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Dr Muriel Newman

Social Challenges and Social Bonds

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Gangs1In 2007, as Leader of the Opposition, John Key signalled that in government, National would tackle the intractable problems of intergenerational dependency and social dysfunction that were fuelling a growing underclass: “I have no intention of being a Prime Minister who tackles only the easy and convenient issues. I don’t pretend I’ve got all the solutions. But I can tell you that dealing with the problems of our growing underclass is a priority for National, both in opposition and in government.”

Once elected, the National Government prioritised social reform. While addressing persistent social failure is a long-term process, their approach has been to make use of technological advancements to develop accountability measures and to provide open access to leading-edge information in a genuine attempt to find long-lasting solutions.

As the Deputy Prime Minister Bill English explained last month, when releasing new data on vulnerable children and an interactive web tool to track their whereabouts, “We’re making this publicly available in part because service providers also need to understand the people they are trying to help. We want to open up more data sets to public scrutiny – with appropriate privacy controls – allowing NGOs and the private sector to do their own analysis and draw their own conclusions.”

The new information on at-risk children aged up to 14 years old, builds on the previous data releases on 0 to 5 year olds and 15 to 24 year olds. It essentially shows that there are four key risk factors for children: child abuse or neglect, welfare dependency, a parent who’s been in prison, and a mother who lacks formal educational qualifications.

Mr English explained that the one percent of New Zealand children with all four indicators, are four times more likely to leave school without qualifications, nine times more likely to spend time in jail, and six times more likely to go onto welfare for more than five years before they turn 35.

This high risk group includes many of the 6,000 to 7,000 children living in gang families.

According to data compiled by the Police, as at July 2014, there were an estimated 3,960 adult male gang members in New Zealand. Around 86 percent were patched – the rest prospects. The Mongrel Mob and Black Power accounted for two-thirds.

Around 20 percent of gang members were in their twenties, 29 percent in their thirties, 31 percent in their forties and 17 percent in their fifties. The average age was nearly 40. Over three-quarters were Maori, 14 percent were European and 8 percent Pacific Islanders.

More than 30 percent of the total prison population were affiliated with a gang – and the proportion was growing. Gang members re-offend at twice the rate of non-gang offenders, and with increasing seriousness. They were disproportionately represented in prison violence with close to half of all individual perpetrators of prison incidents identifying with a gang.

In 2013, known gang members were responsible for 25 per cent of all homicides, and in the first quarter of 2014 they were charged with 34 per cent of major drug offences, 36 per cent of kidnapping and abductions, 25 per cent of robberies, and 26 per cent of grievous assaults. Almost half of all serious offences committed by gang members were family violence related.

Over their lifetime, gang members were charged with an average of 53 offences, while the 50 gang members with the highest number of charges averaged 229 each.

Nine out of every ten gang members had been on welfare between 1993 and 2014 – over half of the time on the unemployment benefit and a quarter of the time on a sickness or disability benefit. Some 18 percent had received a main benefit for over 15 years, while 13 percent had been on welfare for two years or less, and 8 percent had not been on welfare at all. The average was almost 9 years on welfare.

By the end of 2014, gang members had received some $525 million in welfare assistance during that 20 year period – $382m in main benefits and $143m in supplementary benefits such as the accommodation supplement and hardship assistance. The average was around $132,000 per gang member.

Some 60 percent of the 6,000 children of gang members known to Child Youth and Family had been subjected to abuse or neglect. A sample of 50 high risk gang members in 2013 showed 74 percent of their children had been abused or neglected on multiple occasions.

Nearly a quarter of gang family children aged 10 years or older had been involved with the Youth Justice arm of Child, Youth and Family.

As these statistics suggest, without appropriate intervention, the children of gang members are on the path to social dysfunction and will likely become a heavy burden on society – both in terms of their behaviour and their long-term financial cost.

