Police Association president Chris Cahill slams 'disgusting' gang behaviour at rugby game

The president of the police union has slammed "disgusting" gang behaviour at a Hastings rugby match on Saturday that saw a visiting team shot at while leaving the game.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the "thuggish" behaviour showed why the Government crackdown on gangs is needed.

A heavy tackle during the second half of a season-opening third division game between home team Tamatea Arikinui and the visiting Young Māori Party (YMP), from Raupunga north of Napier, sparked an uproar from the crowd. 

Witnesses said supporters of the home team invaded the pitch, pulling weapons including machetes, and refused to leave, stopping the game at the 65th minute.

Witnesses added there was a visible Mongrel Mob presence at the game.

However, the chaos didn't end there. When YMP jumped in their van and left the field they noticed they were being followed.

Club chairman William Culshaw told Newshub the team spent the next 15 minutes in survival mode as up to four vehicles were in pursuit, shooting at their van. They managed to drive back to the rugby grounds where they knew there was a heavy police presence.

"It did come as a surprise, especially when the back window nearly got blown in, and then we got rammed," Culshaw said.

Bullet holes in the van the rugby team were travelling in.
Bullet holes in the van the rugby team were travelling in. Photo credit: Newshub.

Appearing on AM on Monday, Cahill slammed the behaviour of the gangs at the rugby game.

"We don't have to put up with this rubbish, it's disgusting," Cahill said.

He said the incident demonstrates why he supports the Government's crackdown on gangs.

The Government is introducing new legislation to ban all gang insignia in public places and create greater powers to stop them from gathering in groups and communicating.  

The law will also be changed to give greater weight to gang membership as an aggravating factor at sentencing, enabling courts to impose more severe punishments.

"It's going to be difficult to do some of these things, but this is exactly what the Government have been talking about and what police want to get into," Cahill said.

"Gangs that think they can just act in this thuggish behaviour, putting lives at risk because they've got an issue with a sports team, is just out of control."

Spectator Nicolas Richards told Newshub there's been a gradual rise in anti-social behaviour in a whanau-first neighbourhood.

"I feel like it's been a bit of a trend over the past few months. We've had two murders in our area over the last three to four months, bit of anti-social behaviour, motorbikes going around. We caught some kids lighting a fire in the park just a week ago," he said.

Police are investigating the attack and said they aren't ruling out gang involvement.

"These sorts of things rightly really upset our community. It's a real risk to the public," Hawke's Bay Area Commander Inspector Lincoln Sycamore said.

"However, we believe this incident is isolated to people that are known to each other."

In a statement, Tamatea Club chairman Stewart Whyte refuted claims of gang links to the club, saying the incident involved gang members "who are not associated with Tamatea and are not members of our club".

Hawke's Bay Rugby chief executive Jay Campbell said it wasn't a rugby issue but a society issue.

"Just so happened the Mongrel Mob decided to watch a social rugby game," he said.