Rebels gang now targeting the south
Up to 100 members of an Australian motorcycle gang are expected to descend on Christchurch this weekend.
The Rebels, who have been trying to establish a presence in New Zealand since the start of the year, have already attracted police attention throughout the country, but mostly in the North Island.
Intelligence received by police has suggested that the gang has already tried to book accommodation for 80 to 100 members on campsites in Christchurch.
Detective Sergeant Kevin Holder, of Christchurch CIB, said yesterday the information indicated the Rebels intended to hold a meeting in Canterbury this weekend. "We believe they may be having a poker run on Sunday. It's what we believe, as opposed to what we know."
Poker runs involve bikers picking up playing cards at five pubs across the city. At the end the winner is the biker with the best hand.
Holder said police did not know why the gang was coming to Christchurch.
"The Rebels are a fairly new group to New Zealand and appear to be trying to establish themselves and as police officers we're doing our best to ensure that doesn't happen.
"They are affiliated to the Australian group in some form or another and the Australian group are highly involved in criminality and that's something we want to stop here."
The Rebels had attempted to book accommodation at several sites in Christchurch, but had been refused, Holder said.
He warned accommodation providers to be wary of large groups. There would be "police attention" on the bikers and if they were involved in criminal activity the venue hosting them might suffer a damaged reputation.
Holder also said the group already had a small presence in Christchurch and police had contacted those affiliated to them.
Canterbury University sociologist and gang expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said it was not surprising to see the Rebels come to Christchurch.
"Christchurch has traditionally been a stronghold for outlaw motorcycle clubs," he said. "We've had a history of having large motorcycle clubs in the city. But largely due to the influence and use of methamphetamine they've strangled themselves.
"There are multiple reasons why the outlaw groups have faded but one reason, without doubt, without question, all around the country, the clubs that have banned the smoking of meth are in good shape and those that haven't banned it are in poor shape."
Only the Epitaph Riders and Highway 61 still had a presence in Christchurch which was once home to a wide range of clubs, he said.
The Rebels were the largest outlaw club in Australia. They came to New Zealand and "patched over" the Tribesmen, who were a well-known Kiwi motorcycle gang, Gilbert said.
"They have been fairly aggressive in expansion. They seek to build a strength on a large membership base."
- The Press