It is this intergenerational cycle of gang influence that the government is trying to break, through four new initiatives that are using a whole of government approach. The Ministers of Police and Social Development updated progress on these projects last week.

Firstly, the newly established Gang Intelligence Centre led by the Police uses information held by Social Development, Customs, Corrections, Internal Affairs, and Immigration, to disrupt illegal gang activities and help families escape gang life.

One of its first projects has been to illustrate the intergenerational nature of gang influence, by mapping out the profile of a fictionalised gang family across three generations. The family tree starts with Ruby, a 71 year old great grandmother who’s been a long term beneficiary. She’s married to a gang member and has nine children including some from a previous relationship. Out of her nine children, only one is no longer on a benefit – the only one not to have been involved in domestic violence or crime.

In a Radio New Zealand interview, Police Minister Judith Collins described the family of one of Ruby’s children called Jo: “She’s 49 years old, she has a husband who’s a gang member, she’s currently a beneficiary, she’s been a victim of family violence and she’s offended as well – quite seriously. For some reason, Jo has also been made the caregiver of a relative. She’s had seven children and her partner has offences – family violence, serious violence with weapons, aggravated robbery with firearms – and he’s been to jail.

“With her seven children, all except one are current or previous beneficiaries. The one who isn’t a beneficiary is in jail. She has two gang member children. A lot of her children have been victims of family violence themselves, and they’ve been involved in aggravated robbery. Five of her children have partners, and all of those partners are current or previous beneficiaries. One is a gang member. They are all victims of family violence, and several are offenders of family violence, aggravated robbery and those sorts of things.

“They have multiple children as well – 12 children between them all – and one of those children, who’s not even 17, is a current beneficiary.

“What we are trying to do is stop these kids, these little kids – 12 of them – from ending up just like their parents.”

A second initiative designed to steer gang members and their families away from crime and violence is the Start at Home project. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley explained that of the two pilot programmes underway in the Bay of Plenty and on the East Coast, one is focussed on working with the community and the other on working intensively on a one-to-one basis with the families: “We are trialling different things to see what’s the most effective, and to see whether we can break that cycle.”

The third initiative involves two newly established multi-agency dedicated enforcement taskforces – the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Border Protection Taskforce to crack down on drug trafficking and stop new gangs from entering the country, and the Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce to seize the proceeds of crime. To date, over 334 kg of methamphetamine with a street value of $334 million has been recovered, and groups linked to organised crime have forfeited almost $14 million worth of assets and profits derived from crime.

The fourth initiative involves legislative change. The 24-hour GPS monitoring of high-risk offenders following release from a prison sentence of two years or less has now been introduced, to prevent their association with known gang members. Interim freezing orders have also been introduced to facilitate the seizing of the proceeds of crime. Firearm Prohibition Orders are well advanced, to restrict the access of certain individuals to firearms. And drug detector dogs are being considered for domestic ports.

Without a doubt, the effort needed to break the complex intergenerational cycles of criminality and dependency cannot be understated.

Some countries are now using a new approach to tackle such intransigent social problems – Social Investment Bonds. These involve private sector investors, in partnership with service providers, putting up the capital for well-defined and measurable social projects that have been approved by the government. If the programmes deliver the contracted levels of success – saving the government the social cost – the investors get their money back along with a performance bonus. But if they fail to deliver the required outcomes, the investors lose their investment.

I asked Jane Newman, the International Director of a leading social bond agency, the UK based Social Finance, to provide a rundown of the project and the success they have had to date. She explains:

“When Social Finance launched the world’s first Social Impact Bond in 2010 our aim was modest, but our ambitions radical:  we wanted to test the idea that it was possible to make positive social change investable. And we wanted to shine a light on a problem within our criminal justice system to make the case for more preventative, up front investment.”

Jane explains that their first social bond project was designed to reduce re-offending rates for short term offenders released from prison in the UK, by providing voluntary support after they left prison. At the programme’s conclusion, the reduction in offending had exceeded the target, leaving social bond investors ready to receive back their investment along with a bonus.

