The Rebels Motorcycle Club has set up in the wider
Nelson area, part of a nationwide resurgence in outlaw bikie gangs.
The Nelson Mail has been told that the Rebels and the
Nelson-based Red Devils have an informal agreement that the Rebels will
not set up in Nelson city. The Red Devils have a headquarters in Nelson.
The Devils and the Rebels are not on friendly terms
officially, but they are "not at war".
The Mail understands that some members of Nelson's
long-standing bikie gang the Lost Breed have become Rebels members, and
that there has already been an altercation between the Lost Breed and
Tasman police district criminal investigations manager
Detective Inspector Geoff Jago said two or three Rebels members were
living in the greater Nelson area and were occasionally seen on weekends
riding their motorcycles and wearing their Rebels patches.
He said there was an incident involving some Rebels
members at a local hotel two to three months ago.
Police were not aware of any current tensions
involving gang members, Mr Jago said.
The Rebels MC is Australian and was established in
Brisbane 40 years ago. It is the largest outlaw motorcycle club in
Canterbury University lecturer and researcher Jarrod
Gilbert said it was the fastest-growing bikie gang in Australia because
it expanded aggressively and quickly, which was exactly what it was
doing in New Zealand.
Mr Gilbert released his book Patched: The History of
Gangs in New Zealand after 10 years of research.
In December, a large group of Rebel members and
associates were in Nelson and stayed at the Saxton Lodge Motel in Stoke
and the Leisure Lodge Motel in Waimea Rd.
The gathering was heavily monitored by Nelson police
but did not cause any trouble.
Mr Gilbert said the arrival of the Rebels in the
Nelson region should not cause the general public any great concern.
"The only issue can be that New Zealand's territory
has been traditionally well defined, and when you've got groups moving
into other people's territory, what gangs consider their territory, that
can lead to conflict and gang warfare."
However, he said that in recent times, moves had
occurred with "some grumbling" but had been peacefully done.
Mr Gilbert said gang members nowadays were older and
not as quick to go to war as they were in the late 1980s or 1990s.
He said the people who were joining such groups in
Nelson were locals and, generally speaking, were not moving here - they
were just putting on different patches.
"But look, if a gang wanted to move to Nelson, who
could blame them? Sunny Nelson - everyone seems to be moving there."
Mr Gilbert said there had been a resurgence in outlaw
motorcycle clubs in the past few years, and Nelson was a good example of
that wider phenomenon.
There had been a "real resurgence" around the country
in the past three to four years, he said.
Before that, outlaw motorcycle groups had been fading
or going into terminal decline.
There were several complex reasons behind the revival,
but gangs were also influenced by the ebb and flow of popular culture,
He said television shows like the American motorcycle
gang drama Sons of Anarchy meant that "these types of groups come back
into the fore of public consciousness".
The economic downturn could also be an influence.
Mr Gilbert said the organised criminal activity
associated with outlaw motorcycle groups was "grossly overstated", but
this was not to say that their members were not involved in criminal
Police last year were forced to drop drug and firearms
charges against 21 people caught in an undercover police operation
targeting the Red Devils.
Ten people were charged with taking part in an
organised criminal group.
Justice Simon France ruled that police had abused the
court process through deceiving a court over the arrest of an undercover
The decision has been appealed by the Crown.
An appeal hearing has been set down for August.
Retired Christchurch detective Dave Haslett, who is
also studying gangs, said the Rebels were fluid in the South Island and
kept a low profile.
"But certainly there are a number of Rebels in the
South Island. It's been quite significant that we haven't had the
clashes we have seen in previous decades."
He believed this was probably due to gang members
getting older and wiser and realising that if they ended up in conflict
with others, this drew attention and adverse publicity.