wear suits.

        • felix

          O’Connor supports anything which puts more power in the hands of the Police. Anything.

          I seriously doubt that he has any interest in any law beyond this simple yes/no measure.

        • Maynard J

          Pat, you made it clear they were O’Connor’s words. I could have been much more clear that O’Connor was the target of my insult, not you. Fair point about it not being their day but there are reasonable objections.

          I found a story about it.

          A few comments below think that gangs will be able to outmuscle the police or swamp the system. They will not win the full-on battle envisioned. Especilly if all the police need to do is hand out $2,000 tickets. Bringing things to a head could be quite a memorable occasion.

          • Pat

            Cheers Maynard.

            I understand the “logical” objections that posters have made. But what I get from O’Connors statements is that gang members clearly don’t act or think like the rest of us. The “code” and value of the patch etc seems like schoolyard stuff, but I am willing to accept that O’Connor might have a better understanding of what makes gangs tick than me.

            Maybe the simple threat that Police might take their jackets and burn them is a better deterent than arresting them or fining them.

    • The Voice of Reason 15.2

      Yeah, the Israeli’s have acheived so much through overt shows of violence.

      Their ‘gang pads’ are mainly rental properties, rented in the names of family members or girlfriends. Most Wangaz gang members do not wear their patches in public anyway, particularly while committing crimes, because it makes them so easy to identify.

      The Police already have plenty of strong legal authority to deal to gang members. It’s what saw 7 of them convicted, sentenced and jailed for the killing of the toddler two years ago. Admittedly there are piss poor laws, too. Mayor Michael being the most prominent example.

  16. John Dalley 16

    The “W HHH anganui” Fashion Police should be arresting Michael Law’s for being a complete idiot. I’m not surprised his Live in Love left him.

  17. Chris G 17

    yawn… thatll never stop gangs. As someone already said they’ll just wear their respective colours Mob= Red Black Power = Blue.


    Its obviously done for show so that Key and the ACT “Tough on Crime” party can say “We SQUASH those pesky criminals.,.. unlike those bloomin lefties who are pals with them all”

  18. Fashion 18

    This crap goes back to Hitler, if everyone doesn’t condemn it. It will rise and swallow the young in your community

    • Maynard J 18.1

      fashion – do you mean we need to unite to stop gangs, or unite to stop draconian anti civil-liberty laws? Your comment could equally and perfectly refer to either side of the argument, which is a true achievement in of itself.

  19. exbrethren 19

    This law will crumble when one of the gangs mobilises en masse and drives to Whanganui. The police will be totally outnumbered and powerless to stop them.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the town sees more patches in the centre now.

    • Lew 19.1

      Cam Stokes reckons it will crumble if enough gang members contest their charges and demand trial in the Wanganui District Court, causing the district to run out of legal aid lawyers, courtroom space and judges.


  20. felix 20

    The obvious litmus test for this type of law is:

    If it’s workable and makes sense, why not make it nationwide?

    The answer is that they know they’re just moving the problem around, which means it’s of no use even as a testing ground for nationwide law.

    You can force a few people to stay outside of an arbitrary “no gangs” area but that makes no sense on a national level unless you’re intending to exile gang members from the country.

  21. Did you spell the town’s name correctly? I thought it had an h in it…

    I oppose this law because it violates freedom of speech, association, expression.

    It was nice though to see that at least one party in parliament allows their MP’s to vote with their consciences.

    • Chris G 21.1

      NZ First had the policy of voting on conscience, if I remember rightly.

  22. Chris G 22

    The more I think about it the more I think this is quite possibly the stupidest law ever passed. I agree with its intention – I for one would like to see the demise of gang culture.

    But for fucks sake lets get realistic, this isn’t gunna stop the gangs in a present day sense. It will infuriate them for starters (assumption) so they will just bend the law as has already been mentioned.

    Secondly it will never stop them in the future. Gangs and their recruitment is not based on the fact that they wear these sweet patches so all the kids wanna join.. Kids join gangs because often they come from broken homes, more often than not (I feel awful saying this because it sides with those nutters the Fathers Coalition) without a stable father figure.

    Just go watch a few youtube clips of National Geographic docos on street gangs and every one of them says something like “He (The gang leader) is like my father”
    Sika Manu who played for the Rugby league world cup Kiwis said had he not made the NRL he would have joined the Mongrel Mob – because thats just what happened.

    So obviously there is a deep problem we have here. As usual all we get from the Reactive right wingers with response to crime is a lousy law that never strikes at the heart of the problem. As usual the only good suggestion they have is a band-aid for a cancer. Another of their fine examples is to keep lengthening prison sentences.

    Clearly we need to rethink the way we tackle crime

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