She continues, “Five years on, we could not have imagined that the Social Impact Bond (SIB) and the ideas behind it would have resonated so widely.  There are now 50 SIBs which have been launched and are in delivery, spanning 9 different countries, with many more projects and pilots under active development, including New Zealand where the Ministry of Health is in negotiations for a first SIB pilot.”

The New Zealand government has been considering social bonds for some years. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Treasury in 2013, a comprehensive process is underway to pilot a small number of projects sequentially this year.

Jane concludes: “SIBs have now developed in many social issue areas.  They are tackling problems such as adolescents at risk of going into care, social isolation among the elderly, and multiple SIBs have been commissioned in the UK and elsewhere which target employment and employability, in its different dimensions, among pockets of marginalized young people. The attributes to look for in these programmes reflect what we’re learning: rigour in the underlying analysis of the social problem; clear focus on outcomes; operational design; a flexible funding model; using the rigour of data to inform an adaptive learning approach to delivery.  These are the principles that have shown the potential to drive change.”

If the Ministry of Health’s social bond pilot projects prove the concept is viable for New Zealand, then it opens up the possibility for a new approach to tackle some of those entrenched social problems that continue to blight the lives of vulnerable children and prevent them from achieving anywhere near their potential in life.


Do you believe the government’s new measures for dealing with the gang problem are adequate?  

Vote x 120

*Poll comments are posted below.


*All NZCPR poll results can be seen in the Archive.

