Police Minister Stuart Nash admits response 'could have been better' after criminals target flood-affected areas and fearful Hawke's Bay residents arm up

The police minister has conceded things "could have been done better" after Hawke's Bay residents expressed their fears and concerns following an increase in crime in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

One resident said people are so afraid they are arming themselves, claiming the local gun shop is selling out of guns.

Over 200 people packed into a community meeting in Napier on Tuesday to air concerns to Police Minister Stuart Nash over violent confrontations at roadblocks and looting in flood-affected areas.

While incidents have dropped off in recent days, those speaking said they still feel unsafe.

"We went into the local gun shop… they have virtually sold out of shotguns. A lot of people are armed and you are dreaming if you think they're not," one man told the minister.

Nash did not speak to the community, he was there to listen, but told Newshub after the emotional gathering he admits things could have been done better.

"When I was hearing these stories I was thinking to myself, 'Yeah, maybe we could have done things a little bit differently'," Nash said.

Nash said he will sit down with Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park and talk about what can be done immediately to make the community feel safe.

"It's totally unacceptable, to all of us, for people to feel unsafe in their community and certainly at these times of high distress," he said.

Nash said he is concerned people are feeling the need to arm themselves because they aren't feeling the support is there to help them.

"What we don't want is a sort of wild west where people are shooting each other, because there are definitely no winners in that scene," he said.

"We don't want is a sort of wild-west."
"We don't want is a sort of wild-west." Photo credit: Newshub.

Newshub heard numerous accounts of locals in Hawke's Bay witnessing lootings.

Bay View resident David Sexton had potential looters turn up at his home earlier on Tuesday, who he described as "aggressive" and said they sped away when he approached them.

"We need more support," Sexton told Newshub.

Another Bay View resident, Matt Tester, said he caught a prowler on his property last week. 

Retired resident Doug Dickson lives next door to a property that had an attempted break-in

"We're tired… We just want some security," he said.

Community roadblocks or checkpoints have been established due to concerns. Last week at one, a traffic management worker told Newshub he had a gun pulled on him by people in a vehicle refusing to stop.

Many locals also expressed that crime in the area is an ongoing problem - and they are fed up.

One woman said during the meeting the young people are leaving the region because they don't feel safe due to "gang issues" in the area. 

"There are young people having to grow up fast and seeing things they should never see," another woman said.

Superintendent Park told Newshub police are continuing to be visible, with 145 extra staff at the moment, and urged the public to report any offending or suspicious behaviour to the police.

In the last 24 hours, police received 18 reports of suspicious activity which police will be following up on.

"I will not tolerate any criminal behaviour within our communities."