A Waikato Mongrel Mob spokesperson has slammed Simon Bridges' proposed gang crackdown, claiming he's using members as a "scapegoat" for the upcoming election.
Louise Hutchinson, who was appointed as the Waikato Mongrel Mob's PR liaison by the chapter's president, Sonny Fatupaito, spoke to MagicTalk's Sean Plunket on Wednesday.
Hutchinson said National Party leader Simon Bridges' pre-election proposal to "block gang members from the dole if they can't prove they don't have illegal income or assets" is "just politicking".
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"They're used to being used as the scapegoat for election purposes," Hutchinson told Plunket.
"It's nothing new to them... it's politicking. It's Bridges' desperation in order to start campaigning for the 2020 election."
She said Bridges' "agenda" is "causing massive harm" for gang members striving for reform and positive changes.
While she said it's uncertain how many of the roughly 200 Waikato members are currently employed, Hutchinson claimed Bridges doesn't know the statistics either.
"Have you asked Simon Bridges that question? He has no idea. He doesn't have the numbers, it's all hot air," she said.
The accusation follows Bridges' comments on Wednesday to The AM Show, in which he claimed 92 percent of gang members have been on the benefit for an average of nearly nine years.
Bridges said he wasn't a "heartless bastard", claiming the policy wouldn't prevent members from accessing taxpayer-funded healthcare or cut benefit access for the partners and children of gang members.
"This is not the policy. This is about gang members and cracking down on them," he said.
Hutchinson reiterated the Waikato chapter's commitment to making the community and wider region safer, noting Fatupaito's dedication to making positive changes within the Waikato Mongrel Mob.
"He's already achieving a [crime-free] gang," said Hutchinson.
"Only one member of the Waikato chapter is currently incarcerated. There is a zero-tolerance in this chapter for methamphetamine or drug use and selling... in my observation, I don't see that happening at all."
When asked whether New Zealand's ethnic gangs, such as the Mongrel Mob and Black Power, are less criminal than transnational operations like the Hell's Angels, Hutchinson said yes.
"It's a narrative spun out continually by the media and politicians... it's about votes. It's about maintaining a power base.
"We all have a past. Are we going to pin that on them forever? They are reforming and are already making massive changes in this chapter, hence why we invited Simon Bridges. It's a missed opportunity for him."
Earlier this month Bridges clashed with Fatupaito after being sent an aforementioned invite "to see first-hand the radical changes that are being made" within the Waikato chapter.
Bridges declined the invitation, saying despite his belief in "individual gang members who do good for their whanau and community", gangs overall continue to cause "misery" through crime, drug peddling and violence.
"Thank you for your letter and invitation, but until you and your gang hand over your guns and stop all involvement in drugs and violence I have no interest in meeting with you," he responded.