Christchurch gangs face police scrutinyBLAIR ENSOR
Ruakaka St in Christchurch is a quiet suburban street - home to young families and pensioners.
But at the weekend, residents say the sound of loud music and motorcycle engines often erupts from a back section.
The modest property at the end of a gravel drive in Hornby doesn't look untoward at first glance, but a security camera, large metal gate and big black dog are a giveaway.
So is a man who appears wearing the red and yellow colours of notorious international motorcycle club the Bandidos.
The property is home to a senior figure of the bikie gang.
In July last year, police acknowledged the Bandidos and Head Hunters had a presence in Christchurch. Both were yet to gain a foothold in the city and there was no cause for alarm among residents, police said.
But has the situation changed?
In recent years, bikie gangs from Australia have arrived in New Zealand and shaken up the local scene.
Many clubs are now recruiting heavily, patching over rival groups, as they build strength.
The Bandidos, Head Hunters and Hells Angels have all bolstered their ranks in different areas of the South Island in the past year.
Police have previously said that Christchurch could be attractive to organised crime as billions of dollars is poured into the rebuild.
This week, they said that some outlaw motorcycle clubs were more visible in the city now than 12 months ago.
That could be attributed to their willingness to wear their colours/patches publicly, rather than an increase in membership.
Canterbury district crime manager Detective Inspector Virginia Le Bas said that, while their presence was a concern, "we're confident that our policing activities . . . have had a disruptive impact on organised crime".
Staff across the district used a mix of overt and covert techniques to monitor gangs, identify illegal activity and prevent their expansion "so it doesn't escalate out of control", Le Bas said.
In some cases, police and other agencies had helped people turn their back on the gangs.
"To date our investigations haven't identified that the gangs here have the same types of assets, wealth and functionality that the same gangs may have in the North Island."
Bikies, particularly members of the Head Hunters, had been linked to recent drug arrests, she said.
There was a tendency for methamphetamine to be sourced from the North Island and brought south where prices were higher.
"The various means by which this drug can be transported to the South Island are under constant scrutiny by the police," Le Bas said.
In October, Head Hunters gang member Michael Murray, 54, from Timaru, was arrested after 500 grams of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of about $500,000, was allegedly found inside a truck he was driving on State Highway 1, near Taupo.
The drugs were destined for the South Island, police said.
Le Bas said the public were police's "eyes and ears" and anyone with information about gang activity should come forward and speak to investigators.
The Head Hunters formed in 1967 as a street gang in Glen Innes, Auckland. Police have said that the gang has at least 150 patched members nationally, some involved in drug manufacturing and supply, debt collection and intimidation.
The gang uses gyms, fight nights or similar events to recruit and police are concerned by its rapid growth and propensity for violence.
Only recently has the gang attempted to establish a foothold in the South Island.
Underworld sources have confirmed the Head Hunters have at least half a dozen patched members plus prospects in Christchurch and there are plans to establish a clubhouse.
The gang has links to Nelson, Dunedin and Invercargill and a southern chapter of the club could soon be a reality, a source said.
Among those flying the club's colours in Christchurch is Lyndon Richardson, a former senior figure of the Invercargill Road Knights.
Richardson is a patched member of the Head Hunters' west chapter.
He lives in Clyde Rd and owns a debt collecting firm called Ironclad Securities, which is based in Wordsworth St. The business has a gym and boxing ring on site.
Police are currently assessing complaints about the conduct of the business.
Richardson, who has done jail time for serious drug offending, told The Press Ironclad was a legitimate business.
It was not a front for the Head Hunters.
He said he was not the most senior member of the gang in Christchurch.
The Press understands the Head Hunters has links to a violent street gang known as the Neighbourhood Crips (NHC), whose members are known to deal drugs.
Photographs show Richardson and senior NHC figure Rory Manuel partying together.
Manuel is the son of Debbie Paul, who was murdered in a gang- related stabbing in 1985.
The Bandidos, one of Australia's most feared bikie gangs, first appeared in New Zealand in 2012. They established a chapter in South Auckland with the help of convicted killer and former Highway 61 member Kelly Raymond Robertson.
Since then the motorcycle club, whose motto is: "We are the people our parents warned us about", has expanded throughout the country.
In the past year, international members have travelled to New Zealand to help establish fully fledged chapters in Christchurch, East Coast and Wellington and probationary chapters in Dunedin and Invercargill.
In the last fortnight, more than twenty people flying the gang's colours gathered near Mosgiel.
Last week, Dunedin police raided six properties and arrested three Bandidos. They were charged with an array of offences including possession of cannabis and methamphetamine.
In Christchurch, police said they were yet to encounter any significant problems with the Bandidos, who have recruited members of other gangs including the now defunct Rock Machine.
The club claims to have more than a dozen patched members and prospects in the city.
The president of the Bandidos' Christchurch chapter, who would not be named, said residents in the city should not be concerned about the club.
Drug dealing and other criminal offending were against its rules.
"The way that I'm running things, we're not up to any [trouble]. We're all about working and family. We just want to ride our bikes and enjoy our brotherhood."
Asked whether the chapter had a clubhouse in Christchurch, the president said: "Why would we need one? It's just a place where the cops can harass us."
He would not discuss international links to the New Zealand chapters or how they were formed.
The Hells Angels, which formed a chapter in Auckland in the 1960s, now has a prospecting chapter in Nelson made up of former members of the Red Devils.
The notorious international bikie gang is also thought to be making moves into Christchurch, where it is friendly with some of the city's long standing clubs, including the Devils Henchmen, which has a clubhouse on Maunsell St in Woolston.
The Rebels MC, which formed a chapter in the city in 2011, has a clubhouse on Vagues Rd. It is understood it still has a strong patched membership.
Christchurch had been steeped in bikie gang history since the Epitaph Riders formed in 1969.
The city was home to the country's first gang war, waged between the Epitaph Riders and the Devil's Henchmen in 1974.
It was arguably the most congested outlaw city in New Zealand during the 1990s, but numbers fell away as old age and methamphetamine took their toll.
Gang expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said the new clubs in Christchurch were filling a void left by groups that either had ailing memberships or no longer existed.
Whilst there had been a "significant" resurgence in the city's bikie scene in recent times, it was still well short of its heyday.
The older demographic of the new clubs meant "all out warfare" was unlikely, he said.
In Ruakaka St, the residents did not seem to have any major concerns about Bandidos living among them.
In fact, most of them were oblivious to their presence other than the roar of motorcycle engines at the weekend.
One resident said: "They don't bother us and we don't bother them."