“The first duty of any government is to keep its people safe, and this is especially true in a time of emergency. ACT has a plan to address the lawlessness that has occurred in cyclone-affected areas so people can have the sense of security they need to get on with recovery,” says ACT’s Justice Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“Earlier this week I attended a packed public meeting in Hawke’s Bay on the topic of crime. Desperate locals sent a clear message to the Government – listen to us, we need more support.

“Locals feel like they’ve been lied to about the seriousness of crime taking place. They’re living it, they know what they’re experiencing, and we owe it to them to listen.

“ACT has listened, we first called for the Defence Force to be brought in on 20 February, this is still needed to spread the load that is currently being shouldered by police and to ensure people feel safe.

“Residents made the point that bringing in the Defence Force is not a sign that the Police have lost control, it is ensuring that the Police can maintain control and will allow people to have the sense of security that can let them get on with recovery.

“The Eastern Police District has the second highest prevalence of gang members in New Zealand. There is clear discomfort as patched gang members are out in the open, and many people believe they are scoping out their properties for looting.

“ACT has listened to locals’ concerns, we have sensible policy to address them. ACT would:

  • Have the Defence Force supporting Police on the ground by invoking Section 9 of the Defence Act, enabling the New Zealand Defence Force to assist with civil powers in a time of emergency. A presence in the worst affected areas would make a huge difference to communities that are suffering.
  • Ensuring tougher sentences for lowlife criminals exploiting emergency situations. Amending section 9 of the Sentencing Act 2002 would ensure that an offence committed in a region that is under a state of emergency would be taken into account as an aggravating factor at sentencing.

“Criminals are far less likely to prey on the vulnerable if there is a Defence Force presence on the ground, or if they’re going to be sentenced to a far heavier sentence.

“Offenders who exploit disaster scenarios are not just committing crimes against individuals, they are disrupting the recovery process of entire communities.

“Many of these communities feel as though they have been ignored by the Government. ACT is sending a message to criminals that they can’t exploit disaster scenarios, and to communities that we are committed to protecting them.”

ACT's policy document for the Cyclone Gabrielle rebuild can be found here.

More from

Nicole McKee