Lifetime Black Power member Denis O'Reilly is calling for people to back down on their attempts to make life difficult for gangs.
O'Reilly told The AM Show he took issue with recent statements from Wairoa Mayor Craig Little, who said gang members lives should be harder.
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"When a gang member wakes up every morning, he should be thinking 'actually it's not much fun being a gang member'. Make their lives difficult, that is what I am saying," Little told the CHB Mail.
But O'Reilly says nobody joins a gang to have fun.
"You don't join a gang because life's all beer and Skittles you know. It's sort of like the last resort motel.
"There are complex things going on."
He said if people want to deal with gangs they need to deal with the harmful behaviour found in them, not the membership itself.
"Make it like joining the RSA or something. Make the gang labelling irrelevant. It's our behaviours that are the issue - it's what we do, how we live, how we bring up our kids.
"What we've really got to do is have a liberation movement, we've got to liberate ourselves from use of meth and the consequential harms and domestic violence and child abuse."
O'Reilly is currently dealing with a spate of suspected suicides among the gang community the Hawke's Bay, which he said has complex reasons behind it.
But he thinks there could be some solutions at a community level.
"We've got to step back from the precipice, stop badmouthing each other, let the police do their job in good policing, but then let us deal with this poverty of spirit at a community level."
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