Two Mongrel Mob leaders are being paid by the taxpayers to try to turn the country's gangs away from drugs and crime.
Mongrel Mob Notorious Chapter leader Roy Dunn and an associate, Edge Te Whaiti, are being paid as "youth co-ordinators" through a Te Puni Kokiri contract with the Consultancy Advocacy and Research Trust chaired by veteran community worker Denis O'Reilly.
They have worked with the Salvation Army to organise a series of live-in P treatment programmes for gang members with a $1 million grant over two and a half years from Prime Minister John Key's action plan on methamphetamine, launched last year.
They also brought young Wellington members of the Mongrel Mob and Black Power together for horse-riding and diving activities in an effort to end traditional gang rivalries.
O'Reilly said he and Te Whaiti had also talked to about 90 Mongrel Mob families around the country asking them what they wanted for their families five years from now.
They want to be violence-free and drug-free households with high education, high incomes and good homes, he said.
O'Reilly, who was the country's first detached youth worker in Sir Robert Muldoon's Government 30 years ago, said gangs were a reaction to a sense of exclusion and the way to deal with them was to stop excluding them.
We are not going to get on top of [P] overnight. I've been working on it for the best part of five years now and sometimes it's three steps forward, two steps back.
Former Labour Party president Mike Williams, who now runs the anti-P Stellar Trust and is working with O'Reilly on an upcoming campaign to make Hawkes Bay P-free, said he supported paying the gang leaders to try to change their members. It's whatever works, he said.
Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar, who met Dunn and Te Whaiti with other gang leaders at a meeting organised by O'Reilly in 2005, said he also believed the Notorious leaders were genuine.
I haven't been black and white on this, which is unusual for me, because they did convince me that they were genuine and did want to change, he said. But he said he told them that if they really wanted to change they should clean themselves up and stop wearing gang patches.
Te Puni Kokiri spokeswoman Jaewynn McKay said the agency was happy with the work O'Reilly's trust had done so far and was not responsible for whom they employed.
We are funding them to do a specific project. If they think those people are best suited to that role, that is their decision, she said.
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said the issue was an operational matter for Te Puni Kokiri.
Edge Te Whaiti (left) spokesman for the Mongrel Mob Notorious Chapter and Tai Edwards leader of the Auckland Branch of the Mongrel Mob Notorious Chapter.
Saturday Oct 2, 2010