In an eleventh-hour bid, a Waikato council spent a quarter of a million dollars on land to stop a notorious motorcycle gang from setting up in their patch.
The bid comes as the Head Hunters – a gang regarded as one of the leaders in organised crime – look to establish themselves in the South Waikato.
The gang has been the target of a series of methamphetamine raids across the country, most recently in nearby Rotorua, with police saying the gang was looking to establish a base in the area.
A Head Hunters gang member was in the process of buying the property on Dumfries Rd, Tokoroa, when South Waikato District Council swooped in.
* Meth supply targeted in raids across Auckland and Rotorua
* Eight arrested after alleged Head Hunters gang methamphetamine op with Fiji origins
* Police freeze Head Hunters’ Christchurch assets
* Head Hunters leader at centre of police operation
* Four-month investigation into Head Hunters sparks raid on headquarters
The two-acre section was put up for sale in August by Raukawa Iwi Development Limited (RIDL) – the commercial arm of Raukawa.
The iwi only became aware of the purchaser’s gang ties late in the process because they had been dealing with his lawyers.
Legally, RIDL were not able to back out of the sale.
The sale with the gang member was to be finalised late last week, but on Tuesday, South Waikato District Council confirmed they bought the land at the last minute “in the interest of public safety”.
They do not yet know what they’ll do with their new purchase.
“Council was aware that the other buyer was potentially affiliated to the gang Head Hunters,” a spokeswoman said.
“The safety of our community is very important to council. Our vision for almost a decade now has been ‘Healthy people thriving in a safe, vibrant and sustainable community’.”
The spokeswoman said concerns had been raised by property owners in the area. There were also concerns about the property’s proximity to Amisfield School, a mere 300 metres away, and the local cemetery.
“Council was in a position to make this purchase in the interest of public safety, so we did.
“No legal challenge has been raised by anyone with council at this stage.”
Raukawa Settlement Trust chair Vanessa Eparaima said they had no idea the intended buyer had any connection to a gang.
She said when selling property, it’s not a typical assumption to make when someone puts in a tender.
When asked if the iwi would have gone through the sale process had they known the intended purchaser was a gang member, she said she wasn’t able to comment due to privacy reasons.
“Raukawa is actively involved in a range of activities which support the health and well-being and growth and success of Tokoroa and the many communities that we and our people share.
“We would not and do not support any activity which encourages the presence of gangs in our communities.”
Both council and iwi could not confirm if the property would have been used as a gang headquarters, however, the gang member posted pictures of the Dumfries Rd property and the sale deed to his social media account, believing it was a done deal.
He also referred to the property as a spot for a new clubrooms for the gang.
Taupo police area commander Inspector Warwick Morehu said police were aware a local Head Hunters member intended to purchase the property.
He said there were real concerns the property could have been used for a gang pad, given the industrial area it’s located in.
“As far as I’m aware, Raukawa has been very cooperative and were made aware quite late that the lad [intending to] buy the property was a member of the Head Hunters.”
Last week, raids across Auckland and Rotorua resulted in four arrests, including one patched Head Hunter, and the seizure of more than 400 grams of methamphetamine valued at $420,000.
On Wednesday, three more people were arrested on methamphetamine-related charges in Rotorua as part of the same operation.
“This has been a long-running investigation targeting an organised crime group, including patched members of the Head Hunters gang, who have been peddling methamphetamine in the Rotorua area,” National Organised Crime Group Detective Senior Sergeant Eddie Sutherland said.
“We are aware the Head Hunters have been trying to establish a presence in the area for some time.”