Chlöe Swarbrick says Labour lacks courage to implement 'evidence-based policies' to tackle NZ's gang problems

Greens MP Chlöe Swarbrick says Labour has lacked the courage to implement "evidence-based policies" to tackle New Zealand's gang problems.

It comes after gangs have been a hot topic in the media and with political leaders over the last week. 

Gang members travelled to Ōpōtiki, Bay of Plenty, in large numbers at the beginning of last week following the death of Mongrel Mob Barbarians president Steven Rota Taiatini. Schools shut out of caution and bus services were cancelled. Additional police were also called to the area to help out. 

Both National Party Leader Christopher Luxon and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was "unacceptable" the town was "shut down" by the gang members. 

It ended with Luxon announcing on Sunday gangs would "face tougher consequences" under his party's Government, with membership to a gang to be an aggravating factor when it comes to sentencing.

He said gangs have become an "unwelcome" part of New Zealand's criminal landscape, with numbers sharply rising in recent years.

But Police Minister Ginny Andersen said National's policy is just a "reheat" of what it took to the 2020 election, making it a "pretty lazy" move.

"National has got the policy microwave set on reheat," Andersen said on Sunday.

AM co-host Ryan Bridge questioned Swarbrick about why gang issues are getting worse since Labour and Greens came into power in 2017.

Swarbrick said it's not down to the Greens.

"The same argument I would say that David just put about that kind of relationship between National and the ACT Party is the same relationship with regard to the Green Party and the Labour Party," she said.

"We've not been able to meaningfully implement the evidence-based policies which even the Labour Government commissioned advice on back in the last term in Parliament and have not had the wherewithal, the courage and the political willpower to follow through with. 

"It's there in black and white, in turuki, turuki, the safe and effective Justice review."  

Luxon told media on Sunday that New Zealand now has 8900 gang members, compared to 10,700 frontline police officers. 

"Alarmingly, gangs are now recruiting around twice as fast as the police, and in five police districts there are now more gang members than police officers," he said. 

Swarbrick said the answer to solving New Zealand's gang problem is in the evidence.

"I think if we kind of take a step back and say, how do we, from a fact evidence-based perspective, actually want to deal with the issue of gangs in this country, well, you need to look no further than the process that's currently underway with the Royal Commission of Abuse into state care and turuki, turuki, the safe and effective Justice review chaired by Chester Burrows," she told Ryan Bridge.

"You'll see very clearly why it is that we have had a build-up of gangs in this country over the past several decades and it's because we've seen time and again that people, particularly young Māori men, are not finding a home in their regular communities." 

ACT Leader David Seymour, who was appearing alongside Swarbrick in their weekly political panel, had a different view about why gang numbers have increased under the current Government. 

"What I would say is I can understand why National is saying this because the way that gangs have been basically spoon-fed under Labour, literally given money, treated as though they're somehow pillars of the community when Labour ministers speak, has led to gang membership growing faster than the police," Seymour told AM. 

Watch the full interview with David Seymour and Chlöe Swarbrick in the video above.