Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and the Human Rights Commissioner are under fire for attending and speaking at a Mongrel Mob gathering.
At the Waikato chapter's headquarters in Hamilton on Saturday, several people spoke and discussed human rights, justice, and racism. Among the speakers were Davidson and Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt.
Hunt spoke about inclusion, building relationships, and the "stigmatising" idea of being tough on gangs.
"Human rights means that every voice is heard, including your voice, and that you also listen with respect," he said, according to a person who attended and live-tweeted the event.
In a tweet, Davidson called the gathering a "fabulous community event for justice", but the Opposition disagreed with her and Hunt attending.
Simeon Brown, the National Party's spokesperson for police, says it is "astonishing" the pair accepted an invitation to speak at the gathering.
"The Mongrel Mob peddles drugs, wields firearms and engages in violence, causing misery in communities across the country. They have no regard for their victims," he says.
"Marama Davidson is the Minister for Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence. Turning up at this event disrespects the many victims of sexual violence perpetrated by gang members.
"Her tweets calling the Mongrel Mob meeting 'a fabulous community event for justice' was an extra slap in the face."
Newshub has contacted several Green Party press secretaries requesting comment from Davidson.
Brown called on the Government to "get tough" and introduce Firearm Prohibition Orders (FPO) to give police new powers to take guns off gangs. National has draft legislation before Parliament that would mean gang members subject to a FPO wouldn't be allowed to possess a firearm, get a firearms license, or be on a property where firearms are present. It would also be an offence to supply firearms to someone subject to a FPO.
The ACT Party also criticised Davidson and Hunt for attending, with justice spokesperson Nicole McKee saying it is a "kick in the guts" for victims of the Mongrel Mob.
"Sharing the stage with Sonny Fatupaito - a man who was convicted of the brutal and prolonged torture and beating of Adrian Cochrane - they told the gangs that they're actually bad because of racism and colonisation," McKee says.
"Davidson tweeted that gangs were part of 'diverse communities, who have been subject to enduring and systemic racism'.
"Hunt, proving why we need to abolish the Human Rights Commission, was reported as saying: 'I recognise that rhetoric about being tough on gangs is stigmatising… It's about building relationships… it's about inclusion and belonging… must take into account the intergenerational impact of colonisation'. What on earth were they thinking?"
McKee says gangs are "terrorising our communities" and "there is gun crime everywhere".
"Davidson turns up to tell them 'it's all OK, you only do this stuff because of racism'."
However Hunt is defending attending and speaking at the event.
"I attended the hui to speak, listen and discuss the experiences raised by the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom, acknowledging that these experiences are part of a wider conversation about the importance of social inclusion and belonging in Aotearoa," he says in a statement to Newshub.
"The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch massacres devotes an entire volume to the critical importance of social inclusion - the Human Rights Commission takes seriously the Inquiry's report and recommendations."
Hunt says the Human Rights Commission has a statutory duty to educate all New Zealanders about relationships, responsibilities, and rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.
"I commended the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom for their instant response to the massacres in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. They immediately went to the mosque in Kirikiriroa to protect it from possible attack and to demonstrate solidarity," he says.
"Later, they brought flowers to the mosque to show their respect for the Muslim community. In this way, they affirmed the importance of thriving relationships, honouring responsibilities and advancing all rights for everyone.
"I look forward to the Human Rights Commission further engaging with the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom in the future, in an honest and constructive spirit."
The Waikato Mongrel Mob has made attempts in recent years to reform and confront its past. Rangatira Sonny Fatupaito led the Kingdom away from other nationwide branches of the gang about four years ago.
In 2019, he said the Mob is now focussed on education, health, and employment while confronting the problems gang members have caused and suffered, such as suicide, violence, and alcohol and drug abuse.