with Josh Cole
There has rightly been a lot of talk of late about gang issues and the general conversation has really lacked any solutions that will negate the need for gangs to even exist in the long term.
It is far more complex than going after gangs with pitchforks and flaming torches, which will only aggravate them and harden their presence in our communities. It won't make them go away.
The issues are deep seated in society, which must be addressed. Otherwise, we will forever have these issues popping up long into the future. In a nutshell, ending poverty, inclusive education, healthcare - especially mental healthcare - for all, restorative justice, healthy communities, food security, Te Tiriti justice and affordable housing are the main long-term solutions.
In the 2020 election campaign, the Greens launched a policy called the Poverty Action Plan.
It included a Guaranteed Minimum Income of $325 per week, which was the poverty line at the time. More if you were a single parent, more again if you were also out of work, more if you were a student and more again if you had children under 3 years of age.
The Working for Families tax credit also would have been swapped out for a Family Support Credit, which would have provided families with more.
The numbers were calculated on the cost of living at the time. It was designed to ensure everyone was able to live above the poverty line so that the mind didn't resort to survival mode and the thought of committing a crime was decreased.
It would have been funded by the Wealth Tax, which has been extremely misreported in the media as a tax that a lot of us would have to pay, but it was only targeting the top six per cent of earners. The poorest 94 per cent of us would not be affected by it.
Inclusive education is also a major factor in reducing gang numbers because kids won't grow up thinking that the gang life is for them.
Our education system should give everyone the best possible start to life both inside and outside of the classroom.
Public education needs to be free, and include every child; those with disabilities and special needs, children from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and tangata whenua.
The health system needs to be well resourced and free for our most vulnerable. Mental health has been neglected for decades and we have a very long way to catch up. New science on mental health has come leaps and bounds in the past thirty years and especially in the past 10 years.
It may seem that there are more people with poor mental health of late, but that could also just be because we now know what poor mental health is and that we have been suffering all along.
This is where restorative justice comes along as well. It really all has to do with mental health and addiction issues.
If our country honoured the only "version" of Te Tiriti o Waitangi that was signed by both Māori and the crown on 6 February 1840, then there would be much much less intergenerational trauma, which lead to hardship, disproportional imprisonment of Māori, mental health issues, poor education and whanau breakdowns, all which lead to gang affiliation.
Māori would feel more included in society and their tikanga (culture) would be far more embedded in our general NZ culture and there would be less of a need for them to find whanau in the form of gangs.
The New Zealand system has not provided for them, so they have banded together and made up their own rules. This, in my mind, is the real root cause of gangs and the subsequent organised crime.
Dont quote the Green Party on this one, but in my mind, housing affordability is in such a crisis that it calls on equally drastic actions to redress it.
So, I have an idea of the government buying up all rental housing that comes onto the market, retaining the tenants.
They then honour Te Tiriti, which states that Māori would not lose any taonga (including whenua) and give the land back to mana whenua. Government only charges affordable mortgage repayments that only increase with the interest rate increases. Government foots the bill for any maintenance or improvements.
Then, in 30 years when the mortgage is paid off, the tenants become the owners of that house and eventually we would all have no more accommodation costs apart from rates and maintenance and we would all be home owners!
Now, because I am 100 per cent pakeha and no Te Tiriti expert, I am unable to say what mana whenua should do with the land, but I trust them enough to leave those kaitiakitanga decisions up to them, especially since the land was stolen from them in the first place.
I am very sure that Māori would not kick the tenants off the land. Another mindset I have is that houses shouldn't cost the occupiers more than the cost of building them.
Once the cost of buying houses has been paid off, then that house should no longer cost the occupier anything. Houses are too important to cost us so much.
They are a major part of the human need for survival. Without them, we simply die on the streets.
This rental property industry is holding more than half of us to ransom by making us choose between paying for rent OR buying food, driving one to think of criminality.
If all these solutions are actioned and they all work out, then gangs would no longer have any reason to exist.
As a spinoff, the taxpayer would also save money on not only extra police, but in the ministries of courts, corrections, justice, health, education, Treaty negotiations, social housing, social development and the list goes on.
This would free money up for the government to continue buying up and rental housing that would otherwise go onto the market and after we are all homeowners, perhaps tax cuts might be affordable if there were no other crises to solve.