Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defends under-fire Police Minister Poto Williams

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is defending Police Minister Poto Williams after a dairy owner called for her resignation amid an increase in ram raids and robberies. 

Last week police apprehended nine people after a ram raid in Sandringham - just one of five in Auckland that night. 

It comes as dairy owners say robberies are increasing and it's costing them thousands of dollars. 

Dairy and Business Owners Association chair Sunny Kaushal told AM the Government's 'soft on crime' approach is to blame. 

"There is a sense of lawlessness gripping, not just in Auckland, but the entire country and the soft on crime Government and weak leadership is creating an environment of crime," he said on Monday. 

"Right now we have an emergency. It's a retailer and dairy crime emergency so we need to tackle that."

"We are asking for the resignation of the Minister of Police and Minister of Justice [Kris Faafoi] because the public, the businesses and also the police, to some extent, have lost their faith in these ministers. It's that serious."

New Zealand Police Association President Chris Cahill told AM Williams needs to be more in touch with what's happening on the frontline. 

While Cahill didn't support Kaushal's calls for Williams to resign, he said she needs to be more involved. 

"There are real complications, the amount of work police have, the demand on police has gone through the roof… Police are really stretched across the country.

Cahill said Williams' claim that gang crime hasn't increased shows she's out of touch. 

"Without a doubt gang crime is up, we are seeing a lot more gang activity, a lot more serious gang activity. I think it's important that the Minister gets regular briefings from police on what's happening and I think that's a concern that some people have that she isn't across what's happening on the streets. 

"She's got to be asking for what's happening. You can't just say things are operational and I stay out of them. The public expects the Minister to know what's going on and so do I."

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is standing by Williams, saying she's presided over significant increases in police, among other key improvements. 

"The work that she's been doing on firearms; the ongoing reforms of firearms including firearm protection orders as well, and of course that ongoing work on organised crime - including some of the operational work that the police have been undertaking to tackle what has been an issue that we are all facing in New Zealand around gangs."

"The minister has presided over a significant increase in police resourcing; 1400 extra police, over $400 million has gone into increasing the number of police - because we know that makes a difference to communities feeling safe."

Last month Williams caused uproar in Parliament after she denied gang violence was increasing in New Zealand. 

Her comments came during a head-to-head with National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell, who, before entering politics, spent 13 years with the police. 

Mitchell asked Williams in Parliament in March if gang violence had increased or decreased under her watch, to which she replied: "I reject the premise of that question."

Her response sparked uproar in the Opposition benches. 

"I reject the premise that gang tensions have increased under this Government's watch, because we have Operation Tauwhiro, which resulted in a thousand arrests," Williams said. 

"Every week, the organised crime groups are seizing millions of dollars' worth of cash and assets; they're making dozens and dozens of arrests. We are supporting the police to do a significant job. 

"Can I remind the member he used to be a police officer and he spends every day in this House disrespecting and diminishing the work of New Zealand police, and I stand by the police every single day against your record."  

Under Operation Tauwhiro, 1531 firearms had been seized as of March 1, along with 53.74 kg of methamphetamine and 1255 arrests.

While Williams is correct that police have executed some big drug busts recently - the largest ever attempted smuggling of cocaine into New Zealand was seized at the border this month - several experts have noted a rise in gang-linked violence, particularly shootings in Auckland.  

The number of gang members exploded by over 50 percent since Labour came to office in 2017. The National Gang List shows the country now has more than 8000 individual gang members, an increase of nearly 4000 since 2016.