Destiny Church leader Jay Hepi at today's hikoi through Kaikohe
A hikoi through Kaikohe today at the start of a rāhui saw the local hapū gather to take back their community from gang violence.
In the past two weeks alone, a rise in violence in the area has worried hapū who are taking a stand against the violence.
“We've spoken to the gangs," Northland leader Quinton Hita says.
"Whether or not they'll listen, who knows? But the main thing is that people hear and see that hapū will not allow this behaviour around our children.”
Former gang leader, now Destiny Church leader, Jay Hepi, wants to see change.
“We've heard what the police have to say but the problem is still around us," Hepi says. "This is a concern and our families are afraid right now. So we pray that it ends.”
The problems run deep
Hita says the problem is in the community, "just as it probably is in others.'
"It's not as if it started today. These are problems that run deep. It can't be fixed in a day.
"We instead, hear the need to develop a strategy that works. That's how we can fix these issues.”
So, what does the rāhui mean for Kaikohe and the wider Māori community in Northland? Moko Te Pania, councillor for the Kaikohe-Hokianga ward of the Far North District Council, says a solution must be found.
“I'll be honest - when this problem first appeared we didn't see many police on the ground but this time around their response has been better. So I support that," Te Pania says.
"The problem is the station is in Kerikeri and not Kaikohe. So the police station is in a different town.”
Just this week alone police were alerted to several firearm incidents in Kaikohe. One person was arrested for a firearms incident.
“We see problems from Auckland overflowing to the regions."
He supports the stance by the five subtribes of Kaikohe and their rāhui "because gangs don't follow laws but maybe they follow tikanga”.
“One benefit is funding to improve surveillance and things like that. We want to install more lights to keep locals who live in Kaikohe at ease.”