The rise and development of gangs in New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Although gang behaviour was in evidence in early colonial New Zealand, the advent of modern gangs can be seen to have occurred in the post World War II period. Since this time, gangs have been heralded as a significant and often severe social problem, particularly as they pertain to issues of law and order. Initially, concerns regarding gangs were focused on their anti social activities and the occasional violent episode, but as many of the gangs became more established this focus broadened to include organised criminal activity. Whether it is images and stories of violent brawls, murders and rapes or, as has been more prominent in recent times, reports of profit driven crime, gang activity receives considerable media attention and thus gangs are afforded a high public profile. Given this profile, it is not surprising that gangs have been an important target for politicians and governments who have introduced various laws in an effort to counter them. Despite the attention paid to them, however, gangs have not been subjected to significant research in this country. Using a wide range of historical documents, ethnographic research and formal interviews, this thesis seeks to examine the rise of gangs in New Zealand and track their evolutionary development. It also focuses on how the community has responded to the issue of gangs, and how, in turn, the gangs have responded to that attention. The findings of this thesis will undoubtedly be surprising to many; despite gangs having a high profile, commonly held ‘knowledge’ of them has most often been learned by sensational media or political rhetoric and is consequently often removed from reality. Informed by many of the understandings gained from the plethora of international research, this thesis attempts to outline and give meaning to a hitherto untold story.