Simon Bridges says Labour 'guys and girls' won't get tough on gangs

National leader Simon Bridges says the "guys and girls" in government won't get tough on gangs, even if the police minister wants to.

Police minister Stuart Nash has promised to target gang members committing benefit fraud and wants 1800 extra police officers by the end of the year.

However, National leader Simon Bridges told The AM Show these are empty promises.

"You can believe Stuart believes this stuff, but the guys and girls above him are going to rumble him. There's no chance they're going to have a harder approach to the gangs.

"Methamphetamine is a growing problem. [Nash] is right - it's a real issue. We stand beside him. But if you look at the people above him they definitely don't want to get hard actually they want to soften this stuff up.

Mr Bridges says he wants a generally tougher approach, including more resourcing of the police who he says the government wants to make "glorified social workers".

The bill put forward by National would give police broader laws around searching members' property and seizing assets.

But Mr Bridges says searches should not be enforced without warrants.

Community advocate and Black Power life member Denis O'Reilly says the government is failing to look at the big picture when it comes to cracking down on gangs.

He told The AM Show that the young people who are the worst offenders need work.

"If what we mean by gang members is that entrenched young, brown, unemployed proletariat, figure out how we're going to engage them in the apple picking industry, in planting trees.

"Let's get this unemployed group of New Zealanders who  in their boredom and frustration  are the very ones that start getting engaged in mischief. The devil makes work for idle hands."

He said the fourth Labour government made a mistake when they deconstructed work and trade training schemes.

"Maybe the sixth Labour government can go back to that fork in the road and get us on the right track.

"We went down that neoliberal line. We said the industry would take care of it. Well what a crock. Here we are with 11,000 people in jail. A van load at a time, let's get people working."

He says the government would do better to focus on organised crime rather than benefit fraud.