Simon Bridges defends Strike Force Raptor war on gangs plan

National Party leader Simon Bridges is defending his plan to win the "war on gangs" but won't say how many specialist police officers will be required to implement it.

As part of the National Party's law and order discussion document released on Tuesday, the party proposed forming a specialist police taskforce to "tackle gang crime" if elected in 2020. 

The unit would be similar to New South Wales' Strike Force Raptors, an organised crime squad with additional tools and power to crack down on gang members. 

The National Party wants New Zealand's version to have the ability to shut down gang clubhouses, require gang pads to have liquor licenses, and look into members' finances.

Bridges told The AM Show on Wednesday that "we are losing the war on gangs right now", but the Australian taskforce had proven to be "remarkably successful". 

"It is harassing and disrupting [gangs] every single day," he said. 

"It will be people with both accounting and forensic expertise through to [people with] the ability to go kick in doors."

If a gang member punches someone in a bar, "you send this unit in," Bridges said. They don't pay a traffic fine, "you send this unit in". 

The Strike Force Raptors have been successful in the Australian state - making hundreds of arrests and seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars from gangs. But members have also been criticised for being too aggressive. Earlier this year, a lawyer accused the taskforce of stalking and intimidating him.

Bridges admitted there are currently specialist groups around the country - such as the Gang Focus unit in the Hawke's Bay - empowered to shut gang crime down, but said they don't have enough power.

"It is not resourced enough, it is not all over New Zealand, and it doesn't have the range of powers and tools."

He wouldn't say how many specialist officers would be required for his taskforces, but said the groups would be in main centres like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

"It is a lot. It is not five, it is not 20. It is a lot more."

Questioned on whether people were actually concerned about gangs, the National Party leader said there had been a large increase in gang members recently, especially in rural Aotearoa.

"We have had a 26 percent increase in gangs under Labour. There are 1400 more men who are patched members. That is a big high school," he said. 

"They have got their claws into middle New Zealand... primarily through meth."

Among the party's other proposals was the suggestion to ban gang patches in public places - something Bridges said was the "logical extension" to a ban on patches in Government buildings - as well as to create new sentences for violent gang crime. 

Newshub Political Editor Tova O'Brien told The AM Show that the party had been laying the groundwork for this set of "tough on crime" proposals for a while.

"We know that traditionally and historically in New Zealand that plays well with voters. That is why the Labour Party has done it before and acted on it. The National Party has done it before and acted on it."

O'Brien said cracking down on gangs was an "easy hit" for Bridges with National Party voters as well as with New Zealand First voters.

"That is part of the National Party's game plan to try and stifle [New Zealand First] going into the election year."