2 October 2013

Yesterday the State Services Commission posted  on its website details of the Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Act 2013 which has been in force – and almost unknown to most agencies – for the last seven weeks.  Presumably that lack of response by agencies has prompted the move to raise awareness of the law.

A random search of agency websites – including the agencies most likely be visited by gang members- suggests that none have seen the need to specify prohibitions on access to public places covered by the statute. All of which raises the question of why a majority of MPs gave House time to its enactment. Perhaps because it was a private member’s bill promoted by a National MP, party colleagues were compelled to give it support. New Zealand First MPs, Peter Dunn and Brendan Horan also gave their support.

The effect is that the insignia of 34 specified gangs cannot now be worn in the premises of Public Service departments , local authorities, Crown entities, schools– more broadly defined than a  school board of trustees (which is a Crown entity)  district health boards and the Police. Numerous other public premises don’t appear to be covered, including Parliament and parliamentary agencies, the NZ Defence Force, the Universities and Wananga, State Owned Enterprises (also Air NZ and the Reserve Bank) the Waitangi Tribunal, and Maori TV. A possible advantage of the Act will be as a machinery of government teaching aid – helping illustrate components of the Crown!

The nine section Act extends to six pages (excluding the cover and legislative history) of which nearly three pages comprise the interpretation section. Part of that interpretation concedes that a tattoo is not insignia – meaning clothing of a gang colour and marking may constitute an offence if worn in agency premises, but not a facial or other explicit skin marking.

Gang insignia have long been precluded in prisons – for prisoners and visitors – under prison manager rules.

The SSC guidance includes a sign recommended for display in premises where gang insignia is proscribed.