A petition demanding justice for victims of the Roast Busters has picked up more than 50,000 signatures in three days.
The so-called Roast Busters is a group formed by two West Auckland youths, understood to now be aged 17 and 18, who allegedly had sex with girls as young as 13 and then bragged about their exploits on a public Facebook page.
A petition, organised by mother Jessie Hume, calls for Prime Minister John Key to find justice for the many young women who were victimised by the group.
Ms Hume said she believed the issue needed to be taken more seriously.
"We can't trivialise this as just lads being lads. We need to be serious and the Government needs to pay attention.
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall told TV ONE's Q+A this morning police should have gone public about the sex gang earlier.
When asked if he thought police could have done more in their investigation into the Roast Busters, Mr Marshall said: "We can always go further."
"We could have gone into the public arena perhaps earlier - that's one of the areas that we're going to explore.
"But we had the best intentions at heart, to have victims come to us so that we could progress matters."
Police have confirmed a 13-year-old girl laid a formal complaint of rape two years ago but say there was not enough evidence to bring a prosecution. They are now re-examining the case.
"We only had the three young ladies come forward...and then they went away again, we encouraged them to come to us and in fact two weeks ago we we're out there seeing them, in fact yesterday one of the mothers said listen again please give us some space.
"So the request this week was if there's anyone out there who can give us very specific evidence we would follow it through."
He said he had "very good team" working on the case, and if someone comes forward with evidence then charges will be laid.
One of the girls felt the way she was questioned and asked about what she had been wearing by police in 2011 was inappropriate.
Mr Marshall told Q and A it was "unfortunate" the 13-year-old felt that way.
"I can understand, from a 13-year-old girl, being asked about clothing is unusual. She should have had it explained to her. I don't know whether she did.
"It is important to have a description in terms of clothing because if we go to interview a suspect later on the question is fundamental."
'It's a front'
Three close friends of the Roast Busters say the group's ringleaders exaggerated many of their sexual exploits to impress their classmates and were now living in fear of their lives due to the public's reaction to the scandal.
Three childhood friends of the boys at the centre of the teen sex controversy spoke out for the first time yesterday on condition of anonymity.
They told the Sunday Star-Times those in the group made up many of their claims about sex with drunk girls and never targeted those who were under-age.
The Roast Busters associates, who deny being part of the group and claim they have never been present during a "roast", said much of what was posted on social media was "a joke".
"I hang out with them and go to parties with them," one friend said. "They're good people, one on one. It's all a persona, a front, like 'we're bad, we get with girls'.
"None of us thought it would come this far. At the start it was a joke between the bros. It wasn't a big deal but then those two made choices and they have to deal with it. I think making a Facebook page and publicising [the Roast Busters] was the stupidest thing they could have done."
The group also denied the Roast Busters specifically targeted under-age girls in order to get them drunk and have group sex with them. "No, it wasn't like that because you go to parties and you see girls and they lie about their age and stuff."
However, a female friend of the pair said it was common knowledge the Roast Busters had sex with 13-year-olds - when the boys themselves were under 16.
"He's definitely had sex with people that are under-age," she said about one of the gang, "but everyone has nowadays. That's how society is so stuffed up nowadays, people are having sex when they're 12, 13. It's just life, it just happens. He's not the only one who's done it," she told the Star-Times yesterday.
The 16-year-old said she had talked to one of the members of the Roast Busters yesterday, but he did not want to tell his side of the story to this newspaper "because no-one would believe him".
"It's either his story or the cops' story so he says 'there's no point in saying my story because no-one's going to listen to me'," she said.
"Some people are telling him to go die and stuff, he doesn't want any more of that. He says he doesn't care but it does get to him because people are going to his house and gangs want to kill him."
The male friends also said they were concerned for the Roast Busters and that they were being "unfairly trialled" by the media.
"Everyone in New Zealand wants to smash them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that they don't deserve the consequences that are going but I think it's being blown way out of proportion.
"They should have been able to deal with it privately, like every other so-called criminal in NZ when they go to court, it's not all over the news for the world. It's just super-intense."
Police confirmed to the Star-Times they had provided "several young men" with safety advice.
Police handling of the case is now the subject of an Independent Police Conduct Authority inquiry.
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall has said the force is now "actively working" to build a case against the young men.
Detective Inspector Tusha Penny, police national manager of child protection and sexual violence, said victims of sexual crimes could still have confidence in police and make complaints.
"We know we're not perfect, but we've been trying very hard over the past 18 months. We are a police service that takes sexual violence seriously."
- with Fairfax