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A notorious international bikie gang once involved in a deadly war with a rival gang in Canada claims to have set up a chapter in New Zealand.
Rock Machine Motorcycle Club made the announcement online this month and say they are based in Christchurch.
There have been no reports of their patches being seen in public, police say, but online pictures show at least three people wearing their regalia.
Police appealed this week for information about the movements of the bikie gang. Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald believed there were only three or four members in the city and the group was a "long, long way away" from establishing a chapter.
If it was a business, "they probably haven't got a peg in the ground for a building yet", he said. "If they want to start up, then they will get our attention."
A man calling himself Mike Rock says he is the president.
"After months of hard work and perseverance, RMMC is now officially rocking it loud and proud in New Zealand," he posted on Facebook on August 9.
A Rock Machine MC member, who would not be named, told The Press yesterday that a probationary chapter had been started in New Zealand and it had patched other members from a North Island gang.
He refused to say how many members were in the gang, but it was more than police believed. Some had links to chapters of the gang overseas.
The core of the group were from Christchurch, had families and worked fulltime, he said. Plans for a club house were under way, but he would not reveal where.
"Starting a motorcycle club from scratch is not easy work especially if it's an international charter. You have got to be trusted."
The member said the public should not be worried. It would not deal in drugs and only turn to violence if challenged, he said. "We are just Harley [Davidson] enthusiasts.
"As a club as a whole we don't want nothing to do with P [methamphetamine]. It's just disgusting shit."
The gang is the latest to attempt to set up in Christchurch after the quakes. The Rebels, Head Hunters and Bandidos are among other new groups with a presence in the city.
Gang expert Jarrod Gilbert said the diverse nature of gangs emerging rapidly in Christchurch had taken a lot of people by surprise.
"The scene overall throughout the country is in a mode of revival. It seems that patched groups have regained their mojo and they've become popular again after being in the doldrums for a while."
He believed many groups were taking advantage of the fact that gang activity in Christchurch had been at its lowest levels in decades. Police say the situation is fluid and difficult to measure. They believe Canterbury has about 250 gang members, but about a third of them are in jail.
They acknowledge the city will be attractive to organised crime during the rebuild.
Rock Machine MC was established in Canada in 1986. It was embroiled in a bikie war in Quebec with rivals the Hells Angels, which lasted nearly a decade.
More than 160 people were killed and countless others injured during the conflict.
The official Rock Machine MC website says the gang has chapters in Canada, the United States, Germany and Australia. It also suggests the gang has a presence in France and South Africa.
In a statement this week, police said social media indicated Rock Machine MC had established a chapter in New Zealand. "This information highlights Christchurch as a possible hub for Rock Machine MC's presence," a spokesman said. "As yet police have not received any reports of Rock Machine MC gang patches being worn in public in New Zealand."
Gilbert said the arrival of the new gangs in Christchurch could see clashes, but that was less likely than in the past,
"Conflict tends to be addressed through negotiation rather than violence these days."
It was unknown whether Christchurch could support all the new groups and the existence of some could be short-lived, he said.
Fitzgerald said: "In Canterbury, we want to create an environment that's very uncomfortable for organised crime and gangs. We are doing that and we will continue to do it."
Christchurch has 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.
Gilbert said it was arguably the most congested outlaw city in New Zealand during the 1990s, but numbers fell away as ageing membership and methamphetamine took their toll.
- © Fairfax NZ News