Labour will establish a Commission of Inquiry into gangs and organised crime if it wins the election, Police Minister Annette King said today.
She told the Police Association conference the commission would establish the extent of gang involvement in organised crime and its findings would provide a stocktake on the level of organised criminal activity in New Zealand.
"There has been a whole range of local solutions put forward to deal with criminal gang activities," she said.
"We need to ensure that any future measures we put in place continue to be effective."
Ms King said the commission would study not only the involvement of gangs in organised crime but also recruitment and other behaviour.
It would be asked to determine appropriate measures to curb and control gangs.
The commission would draw on police experience in New Zealand and would study overseas jurisdictions which were facing similar issues and problems.
The Police Association welcomed Ms King's announcement.
Association president Greg O'Connor said his organisation had been calling for an inquiry for several years, and the response had usually been that it would not reveal anything that was not already known.
"We simply don't know the full extent of organised crime penetration in New Zealand," Mr O'Connor said.
"But we do know we have a serious and growing problem with a violent street gang culture, especially among Maori and Pacific youth."
He said it was also known that traditional gangs such as the motorcycle gangs, ethnic gangs and now Asian organised crime had extended beyond "the poorer end of town" into syndication and franchising.
"Gangs are getting smarter, richer, their sphere of influence is growing by the day and the threat they pose is becoming ever more insidious," he said.
National's justice spokesman, Simon Power, said New Zealanders would be offended by Ms King's announcement.
He said Labour's only response to the scourge was to form a committee.
"Why should the public believe this is anything other than a way of avoiding any real action on gangs?" he said.
"National, more than a year ago, announced a number of concrete steps to clamp down on gangs including:
* Making it easier for police to conduct surveillance on gang communications;
* Giving police more power to storm and remove gang fortifications;
* Strengthen the law that makes it illegal to be a member of a gang; and
* Make gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing.
"Compared those frontline actions to Labour's musings," he said.