A Waikato Mongrel Mob leader doubts the gang’s Hawke’s Bay chapters are responsible for looting around Napier in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, but is keen to look into it.
The community was battered by the cyclone last week with intense flooding, causing massive destruction and multiple deaths.
But as residents desperately try to recover from the disaster, tensions are rising with accusations gang members are stealing much-needed supplies from hard-hit communities.
Newshub has heard first-hand accounts of people witnessing the theft of food and nappies. Others say generators and prized possessions are being taken from flood-damaged homes.
“The vulnerable are now getting their stuff stolen. The gangs are coming in, or looters in general. They’re threatening people, stealing their stuff. We are very scared, people are very scared,” said Napier local Grant Porter.
It prompted a stern telling off by Police Minister Stuart Nash who said taking advantage of a natural disaster to steal is unacceptable.
“Completely and totally unacceptable by the gangs,” Nash said.
“Get your bloody patches off, go and get a whole lot of wheelbarrows and shovels and start helping people instead of adding to already super-high levels of stress.”
Waikato Mongrel Mob leader Sonny Fatupaito, who has pulled back from the national table, said: “I can probably guarantee you that our members in there, in terms of ones that are part of the Kingdom, wouldn’t be part of all that.”
But he conceded “it could mean individuals within the chapter and their rangatira (chiefs) don’t know what they are up to, it could be a chapter thing we don’t know. This is why it’s important to investigate and really find out”.
A spokesperson for the Mongrel Mob Hawke’s Bay chapter told Newshub: “We don’t want moral panic. I have just spoken to the gang liaison officer and of the one-two people arrested for theft, we are unsure if this is related to the looting.”
Fatupaito said people often accused the gang of being to blame when it isn’t.
“They have always done that. There’s all that stereotype stuff that goes on and, you know, maybe it is true, maybe it’s not. I don’t really know but I am always available. People can get in contact with me if they need to,” he said.
It comes after police drafted 120 officers into the Eastern District from other parts of the country to support local staff. Police also revealed officers will be carrying out patrols during the day and night.
Speaking with AM on Monday East Coast MP and Justice Minister Kiri Allan said she’s hoping the increased police presence will get on top of the issue.
“What we are looking at doing though is making sure we’ve got the surge support that’s required. When you’ve got communications down and police can’t communicate with police let alone the public, things do operate differently and we saw that for a bespoke period of time,” Allan said.
“Here in Gisborne, what we are seeing is a lot more police on the ground in uniform, a real physical presence to be able to provide that assurance.
“That’s been the focus and I understand that some of those measures have been assisting the community to feel a lot safer.”
She had a blunt but simple message for anyone taking advantage of vulnerable people.
“Get your act together, cut it out,” she said.