Hamilton, November 27, 2023
Police have had a strong and visible presence across the North Island over the weekend, ahead of the proceedings at Motuiti Marae in Foxton which saw a large gang presence along State Highway 1 near Foxton. Hundreds of people have already descended on Motuiti Pā for what could be the country’s largest gang funeral for Senior Head Hunters member William “Bird” Hines, who will be laid to rest after a service at the marae today, on Monday, November 27, 2023.
He was jailed for 18 and a half years in 2017 for his involvement in a million-dollar methamphetamine ring but was released on compassionate grounds last year because of his poor health.
Over the weekend, there were members from various gangs at the funeral and cars lined both sides of State Highway 1 as the crowds made their way to the venue. A traffic management plan is in place and officers would continue to be highly visible across parts of the North Island on Monday and Tuesday to monitor the movements of gang members travelling home from the funeral.
Police on alert
Around 100 staff are assigned to the operation across various Police districts and for different phases. The Police helicopter, Eagle, has been deployed to assist with monitoring the roading network and will remain in Central District as required, to provide support to our officers on the ground.
Assistant Commissioner Johnson said, “The safety of the public is our absolute priority, and the Police’s focus now turns to the community in and around Foxton over the next couple of days. We can reassure the public that Police will have a presence in the area, and will be ready to respond when required. Police will act on any unlawful activity where we can safely do so, but we would like to hear from anyone who may witness any offending taking place.”
Police established checkpoints on Marua Road in Ellerslie, as the procession was preparing to depart yesterday. Several infringement notices were issued at these checkpoints, and one person failed an alcohol breath screening test.
Around 50-60 bikes and a number of support vehicles left Ellerslie, and these numbers increased and decreased at various points throughout the day.
Assistant Commissioner Mike Johnson said, “We have continued to monitor and police the movements of the procession today, and our focus has been to mitigate any disruptions on the roading network as much as we possibly can. Police have impounded one motorbike and seized a stolen car, and a number of infringements have been issued. A number of follow-up inquiries will also be undertaken and we will take the appropriate action.”
Peaceful so far
A community leader in Foxton says gang members who are there to attend the funeral of a senior member have been respectful so far, and he hopes they stay that way.
Police said they were visiting businesses in Foxton to reassure shop owners and staff.
Horowhenua Māori ward district councillor Justin Tamihana, who is attending the tangi, said they wanted to ensure that everyone was safe and respectful during this time.
“While there is a huge presence of gang members from all walks, they are working hard and supporting the kitchen and paepae and sharing korero and stories together with our local whānau. The marae is a hive of busy people all there to offer each other support in a difficult time,” he said in a statement.
Mr Tamihana said he had been made aware that some elders and whānau at the marae felt the police presence was “over the top”.
Police this morning said they will be “highly visible” in the coming days and will have extra resources on the roads “to target illegal behaviour and to mitigate disruption to the public as much as possible”.
They anticipate that gang members will ride between Auckland and Foxton, and other groups will travel north to Foxton from southern regions.
Assistant Commissioner Johnson said police had been talking with Head Hunter members to let them know exactly how they are expected to behave on public roads.
Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.