The politics of gang research in New Zealand

Research New Zealand

Like many other Western jurisdictions over the past sixty years, New Zealand has had to contend with episodes of moral panic regarding the activities of youth gangs. The most recent episode occurred in 2005-2007 and was spurred by a perceived escalation in inter-gang conflict and violence in the Counties Manukau areas within greater Auckland, New Zealand. This particular episode was unique in the New Zealand context for the level of attention given to youth gangs by the government and policy makers. This paper reports on the authors’ experiences of carrying out research on the youth gang situation in Counties Manukauas part of an inter-agency project to develop a response to gang-related violence. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which government officials attempted to mould the research process and findings to suit an already emerging policy framework, predicated on supporting ‘business as usual’, at the expense of research participants calls for great autonomy to develop and delivery appropriate youth services to their communities.

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