Wearing The Ban On Your Sleeve


Holy Mother Marmite, New Zealand is 0-fer-3 this week. First they denied a visa to a much-needed doctor because he was a health risk. Then the Advertising Standards Authority and the Salvation Army ambushed the makers of the drink "Cocaine" for legitimizing the White Lady.

And yesterday, in an attempt to curb gang violence, the NZ Parliament passed a law banning insignia and patches in public places:

Parliament last night narrowly voted through a member's bill from Whanganui MP Chester Borrows that allows the district council to make bylaws banning all gang insignia, except tattoos, from public places.

Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws said he would ask the council to enact bylaws as soon as possible. He expected the provision would be rolled out to other councils as many mayors had told him they wanted similar powers….

The law allows the council to designate public areas where gang patches and other insignia identified with certain gangs cannot be worn.

The targeted gangs are the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, Hells Angels, Magogs, Mothers, Nomads and Tribesmen, but the council can add others.

Fines of up to [$1,181] will be imposed for breaching a ban, and police will have the power to seize patches and other insignia.

The law only applies to the Whanganui district (the country has 56) but it's a Kiwi first. It also opens up the door for similar bans across the country. Thanks to the law, officials in other districts are now vocally considering bylaws banning patches and insignia.

New Zealand politicians tend to be pretty zealous when it comes to making statements to the press. Wanganui Mayor/columnist/radio personality Michael Laws has a reputation for political rebellion and is known for being very, er, verbose (he also has a reputation for resigning from Parliament in disgrace). He called the act:

a triumph for decency and democracy. This has huge implications for New Zealand. I can't tell you how absolutely thrilled I am.

Don't worry, though. The head of the Libertarianz party, Richard McGrath, responded in kind:

"The outlawing of gang insignia is clearly at odds with the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 which states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form…

"The other change New Zealand needs is to…replace [the Bill of Rights Act ] with a constitution such as that proposed by the Libertarianz Party, which offers ironclad protection of individual rights."

"Ultimately, the best way to deal with gangs is to wipe out the incentive for joining them in the first place…With enforcement of property rights, with constitutional guarantees to allow New Zealanders to act in self-defence using adequate retaliatory force, with the financial undermining of gangs by legalising the sale of recreational drugs, and by locking up criminals and forcing them to compensate their victims, the attractiveness of gangs to young people would be significantly diminished.

The gang violence is a serious issue, but banning someone who sews their heart to their sleeve is the wrong approach. It'll be interesting if rival Kiwi gangs take a cue from their Australian counterparts and band together against government action. There is one positive aspect of this ban: it's slightly less ridiculous than the Kiwi's Hoodie Scare, which prompted proposed bans, a weird awareness day, and an even weirder anti-awareness day.