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Moerewa locals to work with gangs for public safety

By Helen Castles

Published: 11:13AM Friday February 08, 2013 Source: ONE News

There's been fiery debate in the small Northland town of Moerewa, where residents have come together to try and tackle escalating gang violence.

More than 200 residents packed into the Moerewa Primary School hall last night for a public hui after rivals - the Tribesmen and Australia's largest gang, the Rebels - exchanged gunfire on a residential street over the weekend.

Gang members said the shooting was sparked by a rebel gang member trying to join the Tribesman.

Police believe gangs are also responsible for the near fatal stabbing of a 25-year-old last Friday night and setting three cars alight in the town.

Residents say it's only a matter of time before an innocent bystander is killed.

"I like living in Moerewa it's a good place to live but I fear for the small children and the elderly here," said one resident.

There was a heavy police presence at the meeting. A row broke out between two gang members in attendance as they tried to explain their sides of the story to angry residents.

Community leader Peeni Henare said there was a heated exchange of words, but the situation was under control.

"There was the suggestion that we just don't want it here and it has no place here, but there's also the realisation that we're family and these solutions must come from everybody. It can't just come from one fraction of the community".

The community has decided to form an action group which will liase with the gangs to try and reach an agreement to make the town safe.

About 1500 people live in Moerewa and more than 80% are Maori. There's very little employment and everyone knows someone connected to a gang.

Locals say, while it's unlikely they can eradicate gangs, they've formed an action group and hope they can work with them to make the town safe.