Tongan community leaders in Auckland, New Zealand have gone on the offensive to reduce gang-related violence involving their youth.
In the recent weeks, there have been multiple drive-by shootings in Auckland, and all of these are said to be gang affiliated.
South Auckland is infamous for its gangs, mostly due to social constraints and gangs providing an opportunity for many young people to make money, usually illegally.
While some Tongans are gang members, they are not the reason for gang violence in New Zealand. The members of the community often find themselves across the floor from each other as members of different gangs.
Next weekend, Auckland will host the rugby league clash between Tonga and New Zealand, and Tongans in Auckland are already in a frenzy.
Tongan community leaders in Auckland are worried that rival gang members may cross each other’s paths during celebrations held across the week.
A talanoa or discussion to make a public call for peace is being organised in Mangere in Auckland.
The Secretary of Akiheuho – Aotearoa Tongan Health Workers Association, Manase Lua, met with the CEO of Tonga Youth Trust, Reverend Ikilifi Pope, to call for a community meeting of leaders this Friday.
“It’s been long overdue but we must address this problem as community leaders,” Mr Lua said in a statement.
He said the victims of the violent clashes between gangs have been bystanders. He stated they want to avoid this and are hoping to persuade Tongans involved in gangs to come to an understanding.
The talanoa session would allow the gang members to take centre stage and talk with the leaders, and possibly provide a solution.
“Our silence may be taken the wrong way so we must draw the line so our youth know where we stand”, said Mr Pope.
Since May, there have been 23 shootings in Auckland alone. Police in New Zealand have started cracking down on the gangs and confiscating firearms which are at large.