Sister of stabbed Opotiki man appeals for calm

STAB VICTIM: Joe Collier, left.
STAB VICTIM: Joe Collier, left.

A sister of the man who died after a fight in Opotiki is appealing for calm after a day of gang tension in the town.

Police have charged a 34-year-old local man with the murder of 21-year-old Joe Collier, and a 20-year-old man with assault with a weapon, in relation to the Sunday night incident.

Six men and a woman were arrested shortly after 11.30am today for ‘‘disorder’’ in the town, police said.  A man was taken to hospital with head and leg injuries as a result of the brawl.

Opotiki Mayor John Forbes described today's fight as ‘‘tit for tat’’ gang behaviour.

The group had thought it was ‘‘tracking down and extracting retribution’’ for Collier’s death, unaware the man charged with murder was already behind bars, he said.

He hoped the arrests would quell gang tensions in the town. 

Collier’s sister Lisa said she understood her brother’s friends were hurting but they should not do anything stupid.

‘‘There’s just no need for it. We’re suffering way too much,’’ she said.

‘‘They need to forget about it and let us bury him.’’

She had come from Perth, while her father was to be allowed out of prison for the funeral, she said.

"I want to be able to put my brother to rest where he wants to be.’’ 

The body was with family in Rotorua now but her brother would be buried next to his nan in Opotiki.

‘‘There’s no need to get even,’’ she pleaded.

‘‘Now my brother’s gone I just want them to stop and think about their actions.’’

Her father’s brother Muni Rangi Collier – known as Boxer – had been shot dead near Opotiki in 2007.

Police, civic leaders and youth workers also called for calm.

The man charged with Collier’s murder will appear in the Rotorua District Court tomorrow, while the man charged with assault will appear in the Whakatane District Court about the same time. His charge relates to a vehicle allegedly driven at people during the Sunday night incident.

Of the seven arrested today, three local men aged 24, 26 and 31 are being held in custody jointly charged with wounding with intent to cause grevious bodily harm.

Two other men have been charged and bailed for possession of an offensive weapon, and a man and a woman have been charged and bailed for disorderly behaviour.

Forbes said: "[The arrest] will invariably calm things down. Ninety-nine per cent of the town is continuing business as usual."

The gang violence was "just not acceptable" to the community, he said.

On the Bay of Plenty police Facebook page, locals thanked police for their work.

Others said they felt unsafe after the escalating gang conflict, with one local writing: "Its pretty scary, i live ryt amongst it, already had a mob attack dis morning, very scary for me n my kids (sic)."

One resident told the Whakatane Beacon she had seen three carloads of armed gang members visit the house where Collier was apparently attacked.