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Law aims to ban patches from govt property




Gang patches


PATCH-WORK: Offenders face a $2000 fine if the bill becomes law.

The Government is backing a nationwide ban on gang patches at all buildings and property its departments own or rent.

National MP Todd McClay is behind the private members' bill, which he intends to place in the Parliamentary ballot this week.

If it is drawn, its introduction is a formality. The Rotorua MP has the numbers to vote it into law, via National's 58-strong caucus and several MPs from coalition partner Act.

"This is one more step towards finding a way of getting rid of gangs from New Zealand society," McClay told the Sunday Star-Times.

"Gangs are criminal organisations ... full-stop as far as I am concerned.

McClay's proposed legislation has been 18 months in the making. Those who try to flout it would be stung with a fine of up to $2000. Police officers would also have the right to confiscate and destroy gang patches and other insignia.

McClay's move comes three months after the High Court ruled a gang patch ban in Whanganui was unlawful.

That by-law, which had been introduced by the district council, had been in place for 18 months before it was struck out when the court decided it covered too much of the city.

McClay said his own legislation had been in written in a way where it could not be the subject of legal challenges, clearly stating which government-run buildings and property – including carparks – it would apply to.

That includes all the country's state-funded schools, hospitals, airports and government departments such as Winz, ACC, Housing New Zealand, Sport and Recreation NZ, the IRD and the Ministry of Maori Development. It would not apply to the 66,000 state houses owned or managed by Housing New Zealand.

Some hospital staff told him it was common for gang members to wear their patches in wards when visiting family or friends.

"They may not necessarily have any intent while visiting," McClay said. "But it must be very uncomfortable for parents or staff caring for other sick children to see that."

He was also aware of "intimidation" inflicted on workers in a range of government departments when patch-wearing gang members turned up.

Opponents of the ill-fated Whanganui by-law had argued it was a breach of civil rights and freedom of expression.

But McClay said he had no sympathy for those who were offended by his proposed legislation.

"I will put the rights of law-abiding citizens before criminals every single day of the week.

"There will be people who will say this is an infringement on civil rights. But these are members of gangs; people who attack old ladies in the streets or sell drugs to their grandchildren. Those are bigger violations of human rights than a law that says if you want support from a government department, you must not wear gang insignia."




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