Ōpōtiki Mongrel Mob Barbarians death: Christopher Luxon says town 'deserves better' after it's 'overtaken' by gang

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says Ōpōtiki has been "overtaken" by a gang after the death of the Mongrel Mob Barbarians president.

Community leaders and police in the Bay of Plenty town are on high alert since the gang leader, Steven Rota Taiatini, was killed on Friday. 

Police have since opened a homicide investigation into his death, although no arrests have been made yet. 

Ōpōtiki Mayor David Moore said large numbers of people have descended on the town since Taiatini's death, which is resulting in heightened tensions.

Ōpōtiki College has chosen to shut for the rest of the week amid the increased emotions. Ōpōtiki Primary School has also shut, but it could reopen on Thursday.

Luxon said people in Ōpōtiki are living in fear due to gang tension and they deserve better.

"Right now a town in New Zealand has been overtaken by a gang. Schools are closed. Public transport has been cancelled. And Chris Hipkins' response? It's not his job to deal with crime," Luxon tweeted on Tuesday.

"The people in Ōpōtiki are living in fear due to gang tension. They deserve better. They deserve leadership. National will get tough on crime and restore law and order."

The National Party leader said New Zealand can't afford three more years of a "soft-on-crime" Labour Government. 

National's acting police spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said schools closing due to gang tensions is a "graphic and shocking illustration of the extent of lawlessness" in parts of the country. He said it was a "day of shame" for the Labour Government and their "inaction" has allowed "criminal brazenness" to take hold.

"This morning, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins didn't even have a comment to make beyond saying that this situation is 'unacceptable'," Goldsmith said in a statement.

He said this situation is a direct result of Labour not having a plan to deal with gangs. 

"Labour's only target in justice is to reduce the prison population by 30 percent, irrespective of the level of crime In New Zealand's communities. This has encouraged a culture of excuses for crime and emboldened gangs," Goldsmith said.

"The tragedy in Ōpōtiki underlines the need to crack down on those peddling misery, intimidating towns, and harming the Kiwi kids who will this week miss out on even more class time."

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

Earlier on Tuesday, Hipkins urged residents to follow the advice of officials and said he's been assured police are putting extra resources into Ōpōtiki.

"I think it's important that the community follow the guidance of the police," he told AM.

Hipkins said it's not an "acceptable situation" in the community.

"I'm backing the police here. I think they've got a tough job ahead of them, they need to do that job, and the community needs to back them to do that."

Ōpōtiki Mayor Moore said he'd also been told more police resources are being sent to his town.

"We've just got to hope police sort of help us keep it under control along with iwi leaders," Moore told AM.

Moore said the Taiatini whānau are understandably grieving the loss of a loved one and he hopes police work swiftly in their homicide investigation to "get a result here to help the family move on".