How a law to deport gang members saw a climb in Kiwis sent back to NZ

New police statistics released to Newshub show 67 Kiwi gang members and prospects have been deported from Australia in the past five years.

They're some of more than 1000 Kiwis sent back to New Zealand after Australia made harsh changes to section 501 of its Migration Act in 2014.

The influence was seen straight away in the deportation stats. No gang members were deported in 2014, but the introduction of the legislation saw five people deported in 2015. This quickly ramped up, with 30 in 2016, 15 in 2017 and 16 in 2018. So far, only one person has been deported as of August 2019.

How a law to deport gang members saw a climb in Kiwis sent back to NZ
Photo credit: Newshub

Gang expert and sociologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert told Newshub aspects of the Australian gang scene are "highly criminal and highly organised", with a focus on profit-driven crime.

"Certainly, we're aware that high-ranking members are being deported back to New Zealand," Dr Gilbert says. "The ones coming back often come from hierarchical positions."

Police wouldn't tell Newshub which gangs these people were linked to due to fears this would create more violence.

However a Stuff article in July reports the largest number came from the Rebels Motorcycle Club, which had 18 members deported.

The Comancheros had 15 members sent back, while the Hells Angels had five members returned to New Zealand.

Other gangs to have members deported included the Lone Wolfs, Bandidos, Nomads, Finks, Mongols, Rock Machines, Highway 61, and Odins Warriors, Stuff reports.

A 2015 police intelligence report warned many had limited support and links to New Zealand, along with mental health and drug issues, putting them at risk of continuing their offending.

But other senior gang members are using their deportations to set up gang chapters in New Zealand and are advertising their lifestyle on social media.

Greg Williams, national manager of the National Organised Crime Group, told Newshub earlier in the year that the Comanchero use social media to market themselves as a high-class crime empire rather than a street gang.

A motorcycle seized from the Comancheros.
A motorcycle seized from the Comancheros. Photo credit: NZ Police / Supplied

And there are fears the new gangs' presence will increase gang violence as they attempt to carve out criminal territory.

The Head Hunters' headquarters was sprayed with bullets in May in a shooting believed to be linked to gang tensions.

And two men linked to the Comancheros were found guilty of murdering Auckland man Epalahame Tu'uheavea, a patched member of the Nomads gang. It's alleged the shootings were a hit ordered by the Comanchero Motorcycle Gang in Australia.

Dr Gilbert says New Zealand needs to do more to support the deportees from falling back into criminal behaviour.

"We can be more proactive in putting things in place in protecting against the increase in criminality," he says.

"We're aware of the factors putting them at risk of committing crimes. I'm quite sure we're not doing enough in this area."