While we are gathered today in this House, in Murupara they laid to rest Percy Marunui Murphy, Ngati Manawa’s last remaining 28th Maori Battalion warrior, and New Zealand’s first Maori Mayor.
I am told that he was an honourable man – a man who enlisted in the Maori Battalion as a young sixteen year old and lived a long and distinguished life of service for the people of Ngati Hui, Ngati Manawa, Murupara and the wider Waiariki region.
My colleague, Te Ururoa Flavell is there, paying his respects.
As they held the final poroporoaki at Rangitahi marae, he told me that he thought back to another tangi a few months ago.
That tangi was for a young man - a sixteen year old – who lost his life to war. But this was not a war on offshore lands; this was a war at home in which tomahawks, axes and knifes became the weapon of final destruction.
A war in which Jordon Herewini was simply the innocent party in a rumble between two rival gangs. He was the tragic casualty of a turf war which escalated into a violent confrontation on Murupara streets.
These two men must be on our minds as we look at this Bill to lessen the threat of gangs, in the specific location of the Whanganui District.
Their memory deserves to be honoured by a future which values peace; where children are free to walk without fear; where justice prevails and whanau ora reigns.
One might think that the devastation created by the after-effects of gang violence in Murupara – or Whanganui – or Invercargill - in fact anywhere throughout Aotearoa - might lead us, the Maori Party, towards supporting any legislation which seeks to suppress gangs.
We would not be out on a limb if we did.
The media has been salivating with the calls for retribution; New Zealanders are calling for longer sentences of imprisonment; and the Mayor of Whanganui has launched into daily attack mode, describing gangs as evil; and their lives as one of petty terrorism, violence and hatred.
Mr Speaker, we in the Maori Party do not support the growth of gang membership; and we oppose any gang activity which results in criminal acts or disorderly behaviour and intimidation.
But this is not an unusual position to take.
The Maori Party opposes any activity which results in criminal acts or disorderly behaviour and intimidation – whether it be gang related; white-collar crime related; or from an individual on the street.
But our ultimate aspiration is not to create a society in which revenge and retribution are the only tools of trade.
Our ambition is to support a restorative justice system where agencies work with whanau on issues affecting them, and where the collective goal is to achieve community peace.
And so we are willing and open towards choices which veer on the side of opportunity and inclusion; choices which promote tolerance not intolerance; choices which speak about another kind of justice.
This Bill does not meet a definition of justice which we see in treatment which is morally right and fair.
The justice practiced in this Bill is a punitive one, where blame and retribution become the norm; where warrants for arrest and punishment are put forward as the model.
This Bill puts in place the power for the Whanganui District Council to create its own territorial battleground.
If the Bill scrapes through tonight; Mayor Laws will be able to get busy, scheming up bylaws to designate specified places by which the prohibition will come into effect; and more bylaws on top to identify any organisation, association or group as a gang.
But that’s only part of the package.
Once the bylaws are through, any person who wears or displays gang insignia, including tattoos, in the designated space will be liable to a fine of up to $5000.
They will be committing an offence for the clothes they wear; the tattoos that are etched into their skin.
There is no place in this Bill for a fresh start, for rehabilitation and restoration. Mr Speaker, we do not support solutions which are predicated on exclusion and hate.
We believe that community peace can be achieved; that people can be accountable and face the consequences of their crime while also supported towards making amends.
I am told that shortly after the death of Jordon Herewini, some within Ngati Manawa took the lead in encouraging debate about the kaupapa of utu –that is the behaviour of revenge and reprisal.
It was their belief that the mantle and tikanga of Ngati Manawa had more meaningful behaviours that could be called on in a time of crisis. They spoke of tatau pounamu – the ancient tikanga of lasting peace. Adherence to tatau pounamu would result in a guarantee of safety for all people and their property.
They thought about whakawhanaungatanga – the call for positive relationships with whanau, hapu, iwi, with one another.
They honoured whakapapa – the blood ties that linked them all; and their considered other processes that could be called on when there was any threat to the tapu of the tatau pounamu.
I was really enthusiastic about the type of discussion that was taking place amongst Ngati Manawa.
But I hasten to suggest they are not the only ones interested in a different kind of justice.
In the wake of grief following the accidental shooting of Halatau Naitoko earlier this year, we are told that the principles of Fakalelei came to the fore. Fakalelei is the process of reconciliation in Tongan culture.
It might be seen in the family of the offender, relatives and supporters visiting the family of the victim and their relatives and supporters – to engage in a process of reconciliation which leads to understanding and healing.
A wealth of ideas might come through talking with Kim Workman of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. In his resource, Gang Strategies in the wider context, Kim promotes community engagement with gangs as essential. Within this, he believes a multi-stranded strategy was likely to be the most effective.
It was his belief that one of the most effective ways of changing gang behaviour is to identify within the gangs, those groups or individuals who want to change for the better, and to provide them with the opportunities and resources to do so.
Mr Speaker, I recognise that concepts such as forgiveness, restoration, healing and peace are not nearly as likely to achieve the same attention as punchy headlines which talk tough about locking gangs up and sending thugs out to exile.
But we have to move past the talk of harassment, vigilante action and angry outbursts.
We need to reconsider the fuller meaning of justice as being essentially in line with human rights; and to invest in policy and practice which treats all people with dignity and respect.
There is no dispute that violent offending, stand-over tactics, criminal assaults and intimidation has no place in our society.
But what we do dispute, is the appropriate way of responding to such behaviour.
This Bill, in targeting out a particular group of citizens will do little to habilitate those who need help to help themselves.
It does nothing to address youth gangs. It fails to provide tangible alternatives to gang life.
It is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act. The sections on freedom of association and freedom of expression damage any credibility we might consider we have in this country on human rights issues.
It is top-heavy in enabling an inappropriate use of bylaw powers.
But most of all, we have no confidence or reason to believe that prohibitions work.
What does work is community debate and strategic action to address the issues of public safety; to put in place strategies that will work in confronting family and community violence.
We will not support this Bill and we are greatly saddened that such proposals which emerge from a climate of distrust and anger, are now taking up the airtime of this House.