COVID: PM Jacinda Ardern defends head of Waikato Mongrel Mob Sonny Fatupaito being given essential worker exemption to travel to Auckland

The Prime Minister is defending the head of the Waikato Mongrel Mob chapter being given an essential workers exemption to enter Auckland last weekend. 

Sonny Fatupaito was granted the exemption to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in hard to reach communities such as gangs. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Mongrel Mob spokesperson Louise Hutchinson said Fatupaito has been liaising with health officials to help support the COVID-19 response.

"As part of supporting the Government's COVID Delta Strategy, the Mongrel Mob Kingdom have been liaising with the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC), Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS), and the NZ Police, to assist in reaching hard to reach communities within gang chapters and associated whanau," she said.

"This work initially started with a cluster at the Assembly of God Church in Manukau which then extended to a Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter based in Auckland. 

"This required immediate intervention from the senior leadership in the Waikato Kingdom, and this onsite intervention ensured compliance and welfare assistance was provided as needed. The Kingdom has collaborated closely with providers South Seas Healthcare and The Cause Collective based in South Auckland."

Hutchinson said Fatupaito was given an exemption to cross the border in order to carry out "this essential work". 

"This travel was conducted under strict COVID-19 protocols enforced by Health Authorities and the Police."

Speaking to Radio Hauraki on Wednesday Jacinda Ardern said Fatupaito was helping with ongoing COVID-19 work. 

"We've got cases in gangs, and that makes this job really hard."

A spokesperson for The Ministry of Health told Newshub officials are working with a "wide range of community leaders" to reinforce public health messaging. 

"It is important our response is adaptable to recognise the needs and context of people impacted by COVID-19. ARPHS and the Ministry continue to work with a wide range of community leaders to reach communities on a range of COVID-19 issues, including vaccination, testing and reinforcing public health messaging.

"There is a good level of engagement and co-operation between these providers and the communities they are working with."

The spokesperson confirmed Fatupaito was given an essential worker exemption to cross the border.