Operation Atlas: Police target gang tensions in Wairoa
Ongoing violence and tension between Mongrel Mob and Black Power chapters in Wairoa saw the commencement of a special Police operation, codenamed ‘Atlas’ in the area last week.
Operation Atlas is a multi-faceted police response focussing on the disruption and prevention of organised crime and gang-related offending across the Eastern Police district, with a current focus on Wairoa.
Since June 3 2021 there have been five recorded incidents in which firearms have been discharged at homes in the wider Wairoa area.
In early June, a Wairoa man received gunshot injuries, and in an incident last week, two children were asleep in a Raupunga house when it was fired upon from a vehicle.
“Thankfully in that case these tamariki were not injured,” says Wairoa Area Response Manager Senior Sergeant Maui Aben.
“But our message to those responsible for this offending, and the ongoing tensions is simple – community safety comes first, and we will hold you to account for your actions.”
Operation Atlas began in Wairoa on Thursday with the arrival of Police staff from around the country to support local Police.
“While these extra staff will remain with us for the next several weeks carrying out disruption and prevention activities, we do understand this is a long-term issue that requires long-term solutions.”
Police called a meeting earlier this year with Wairoa community and iwi leaders, and stakeholders to have an open discussion about the ongoing gang-related issues, and the affects violence and drugs are having on the wider community.
“We know we can’t make lasting change without our community partnering with us.
It’s time to do something different to ensure different results,” says Senior Sergeant Aben.
Police are also working with key community and government agencies on a long-term plan focussed on community safety in Wairoa.
Wairoa District Council has actively been participating in recent hui with Police.
“This is not a Police problem. It is a gang problem and as a community, we are behind Police as we jointly work towards solutions,” says Wairoa District Council Mayor Craig Little.
"We can get through this as a community, and I encourage anyone with information that can assist Police to come forward.”
Wairoa Taiwhenua Chairman and Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Board Member Nigel How has also been part of recent discussions.
“The current situation is rooted in complex intergenerational issues,” says Mr How.
“Alcohol and drug abuse, organised crime and violence is not unique to gangs. These issues are found everywhere and reflect deeper collective trauma experienced by our community.
“Stable community safety will only come with manaakitanga for all. This means we all have an inherent responsibility to support and care for each other through the highs and lows. All of us, not just the continued tireless efforts of some individuals, social service providers and other entities in our community.
“Active manaakitanga by all, for all, including gang members.”
Police continue to encourage members of the public with information or concerns in relation to these incidents to come forward.
This information can be provided via 105 quoting Operation Atlas/ File number 210616/4442. Information can also be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.