Wanganui District Council will decide at a special meeting on Monday whether to ban patches belonging to Australia's largest outlaw motorcycle gang after concerns from police that it could be setting up a chapter in New Zealand.
Mayor Annette Main admitted she had never heard of the Rebels Motorcycle Club till police wrote to her two weeks ago, requesting the council to add its patch to the city's list of illegal insignia.
"In the letter that I got, it was quite clear the police were concerned about them, and I don't believe they would rush to add anything to the list if they didn't feel it would be a worry for them," she said. "Apparently the members of that particular gang have been seen in Palmerston North, which is pretty near by."
Detective Superintendent Brett Kane, of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency, said it had been aware "for several months" of the Rebels' attempts to set up a chapter in New Zealand.
The Rebels Motorcycle Club was involved in serious violence as well as drug manufacture and trafficking in Australia, he said. "Rebels gang members have been sighted in a number of localities throughout the North Island recently and been the focus of police attention already."
As recently as last Wednesday, Auckland police dealt with more than a dozen patched Rebels members near Auckland Airport.
"At the same time an Australian Rebels member trying to get into New Zealand was turned around upon arrival at Auckland International Airport and sent back to where he came from."
The members that have been sighted wearing the Rebels patches in New Zealand were previously members of another outlaw motorcycle gang in New Zealand, he said.
Ms Main said she would happily ban Rebels' patches in Whanganui if police felt they presented a threat.
Whanganui area commander Inspector Duncan MacLeod confirmed there had been recent sightings in the Central police district of people wearing Rebels' patches.
Police Minister Judith Collins said the Australian Government considered the Rebels a criminal organisation. "Police have my full support to take whatever steps are necessary under the law to ensure that overseas crime gangs are made to feel as unwelcome as possible."
The Whanganui gang patch ban currently covers Black Power, Hells Angels, Magogs, Mothers, Mongrel Mob, Nomads, Tribesmen, Red Devils, Head Hunters and Mangu Kaha.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging