Waatea News Update

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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gang ban bad plan

A spokesman for one of the country’s largest gangs says New Zealand should follow an Australian lead but not by outlawing gangs.

Black Power member Dennis O’Reilly says calls for New Zealand to mirror South Australian bans on gang members associating with each other doesn't address the reasons many Maori are drawn into gang lifestyles.

“There are some things we could follow the Australians in, and one of them would be in the treatment of Maori, because in Australia Maori are actually quite a respected people, highly employed, and they reflect low in the crime statistics so if we want to follow the Australians in anything, let’s follow them in that,” Mr O’Reilly says.


A Victoria University Maori health researcher says a cancer study in both urban and rural communities found Maori being grossly unaware of the services available to them.

Tai Walker says the study in Otaki, Palmerston North, Gisborne and Tolaga Bay found Maori are risking their health because they don't understand processes.

“There's also a dire need for the whole Maori workforce, what we call a navigator to help them through the system, take them through all the different steps, them when they have to come back. One of the participants in the study assumed that because the specialist had not sent out an appointment, the cancer must be okay,” Mr Walker says.

There is an ongoing need for the teaching of cultural awareness at all levels throughout the health system with new people being employed all the time including doctors from overseas.


Maori Police lack the experience needed on the front lines according to a long-serving Senior Constable.

Paddy Whiu who celebrated 35 years of service to the Police Force at his marae in Kaikohe last week says while many things have improved within the Police but there is a lack of experience among some officers.

“I worked with some senior police officer. That put me in good stead and the experience I saw then, I don’t see now on our front line police officers sadly, because our young officers need that to nurture their way into our mahi nei,” Mr Whiu says.

He says Maori police officers are best to be dealing with Maori in both urban and rural communities.


The high incidence of sleep problems among Maori found in a recent nationwide study could have wide implications.

Dr Kara Mihaere one of the people behind the study says sleep disorders Maori suffer from including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome could be a factor in other illnesses.

She says a lot of Maori show up to the clinics with quite severe apnoea.

“We’ve found a threefold difference. Lack of sleep affects us in a wide range of areas such as diabetes, stroke, hypertension. We have disparities in those areas, so therefore the sleep problems that are affecting Maori, perhaps that’s a factor in the disparities in the other health outcomes,” she says.

Dr Mihaere says the size and particularly large neck size of Maori is the main thing behind their being more likely to suffer sleep disorders than other people.


A spokesman for one of the largest gangs in the country says the call to follow an Australian lead and ban gangs is a dangerous cheap shot.

Black Power member Dennis O Reilly says banning gangs and stopping people from associating, as suggested by Labour MP Phil Goff, would be extremely hard to administer.

“We’re on dangerous turf because does that mean you can’t mix with your nephew or niece or brother or sister or whatever at a family gathering or tribally or whatever, and just think of the implications of that under the treaty,” Mr O'Reilly says.

He says the idea of banning people from associating in gangs hasn't been thought through including its implication for the fundamental right of people to be held as innocent until proven guilty.


One of the major contributors to a reduction in street crime in the Wairarapa says Maori agricultural training schemes are also needed to take advantage of buoyant times on the land.

Former New Zealand First MP Edwin Perry, who heads the Wairarapa Maori wardens, says with both the dairy and sheep sectors performing well it's imperative Maori develop training opportunities for rangatahi keen to get involved.

“The Wool Board will say ‘we’ll run our own courses’ but you won’t get a Maori boy going to that school. He’s too whakama. But if we set up our own training with out successful shearing contractors, I’m sure we’ll take a lot of the stress off the streets,” Mr Perry says.

He says since extra resources have been channeled their way Maori Wardens are having an impact on the amount of street crime in the rohe but other measures are also needed.


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