Click to view x 120


Then there’s Whanau Ora which enabled a Dunedin gang to get money for drug dealing. Is it time to drop Whanau Ora? Monica
It is a feeling I have that the Government is not performing it is the too hard basket. Warren
The gangs are made up mostly from the Maori community and then they get treated with kid glove treatment. Onepu, Eastern BOP!! The problem is unless all New Zealanders get treated with the same justice system the problem will always be there. The gangs need to be disbanded and get those people back into the work environment but then who is going to employ them. No education,history Etc. It is a more complex situation that cannot be solved overnight but most of the issues start at home. Wayne
It’s a start, but the main problem is that (unlike the situation in the U.K.) in this country we have a substantial element of race-based antisocial behaviour. (It may yet come to be mirrored by the major immigration patterns in Britain, where Muslim ghettoes are already establishing themselves as lawless enclaves). Unless and until the Maori culture moves away from its aggressive, combative past, and stops blaming the white colonists for all of its ills, there will be little prospect of change for the better. Unfortunately, in the present climate of political correctness, all of the drivers are pointing in the opposite direction – in the mistaken belief that if we can get Maori miscreants to “make contact with their culture” then they will miraculously turn away from crime. Some hope. Graham
Considering that maoris are represented very highly in prisons, and that they are also prominent in gangs, it stands to reason that the measures for dealing with the gang problem are not adequate. Why is that? In dealing with maoris there is always the “racist” card for them to play when the law is being broken. How differently would it have played out if it had been a white man who had shot 4 policemen (notice I am respectful and don’t call them cops) last week. There would have been tear gas through the windows and they would have gone in for him. Not the maori boy, just out of prison, with mummy and the family outside saying that is what they expected to happen. They should have been removed from the site and the police gone about their business. Neil
To be adequate, the government would have to offer an attractive alternative for current gang members. Currently, benefits offer rewards for contributing nothing to society. That is the first thing that must stop. Drugs offer huge returns with no taxes. Our drug laws should fall in line with the likes of Singapore. Problems only exist if you allow them to exist. Gangs reflect the preference that still exists to-day, for many Maori who prefer the tribal system, to that of an integrated modern society. They will always be attracted to a tribe-like environment. Understand that & you will understand & possibly solve the problem.. A.G.R.
We have a gang issue for many years and its getting worse, problem as I see it is there is a feeling of entitlement, I believe there should be strong requirements in any treaty settlement to put in place initiatives by those tribes to resolve the gang/bikie culture and the ensuing problems. Robert
Gangs have grown because no Government is brave enough to tackle them because they would be labelled racist..Gang members and their ascosiates should not receive benefits. Ken
At VERY least, this Government is seriously trying to attack the problem in a positive way, and that is a better option than ANY of the other Political Parties have EVER put forward. MervB
More work needed. Jim
Hit the gutless mongrels hard. Flatten their gang pads. Confiscate their properties etc. Use the army if necessary. PETER
If they want to get on top of the drug problem they need to target the gangs and the Chinese gangs. Murray
Gangs need dealing with, with an iron fist. Neville
People who just get “hand-outs” don’t value what they are getting; – I’ve seen it proven in a Melanesian culture. Reduce the hand-outs, and get those who can, to work clearing gorse or any other weeds for pay. It could give them a start into employment, and would provide many “supervisor” positions. Ted
Probably not but I believe it is about as much as they can do at this time. The Gang problem has been going on for too long to be eradicated by simple measures and every government will make attempts from time to time when trouble rears its ugly head. Ron
SIMPLE, Shoot them on the spot whenever seen. Robert
What a damn pity that we eliminated Capital Punishment so we could rid our planet of this low life social scum!! Tony
A good improvement. Results will tell. Errol
This and all previous Governments have done nothing but pussyfooting in re to tackling gangs in NZ.All what we have is an enormous admin machine “dealing ‘with this problem and – as you have mentioned in your article- the costs of ” dealing ‘with gangs costs the taxpayer all up 1050 million $ over 20 years.or 50,25 Mill per annum. You have forgotten an very substantial factor in this equation, this being the social and economic damage caused to society. In 2005/6 Treasury released figures re illicit drug use, these being 1,31 Billion $ p a . Of this 33,7 % were attributed to cannabis and 21,4 % or 229,9 Mill to other stimulants incl metamphetamines. Or look at organized crime involved in poaching: 58 mill for paua and 121,7 mill for lobster alone.. These are export value figures.And these figure have certainly not shrunk since then. Then there is the current cost of keeping a prisoner per year : About 100000 $. and that sum times the number of gang members in prison at any one time. So the list goes on and on. And all what our politicians are doing is conjuring up another scheme to ” tackle’ this problem. Gangs and their associates ( one cannot call these families sine they lack any attributes of a what we understand makes a healthy family) are nothing but a cancer in our society causing nothing but damage and despair. The only effective way to get rid of this cancer is to remove it by radical means. And this can only deportation of that whole lot to a island prison facility on the Auckland Islands. Before this is done they have to be microchipped in case they intend to slip back into our country.Dump them there with a set of tools and some simple building materials and seeds . Then they can create their own society with their own rules.A net of electronic surveillance around the coast would be enough to monitor any movements away from shore.and a dense belt of mines would create a good deterrent for any boat trying to slip away. That would be the most cost effective way to deal with organized crime and the funds released from not having to deal with this any longer could be used for improved social services to the benefit of all citizens. Deportation has to become a standart punishment for all violent offenders, drug traffickers, child molesters ,rapists and the like.It is time for these do gooders and the PC brigade to shut up and look at the realities we are having to deal with. Michael
As usual the government are using ineffective tactics to deal with this situation. Beryl
It is a start but we use tough love for our unruly teenagers and I feel there must be a tough solution somewhere for these Thugs Bullies and can’t be bothereds. Laurel
The main problem is lack of employment. Very few employed People Commit crimes! The trouble started when the then National Party Leader Robert Muldoon started his measures to create 5% unemployment he said was needed and we are having all sorts of serious troubles ever since! Theodorus
Nowhere near enough. Raymond
Consecutive Govt’s have had no guts to deal with gangs. They have the power to deal to gangs but all in the Beehive are a bunch of “pussies”. Bruce
Too many dole bludgers, idle hands are always trouble. Dave
I don’t believe anybody knows the answer! Jim
If they were adequate why aren’t they working? Dianne
They need to do what the LNP did in Queensland Australia and get really heavy with gangs. We outlawed gang association and got rid of the gangs, however Labour is back in now and they have got out the wet tram tickets to smack them with, so no telling yet whether they will recind the law and gangs will be back in force in Queensland. After all they are their voters. Graeme
I’ve listened over the years to Governments politicking gang removal and never seen the slightest difference. New York is being tidied up in a “no tolerance” champagne and it has twice the population of NZ. If past Governments meant what they waffled it would have been done and NZ would be far better off for it. George
More airy fairy crap! The police do a great job, get these mongrel males to court, and the “the system” let’s them down. They can only deal with these individuals within the legislation put in place by our Woodside politicians. I personally have no qualications, but I have worked my butt off, now retired comfortably, and never been tempted to commit a crime. Time to get tough, two strikes are enough, then lock them up and throw away the key. Unfortunately, wives/partners are mostly a lost cause, as the influences in those pre school years are the ones the kids are guided by. Carolyn
Wipe out altogether who needs them. Ken
Needs more focus on giving at risk boys a suitable male father figure or mentor. Keith
Make the gangs unlawful, confiscate all the bikes of gang members. Richard
As usual we are too weak in dealing with large social problems. Alan
But it is a start and much more needs to be done. David
A permanent answer needs to be found, gangs are a social and economic drain on society. Edward
One law put them in a road gang. Mike
For too long, political leaders have allowed the Gangs to have a free run at illegal activities. Politicians need to take a Hard Line approach to close these activities down. There is no place in society today for Gangs as we know them. Roger
Hard to know until more statistics on results are available. Martin
The Government, should be making the Iwi pay for all the problems we have given them millions, & they do not put anythig back into there local tribe, let them run a prison at there expense & help all the ones who are locked up. Geoff
The Government has procrastinated long enough on gangs. If these measures do not work, then stronger measures should be taken, like disbanding gangs, and the members from association. Kevin
The government are on the right track but have to be a lot firmer and toughen up there policies. John
I do believe there must be gang and family members sick of their culture and wish they could find a way out. Has everybody working towards a common goal been tried. Dennis
Do not really know. David
I do not believe they are adequate. I think that all these adult, even 17yr olds, should not be given the benefit. Why are we wasting our money, the people’s money on these people? Kerin
Regardless of what is done it is unlikely that any effort will be sufficient or adequate. Ultimately, personal responsibility for one’s actions is most likely to be the answer. Jail for the recidivist is the stick. Peter
Stop pandering to gangs. Kevin
We are all tired of the aggressive intimidating behavior of gangs, and their association with criminal behavior , and the use and manufacture of illegal society changing illegal drug trade. Time to get tough and not to accept at all their antisocial behavior. Enough is enough. Hylton
They don’t go far enough we need a government that is prepared to uphold all laws. If you are going to have a law you better make sure you can police it. Peter
The soft touch started a few decades ago, our present gang problems would be a fraction of of what we have now if the right actions had been instigated then. It is well out of hand and will mean that it could take a long time to change the culture we now have. Anthony
