How Poto Williams rejected a premise and denied Nats the data sought about gang membership

For   successive  days  in Parliament this  week  National’s  Mark  Mitchell   has  been asking Police  Minister  Poto  Williams whether gang  violence  has  increased  or  decreased  under  her  watch—and  whether  gang  membership  has  risen in that time.

Adopting a  technique favoured  by  her  leader,  Williams  is apt to say “I reject the  premise of  that  question”.

It’s a neat way of answering without providing the information that has been requested.

Here’s how  Hansard recorded  the   exchange  on  this point:

Hon Mark Mitchell: Has gang violence increased or decreased under her watch?

Hon POTO WILLIAMS: There is no doubt that violence and gang tensions are a feature of our community and we have to do everything we can to ensure that we deal with that, and we do that by ensuring the police have the resources that they need—a record $450 million increase into their budget. Which I might remind that member, under their Government they froze police funding, which meant there was a drop in police numbers. We are committed to 1,800 further police and we are committed to also further legislative support to ensure that our police can keep our communities as safe as possible.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Point of order?

SPEAKER: I think I can anticipate it, but have a go.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Can I ask the question again, Mr Speaker?


Hon Mark Mitchell: Thank you. Has gang violence increased or decreased under her watch?

Hon POTO WILLIAMS: I reject the premise of that question, because in order to keep our communities safe, we must ensure that our police are resourced to do so. Now, I’d like to remind that member yet again—yet again—that, under National, police numbers dropped because they froze funding. You cannot do more with less, Mr Mitchell. You must make sure your police are resourced to do the job that is in front of them, and that’s what we are doing.

Hon Mark Mitchell: What exactly is the premise that the Minister is rejecting?

Hon POTO WILLIAMS: I reject the premise that gang tensions have increased under this Government’s watch, because we have Operation Tauwhiro, which resulted in a thousand arrests; every week, the organised crime groups are seizing millions of dollars’ worth of cash and assets; they’re making dozens and dozens of arrests. We are supporting the police to do a significant job. Can I remind that member he used to be a police officer and he spends every day in this House disrespecting and diminishing the work of New Zealand police, and I stand by the police every single day against your record.

So,  you  might  wonder, are  the  police  succeeding in controlling  the  gangs and their  more  nefarious  activities?

Certainly we learned  that Williams is  steering a record investment her Government has made into increasing police numbers: 1,800, to be exact, 700 of which will be targeted towards organised crime. Already 300 have been  recruited and   the  government is  on  track to having the dedicated 700 members of that organised crime group by June next year.

And  there  is  the national gang list—an intelligence tool designed to give police a high level understanding of the gang environment.   Williams  says it was  never designed to be an  accurate statistical count of gang membership in New Zealand.

But  Mitchell—and  the  public—was  left  no  wiser on  whether  in  fact   the  gangs have  lifted  membership  by  40% since  2017—and  what attracts recruits  in  such  numbers.

And  for  those  New  Zealanders    wondering  what  the “premise to the  question” which Williams  rejected  so  strenuously could be, perhaps it is the  almost daily  examples  of  gang  violence being reported on  NZ  streets?

4 thoughts on “How Poto Williams rejected a premise and denied Nats the data sought about gang membership

  1. That minister? is completely out of her depth. Can her boss not see that or is that her own incompetence makes her blind to the lack of ability among her ministers?


  2. You have to provide jobs for the boys, and girls, Terry, and the list to draw them from is thin. If competence was a criterion then it’d be a very small Cabinet. But why isn’t she required to actually answer the question?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Desperately defending a Labour government incapable of managing their individual portfolios. Williams fiddles whist the country burns.


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