Gangs focus of National's latest 'Demand the debate' billboards

By Te Ao - Māori News
Photo / File

National has targeted the 'misery' caused by gangs in their latest rollout of 'Demand the debate' billboards aimed at putting pressure on the government to publically debate major issues. The party began their billboard campaign last weekend taking aim at He Puapua.

National leader Judith Collins in a media statement Sunday said the 'public deserves better' than decisions such as the government's funding of Hawke's Bay methamphetamine rehabilitation programme Kahukura which has courted controversy due to the organisation's gang connections.

“The Government backing the Mongrel Mob to rehabilitate people on meth over proven organisations with no gang affiliation will make many New Zealanders angry,” Collins said.

“Giving $2.75 million to the Mongrel Mob and their Trust in the Hawke's Bay shows the Government is completely devoid of the reality of the misery gangs cause to law abiding New Zealanders.

“That this money will also be used so meth addicts can work on a ‘gang leader’s garden’ is ridiculous, and the taxpayer deserve better."

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed there are individuals with gang-related backgrounds involved in running the programme but said it is also designed to address drug use within gangs. She said it essentially comes down to a choice whether we want drug rehabilitation programmes to involve people with criminal backgrounds or not.

"My view is if they are involved in crime and victimisation, I want to address meth addiction with those groups. They are perpetuating a problem, if we choose not to do that, then I don't see how we solve that problem," Ardern said.

Collins challenges this view in today's statement claiming that gangs have a vested interest in drugs.

“The Prime Minister needs to realise that gangs have no interest at all in seeing people give up drugs, they’re the ones selling the drugs to them in the first place."

She says New Zealanders who are 'feeling left out' want a say on the future of the country, pointing to a reported increase in gang membership, gang-related gun crime, and escalating addiction, especially in the provinces.

"They want the debate on whether government policies are recruiting more gang members than police officers, creating more victims than prisoners, and whether ‘arrest is now the exception’ as said by police."

The police commissioner and government have in recent months said there are questions around the accuracy of figures suggesting a marked increase in gang numbers.