Shootout at Napier bar prompts heated public meeting about rising gang presence, lack of police

A shootout in front of a crowded bar in Napier prompted a heated public meeting about the rising gang presence in the area, and concerns police are missing in action.

Looking beyond the beautiful gardens and sunny beaches of Napier are bullet holes from gang wars in the streets - and it's got locals concerned. 

The Thirsty Whale Bar got caught in the crossfire two weeks ago, the manager says it was terrifying.

"They got out and grabbed a gun and started shooting," she recalls. "They'd been shot in the side and there was blood all there," she said, describing the scene. 

St Paddy's Day crowds on Wednesday were a contrast to what happened at the bar two weeks ago. 

"The gunshot went inside and hit the TV, missing a girl as the bullet went through her hair," the manager said. 

The gangs are scaling up. The number of new members in Napier's district has shot up from 801 in 2017 to more than 1200 in December last year - an increase of 428.

"How am I supposed to get them into education when all they want to be is living the high life of free and easy money from the gangs?" a Hawke's Bay mother said at a public meeting on Wednesday night. 

Another woman said: "My son was amongst them, he was recruited at a very young age, and started him off with dealing drugs."

At the public meeting, residents said there just aren't enough cops.

"Gang members there - and patches, full patches - and you just never see a cop," a man said. 

"I'm shocked there's no police. There is no police here," a woman remarked. 

In 2017 the old police station was replaced with one which doesn't have cells. 

"The police aren't doing enough; taking strong enough action; aren't visible enough," said National MP Louise Upston. 

A Mongrel Mob member agrees. 

"Gang members aren't going to a cop and hand their gun in. Don't be stupid. What cop? There's hardly any here," said Cherie Kuarangi Kara. 

They have to take matters into their own hands.

"I went around to gang members myself. Can I take your gun bro?" she joked. 

Black Power says more police won't help.

"You need to fix us first," a member said. 

The housing crisis, rising meth addiction, 501 deportees from Australia and a perception police aren't there to do their jobs is leading to a tinderbox. 

But when you've got gangs and the public alike asking for help, it's time for the Government to listen.