Polynesians on the rise in Sydney gang crime

Maori and Pacific Island gangs are classed as the second most serious crime problem in Sydney, second only to violent Lebanese gangs.

Police regard them as a crime scourge  because of their widespread involvement in house and car burglaries, with offenders starting as young as 14.

Their crime profile is worsening with Australia's bikie gangs recruiting Pacific Islanders to shore up numbers as Sydney's gang wars spew into suburban and city streets almost daily.

All but 10 of 32 drive-by shootings or bombings in the past six months have been linked to bike gangs.

Islanders are being targeted by newer and more violent gangs such as Notorious, formed in 2007, and chapters of the Bandidos, dominated by Middle Eastern migrants, particularly Lebanese, according to a police source.

The officer said gangs wanted Islanders for work as bouncers at their night clubs, security guards and for drug-running.

This is in addition to a long-standing recruitment of Maori into gangs though Australian police tend not to differentiate between Islanders and Maori, tagging them all as Polynesians.

The Australian Crime Commission estimates there are about 3500 outlaw bikies in Australia in 39 gangs. The number of Pacific Islanders involved is unclear.

The source said Australian police considered Polynesians who had  arrived in Sydney via New Zealand  to be the second most serious crime problem in Sydney behind Lebanese criminals.

Some of the Island and Maori youths were second-generation residents of Australia but there were a good number whose families still lived in New Zealand, as in the case of 21-year old Maori gang member Pomare Pirini, arrested on affray charges arising from the gang fight at Sydney Airport last month, in which Hells Angel member Anthony Zervas died.

At the heart of the violence  is a struggle for control of criminal and drug-trading activity and the nightclub and prostitution industries.

Duncan McNab, a former New South Wales detective turned journalist, says the transformation of bike clubs to criminal businesses started early. He said Kings Cross-based Notorious, thought to be one of the biggest recruiters of Pacific Islanders, was run by young men in black, bullet-proof four-wheel-drive vehicles rather than on bikes.   

They were after revenue from the billion-dollar drug trade. Maori have long featured in some gangs.

Derek Wainohu, president of the Sydney chapter of Hells Angels, was stood down from his job as a crash laboratory manager at the Road Transport Authority after being linked to the fatal bashing of Anthony Zervas in the airport fight. 

Richard "Rebel Rick" Roberts, a Maori and former president of the Rebels Motorcycle Club, and his associated Gregory Carrigan were shot dead in Canberra last month. 

Roberts, 57, the father of boys aged 16 and 13, left New Zealand for Australia in 1973.

The Dominion Post