Have to wait & see what outcomes come from it. Rex
Far, far more determined and forceful measures will have to be taken – and appropriately discouraging penalties implemented. Otherwise, the capable Collins notwithstanding, it’ll just be Titanic and deck-chairs yet again. Jim
Not by a country mile. John
Pussy footing around. Graeme
Gangs should be made illegal. They are of no benefit to anyone. What happened to Muldoon’s threat of closing them down when he was in power? David
His these blots on society so hard that they wish they had never been born. Colin
The figures speak for themselves, The best solution is to find some way to stop those gang member mothers from having babies. Ian
Patched gang members could be sterilised as a permanent end to intergenerational problems. Chris
Gangs and other forms of organised crime are a real, clear and present threat. However, there is always going to be some form of organised crime, but the gangs have been allowed to exist, openly, for so long now that it’s going to be difficult to control them. They are utterly arrogant, because they have no fear of prison – they run the damn things, so it’s just like home – and they know that they can generally pull some cultural sensitivity stunt and the PC brigade will weep tears of guilt, then pander to the “needs” of the gangs and their families. Take their benefits away, take there Harleys and V8s, and give the police the power to smash them, because that’s the only thing that’s going to work. And if they had tough upbringings, well, who gives a damn? So did plenty of others, and they don’t leech off society, then spit in our faces… Andy
Cut the benefit to gang members, and replace it with vouchers for food and essentials, so the money can not be spent in the pub and on drugs ! ! ! ! Maurice
Time will tell…. Mark
It’s a start in the right direction. Mark
How can governments so blithely accept the very existence of gangs in NZ when a prerequisite for membership is to commit crime as initiation? Oh yes, that’s right – it’s related to the existence of APARTHEID in NZ. Geoff
When a gang member is apprehended for an offence police should have the power to investigate all other members of the gang and search their headquarters. Peter
Muldoon promised to crush the gangs during his time as PM, he failed and ever since they have been a cancer on NZ society! I have no confidence in Key’s government to change anything. John Key is a huge disappointment to me and many others I talk to. Meanwhile Labour are still unfit to govern…..Oh woe and thrice woe!! David
Gang patches on street undermine work being done at school level or in the home on the young and vulnerable. Ray
Proceed of crimes act vastly under used they are in it for money wipe them out entirely when caught. Go through and confiscate everything that they can’t prove the earned the money to buy and have ird there to tax any non declared income. John
The gangs should be banned. Michelle
To start with anyway. Rog
Drugs like gang membership are rampant and the govt like it’s tobacco tax is driving the users further underground, both detrimental to the desired end activity. IAN
This government is pathetically weak on policing policies not being able to do many of the basic ‘protection’ policing amongst general society. Stuart
Gangs need to be made illegall. Full stop. The Police and other Govt agencies already know who the gang members are, and their family connections. Trevor
Gangs would appear to be just another facet of the ” separation game ” that Maori are playing. They all think that they’re above the law, but still practice the old ” handout ” routine. The really BIG picture needs looking into and settled once and for all. John
Declare them illegal. Neil
They are a law unto themselves! Andrew
It seems a very good initiative and a good start to what I didn’t realize was such an expensive and very large problem. Chris
In Australia the government brought in new laws allowing police to stop, question and search when more than two bikers were riding together,. Nearly 800 ended up in jail, many were Kiwis, now being deported back here. So it is our problem now. Jill
No matter how tough it sounds it will be watered down and not acted upon as usual. Just like the advertised “end to zero hour contracts” that later comment admitted was actually a “very minor” change. Liz
No body will make maori face up to their reality of their actions all politicians avoid the emotional upheaval they will react to. Lance
More needs to be done. Why does there have to be gangs. They do like to rule .. Robert
Only draconian measures to ensure these identified individuals are prevented from breeding can end intergenerational criminality. If our risible justice system had any “balls” these multiple repeat offenders would be incarcerated with no chance to continue to sow their perverted seed. Rodney
I don’t think these measures are enough. The Police should target gangs to a much greater degree. Use a “Broken Windows” approach – crack down every time they put a foot wrong. Rob
The Police should crack down on any offending at all from gang members. They are better off in jail with the keys thrown away. Then there’s an opportunity to work on the wives and children. Susan
Social bonds should be tried to help the children of gang families  into education and jobs – if such programmes work, that is great, but if they don’t, it will cost the government/taxpayers nothing! John
This problem with gangs is not new. I find it incredible that the government still doesn’t know what works in tackling these issues. Michael
Gang violence is a blight on society. The three strikes legislation should ensure these criminals get locked away for a long time. At least their kids would be safe – and society. Graeme