RNZ, Wellington, July 15, 2021
The National Party is currently attacking the Labour government with an accusation that it has funded the Mongrel Mob to the tune of $2.75 million.
The money, from the Proceeds of Crime Fund, was signed off by those at the top of Labour, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. It was for a methamphetamine rehabilitation programme called Kahukura in central Hawke’s Bay.
But the organisation running the programme has gang connections, including some of the property held and some of the participants.
However, that organisation has its aim in its name: ‘Hard to Reach.’ It is trying to help “Maori and marginalised communities” and help them to rebuild. Those applying for the funding of $2.75 million had to jump through a lot of hoops before it was approved.
What is Kahukura?
A Ministry of Health (MOH) spokesperson said that Kahukura is a live-in Marae-based programme using a mix of Te Ao Maori and western methodologies.”
“It aims to address past trauma and drug use, instil better coping mechanisms and prevent relapse. It is a 10-week course, consisting of eight weeks of a live-in programme and two weeks of intensive reintegration. Participants are then provided with wrap-around support for six weeks. Re-engaging with Te Ao Maori and Tikanga is a key component and aims to build identity and resilience.”
There would be up to ten participants, plus their partners and family, with up to 30 participants on each course (120 people per year), for three years, the spokesperson said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report that Kahukura was “based on an existing model and it had been trialled in 2020 and was showing positive results.”
“It is a marae-based programme that yes, the participants … are gang-affiliated participants, who have been involved in meth-related crime and activity, who have this meth addiction.
Are gang members involved?
Ardern said, “There are individuals with gang-related backgrounds involved in running the programme, but it is also designed to try and address drug use within gang membership (so it is) not unexpected that those with background would be involved in the programme.
“It is a marae-based programme that is residential, and the question and the choice we have … is we either accept that we want drug rehabilitation programmes to involve those who have criminal backgrounds, or we exclude them.
“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,” she said.
‘Hard to Reach’ is run by Co-Director Harry Tam, a former Mongrel Mob member.
Stuff reported: ”The programme involves participants working on a ‘community garden’ on the property of the president of the gang’s ‘‘Notorious’’ chapter. The Garden is on a Waipawa property that is home to Sonny Smith and his wife Mahinaarangi Smith, who is a programme facilitator. Sonny Smith is a lifelong Mongrel Mob member.”
The funding process
How did the funding approval process work and where does the money come from?
The Health Ministry received a proposal from Hard to Reach in late 2020.
Money for the programme comes from the Proceeds of Crime fund.
The fund’s purposes include addressing organised crime and drug-related harm, testing innovative solutions to complex issues relating to crime-related harm, and “enabling agencies to build an evidence-based case of what works in addressing crime-related harm.”
Initiatives supported by the fund must align with one of four criteria set by Cabinet.
While an organisation may make an application for funding, it must be supported by a government department to do so. A panel then considers the initial proposals for shortlisting, weighing them against a range of factors.
That panel is made up of senior representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, New Zealand Police, The Treasury, Oranga Tamariki and the Chief Science Advisor.
If an application is shortlisted, it then has to submit a more detailed funding proposal for the Panel to consider.
The panel will then provide recommendations to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Justice Minister, who determine which proposals should be approved and funded.
In this case, those were Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson and Andrew Little.
Why was funding approved?
“The Ministry of Health supported the proposal because the initiative filled a gap in service provision. We are committed to reducing the impact of drug-related harm for New Zealand communities. To do this effectively, it requires a variety of approaches to support individuals to work through past trauma and drug-use,” the Spokesperson said.
Funding was provided for a three-year period.
The contract was signed in the last week and funding for the programme will start next week.
Measuring and Monitoring
How will the programme be measured and monitored?
The programme will be externally evaluated, the Health Ministry said.
“Governance of the initiative includes the Ministry of Health, Hawke’s Bay DHB and iwi and will be overseeing progress, risks and issues.
“There will also be regular reporting as per Ministry of Justice requirements.”
In addition, if an initiative is approved for funding by the Proceeds of Crime Fund, a six-monthly performance report must be provided for transparency and accountability. This information may be incorporated into a report for the Finance and Justice Ministers.
New Zealand Police as a whole have backed the funding.
-Published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz