‘Disrespectful for others’: Mayor’s push to ban gang insignia from headstones

Council officials in a provincial town beset with gang issues are pushing ahead with a bylaw change that would ban gang and other “offensive” insignia from headstones in its cemetery.

But the proposed change seems unlikely to lead to the removal of headstones already in Wairoa’s council-run cemetery that have Mongrel Mob patches on them – much to the mayor’s frustration.

The Wairoa District Council has reviewed its Cemeteries Bylaw, including a proposed addition which would ban headstones deemed “offensive”.

Three headstones – some double-sided – in the cemetery feature Mongrel Mob insignia.

Mayor Craig Little said other members of the community found their presence offensive.

“Any gang stuff is offensive to people,” Little told the New Zealand Herald.

“So if you have a loved one beside one, you can be looking at your loved one’s headstone and you look up and could think they are part of the gang because there is a big gang [headstone] behind it.

“They are huge too. It is quite offensive.”

When asked if he would like to be able to get rid of the three existing gang-branded headstones, Little responded: “Yep, definitely. It is not what we are and it is disrespectful for others”.

“Sadly for people in a gang, people see those symbols as not being nice. They wouldn’t want their loved ones beside it. That is just the reality when you are a gang member, that is what people see you as.

“They haven’t got good reputations and I don’t see them doing a lot of good stuff or helping old people and things like that.”

But he said he believed it would be “hard” for the bylaw to be enforced retrospectively.

When the three Mongrel Mob headstones were installed they were not outlawed.

The bylaw has already been recommended for public consultation by the office of the district council’s group manager of planning and regulatory services.

Little confirmed a six-week public consultation would begin soon.

“I am sure [we will get] feedback similar to what I have said to you, because that is what has alerted us to it [the issue],” he said.

“We are stopping alcohol up there as well. Certain groups want to party up there with their loved ones, but it’s not the way it should happen.”

Little said he hoped constructive dialogue would also occur between council officials and gang members over the cemetery proposal.

“If we can genuinely work with them, I am sure we can get somewhere. As long as we don’t go in there and just demand, demand.”

Problems of trying to apply the bylaw retrospectively are also addressed in the document.

In a section headed “Implementation and Considerations”, the document states: “While it may be desirable to remove the three existing gang insignia headstones, this would appear unlikely as council did verbally accept these headstones at the time they were installed, and no actions or directives or notices were issued at the time or have been issued since regarding the matter.”

It added that the families of the three people who have prominent Mongrel Mob insignia on their headstones “may volunteer to address the matter”.

The trio were buried in 2015.

The Mongrel Mob has a large presence in the township of Wairoa, 90km northeast of Napier.

The town has also been the scene of numerous violent clashes between the Mongrel Mob and Black Power.

A number of Mongrel Mob-linked properties were searched this year in an operation intended to “stamp out” illegal drug operations.

Police seized about $1 million worth of methamphetamine in the operation.

A Mongrel Mob Aotearoa member – one of several Mob chapters in the area – was also arrested and charged after allegedly stabbing a rival gang member at a service station on December 23.

There were also two shootings at gang addresses in December.

Acting Tairawhiti Area CIB head and Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Moorhouse said at the time of the big drug bust: “Wairoa as a community has clearly suffered from the impact of gang violence and the distribution of this highly addictive drug.”

Source: Read Full Article