New Zealand gangs could be forced to cover offensive tattoos with makeup. Last Thursday, National Party MP Mark Mitchell told national broadcaster RNZ that if the proposal to ban patches, such as large symbols sewn onto jackets, didn’t work, the government would consider making gang members to apply foundation to their facial tattoos or face arrest.
The Australian model
“If gangs think they can circumvent the ban on gang patches featuring swastikas and offensive face tattoos, then we will take action to curb that,” Mitchell said. Mitchell referred to Australia’s 2021 gang tattoo ban, which allows gang members to cover them with makeup. But Mitchell’s proposal remains a controversial one. Associate Professor Mark Lauchs of the Queensland University of Technology, who studies New Zealand and Australian gangs, questioned the effectiveness of the proposal, noting that it is a ban that no country has replicated.
Read designed to embarrass
“There’s a point where you go beyond effective policy and into laws designed to embarrass,” Lauchs said, likening Australia’s tattoo ban to a proposal to force incarcerated gang members to wear pink jumpsuits in Queensland prisons. Another objection to the law is that New Zealand police would have difficulty distinguishing between gang tattoos and cultural tattoos, especially for Māori.
Gangs have existed for decades in New Zealand and the latest figures from the police Gang Harm Insights Center say there are around 8,870 members of 33 gangs.