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Gang fence still up despite Laws' promise


By MICHAEL FORBES - The Dominion Post

Hells Angels are on top in the latest stoush in Whanganui between mayor Michael Laws and gangs.

A two-metre-high iron fence around the gang's headquarters in Kaikokopu Rd still stands, despite Wanganui District Council voting in January to seek a court order for its removal and Mr Laws promising swift action.

The council was to be the first in the country to have an "intimidating" structure torn down under the Gangs and Organised Crime Bill, which came into force in December.

Under the law, the court can order a structure to be removed if it facilitates or conceals crime, or is used by alleged criminals to hide from police.

But Wanganui District Court has still not seen any paperwork and neither Mr Laws nor Whanganui area commander Inspector Duncan MacLeod could say when that would happen when asked by The Dominion Post yesterday. Mr Laws said police were leading the action with the support of the council.

"I agree that it appears their efficiency is not at a high standard on this matter," he said. "The issue may be stalled at police HQ in Wellington. They're funny buggers there and you can quote me."

Mr MacLeod said the matter was "a complex legal issue" and police were still discussing it with the council.

Councillor Rob Vinsen said he questioned how the fence application was progressing back in July and was told it would be "sorted in a few weeks".

There had been no discussion about the fence around the council table since then and no further issues with the Hells Angels had been brought to council's attention, he said. "I suspect the case police came up with is not convincing enough to persuade a district court judge to remove the fence."

At the January council meeting, a letter from police was tabled which said there had been 12 instances since 2001 of people evading police by seeking refuge in the Hells Angels' headquarters to avoid driving offences.

Leslie Gill, 81, who has lived next to the Hells Angels since 1985, said residents were happy for the fence to remain.

It spared them the sight of what was going on inside and blocked the noise of motorbikes, he said. "I've had 25 years of it and they [Hells Angels] have never been any worry to me. Every time they make a bit of noise I go over there and tell them what I think."

He suggested no action had been taken because the fence was more an issue of Mr Laws' profile, rather than public safety. "He became quite a figure New Zealand-wide when he got rid of the gang patches.

"There's no doubt about it, he went up a number of pegs ... so the fence would be just putting a little bit of cream on top of the milk."

The fence was granted resource consent in 1984, making it fully legal.


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