Be careful about new police powers against gang assets, pundit says

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Police Minister Chris Hipkins and Justice Minister Kiri Allan yesterday dramatically announced "Time is up" for gang members and others hiding assets for criminals, with new law changes aimed at confiscating them.

But political commentator Shane Te Pou (Ngāi Tūhoe) says he is concerned about giving police more power with these law changes and wants whānau to be assured they won't be stripped of their assets in the process.

The changes amend the Criminal Proceeds Act, expanding it to cover associates, making it easier for police to seize illicit assets from someone associated with an organised criminal group and, unless they can show proof within two months that they acquired their property legally, criminals based overseas who have assets in New Zealand risk losing those assets.

But Te Pou says it is quite obvious, "particularly in terms of meth trade which is a blight on our community, that something needs to be done about it. One of the root causes, from my perspective, is the role that organised crimes and gangs play in that.

“We need to cut that off at the knees, and that’s about the money source.”

Other issues, such as harm reduction, need to be addressed too, Te Pou says, and says work by Dr Hinemoa Elder and Helen Clark should be looked at for this.

“We’ve treated it through a criminal lens where we need to treat it through an addiction and health lens. Some of the mahi that Dr Hinemoa Elder, Helen Clark and the Helen Clark Foundation have done in terms of harm minimisation is the way to go.

“It’s important to get all of the ingredients right in the pot so we have a positive outcome for whānau, hapū and iwi.”