Gangs unite to defend member from Corrections suspension


Two lifetime members of the Mongrel Mob have voiced their support of a lifetime Black Power member and the work he does with prisoners.

Ngapari Nui was suspended from his volunteer role by Corrections, which claimed it didn't know the kaumatua was a gang member.

But Mr Nui disputes that and says he couldn't get through to the offenders if he wasn't a gang member.

Edge Te Whaiti and Harry Tam have been patched members of the Mongrel Mob Notorious chapter for 40 years.

Despite the gangs' traditional rivalry, they want to publicly support Black Power member Mr Nui, who has been suspended from his volunteer work in prisons.

"It's bullsh**, that they can have Ngapari working in there and then all of a sudden turn their back on him," says Mr Te Whaiti.

"The good that he has done as a kaumatua has been forgotten because he's affiliated, to me that's [one of] the most dumbest things I've ever bloody heard of," Mr Tam says.

Mr Nui has been volunteering in prisons for 15 years, six of those as kaiwhakamana - a vetted and registered visitor providing support and advice to prisoners.

His gang membership only became an issue last week, when Corrections Minister Judith Collins said if he wanted to work in prisons he'd have to hang up his patch.

But Mr Nui says it's in his application, which Corrections boss Ray Smith signed off on.

"In any dealings that I have with anybody I disclose my Black Power links," Mr Nui says.

"With all the paperwork I filled out, it had to go through [Mr Smith] to sign it off and he signed it off."

The paperwork says he has an "affiliation" with Black Power - Corrections says it didn't realise that meant he was a "member".

But Mr Te Whaiti says it's Mr Nui's gang status that allows him to get through to the offenders.

He says gang members only listen to other gang members.

"You can't send a plumber in to do a gang member's job in terms of turning over the reoffending, pulling it down or even cutting it out."

It's something Mr Nui agrees with.

"They're not going to listen to somebody that's left the gang," Mr Nui says.

Mr Nui and Mr Te Whaiti have worked with Police to quell gang violence in the past, brokering peace in the aftermath of the Mongrel Mob drive-by shooting that killed two-year-old baby Jhia in Whanganui. 

"I've had a lot of dealings with the police, not only with baby Jhia and other issues around gang tensions and all that," Mr Nui says. "And that's helped me to build a relationship."

But that relationship has been marred by Mr Nui's suspension.

"There's a long history where our people have been used by Government agencies, including New Zealand Police and politicians, to overcome certain events like gang confrontations," Mr Tam says.

"We do that work and then we get abused."

Corrections is undertaking a review of all 130 kaiwhakamana volunteers to uncover any other gang links.

Mr Nui says he just hopes they'll change their mind so he can continue to rehabilitate young offenders.


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