National has slammed government plans to give $2.75 million to a methamphetamine rehabilitation programme overseen by the Mongrel Mob as a ‘sick joke’.
Hawke’s Bay Today revealed the Ministry of Health would give the funds to ‘Kahukura,’ a marae-based rehabilitation initiative that takes groups of 10 people, three times a year and attempts to wean them off the drug.
Kahukura is led by the Chaindogs, a cluster of Mob chapters with affiliation to the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob.
National’s crime spokesperson Simeon Brown told Te Ao Maori News, ‘While we all acknowledge that meth is a scourge on our community and getting people off it is vitally important, the Mongrel Mob is an criminal organisation which peddles meth”.
The Ministry of Health's deputy director-general mental health and addiction Toni Gutschlag told Hawke’s Bay Today drug use was prevalent in gangs and “there was a gap in current service provision, which the proposed initiative provided a way to fill, engaging with a hard-to-reach segment of the community.”
The $2.75 Million for Kahukura will be sourced from funds collected under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.
"The Proceeds of Crime Fund was set up to support victims of crime – not the perpetrators... The Mongrel Mob is organised crime which has been caught selling meth very recently" Brown said.
In May Hawke's Bay Police seized $2 million in assets and made six arrests during a major methamphetamine operation centred on Senior Mongrel Mob members in the region.
Stuff reports the programme involves participants working on a “community garden” at the house of the president of the gang Sonny Smith.
Sonny's wife Mahinaarangi Smith is the programme's facilitator.
Brown told Te Ao Māori News ‘We should be funding organisations like the Salvation Army which have a proven track record of working with gang members to help them get off meth.”
"They also have proper measures to ensure the accountability for any government funding.’ he said.
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker told HBT "Meth is scourge in our communities and anything which will remove its influence from our families is important."
Walker acknowledged the controversy over the funding saying it would not be “well received" by the community.
Brown wants the government to explain if ministers signed off on the funding. "Almost any other organisation would be more appropriate" he said.