EASTERN Bay Mongrel Mob and Black Power leaders have patched up their differences with a peace agreement that includes procedures to avoid future conflict.
Manna Support Services manager Kevan McConnell said a meeting of gang leaders occurred in Kawerau three weeks ago, but he waited to ensure tensions had settled before making the agreement public.
Mr McConnell said he facilitated several meetings with Whakatane’s Black Power chapters to ensure the foundations were set before they met leaders of the Kawerau Mongrel Mob chapter.
“All of the [Whakatane] chapters of the Black Power were represented in the meeting, including the Outbacks.
“From that hui we decided on the people to speak on behalf of the Black Power, who would travel to Kawerau and meet with those who were to speak on behalf of the Mongrel Mob, and talk through how we can respect each other in times of tangi and other events.”
Mr McConnell, a former patched Black Power member who is now a qualified social worker, said he had formed good relationships with the Kawerau community while managing the town’s social sector trials and felt it would be easier for Black Power to travel than for the Mongrel Mob to come to Whakatane.
He said there was a long history of rivalry between the two gangs that spawned violence, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.
He said in recent times, relations between the two gangs had been uneventful, but tensions flared while Mongrel Mob members were retrieving the body of one of their members from the Gateway Funeral Home in the Awatapu suburb of Whakatane on January 13.
Four days later, on January 17, those tensions exploded when Black Power members confronted Kawerau Mongrel Mob members as they travelled through Whakatane in a funeral procession to the crematorium at Hillcrest Cemetery. The two gangs exchanged gun fire.
Thirteen men associated with the Outbacks face a raft of charges relating to the incident including rioting, participating in an organised criminal group, possession of a firearm and shooting at police.
Mr McConnell said poor communication was at the heart of those incidents, however, he had been working with others to reinstate peace between the two gangs.
“Both parties agreed to move toward building a better future in terms of having a more respectful relationship with each other – the war has gone on long enough.
“The reason why we want the community informed there is peace is so that people can be at ease again.”
Mr McConnell said processes and policies were established at the meeting between the two gangs to help avoid future confrontations, and all the leaders agreed it would be their responsibility to ensure members of their chapters adhered to the rules.
With offices in Kopeopeo and Kawerau, Manna Support Services provides help to young people, counselling and family programmes such as the Incredible Years Parenting course.