Mongrel Mob hits back at Simon Bridges after clashing at public meeting on gangs

The Mongrel Mob's spokesperson is accusing National leader Simon Bridges of trying to "advance his political rhetoric" by blasting gang culture at a public meeting in Tauranga. 

Louise Hutchinson, the Waikato Mongrel Mob's public relations representative, is speaking out against the Opposition leader after the pair clashed at the meeting on Thursday. 

"Simon is just using it to advance his political rhetoric and we want to go there and call that out because it's totally unfair," Hutchinson told Newshub. 

"The Waikato Kingdom, it's very much a transparent chapter... it's about wanting to face up to things that have happened in the past and to walk a totally different future. It is working - it's transformed."

Hutchinson showed up at Bridges' public meeting to confront him about the National Party's proposed strategy to crack down on gangs if elected in September. 

Bridges posted a clip of the pair facing each other down at the meeting. 

"There will be some good that's been done," Bridges told her. "But I ask you... I'm not going to believe you by the way... why is it that your Mongrel Mob chapter is growing exponentially in numbers?

"Why is it that the methamphetamine numbers in Hamilton and Waikato are going through the roof and continue to rise and rise? Why is it your leader won't give back the illegal guns he has in the hundreds?"

The audience cheered Bridges on. 

Hutchinson shot back with: "No, you're totally wrong," which gathered groans from the crowd and audience members telling her to "sit down". 

Hutchinson told Newshub she refutes many of Bridges' comments, particularly those about the President of the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter Sonny Fatupaito having a firearms collection. 

"I've been here about 10 months and I don't see guns," Hutchinson said. "I don't see methamphetamine. It's just rhetoric [Bridges] continues to spew out, about the kingdom and about Sonny Fatupaito."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said in October gangs "are peddling misery in to our communities" and that they are "responsible for the P trade". 

He said police estimate $500 million every year from meth goes into the back pocket of gangs.

Louise Hutchinson, spokesperson for the Mongrel Mob.
Louise Hutchinson, spokesperson for the Mongrel Mob. Photo credit: Facebook

Fatupaito came under fire last year for admitting that gangs would not hand over their firearms, following the Government's ban on semi-automatics and assault rifles in the wake of the Christchurch shootings. 

"Will gangs get rid of their weapons? No. Because of who we are, we can't guarantee our own safety," the gang leader told Stuff in March 2019

Hutchinson said the National Party "feel like they can say everything about what's going on in communities surrounding gangs, but in reality they only see it from a certain angle and they don't understand what's going on in the inside". 

She added, "The very policies that they intend to bring will be to the demise of our most at risk communities already."

National is yet to announce its full gang policy. But its law and order discussion document provides a hint of what it might entail, including an anti-gang police taskforce modelled on New South Wales' Strike Force Raptor. 

National Party leader Simon Bridges.
National Party leader Simon Bridges. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

It comes as gang disputes heat up across the country, with gunshots fired during a gang altercation near a Napier shopping centre in Hawke's Bay in January, and a fatal shootout with police in Tauranga earlier this month.

Hutchinson told Newshub those were "isolated incidents". 

"We went to Taranaki before Christmas where there was some tension going on between Black Power and Mongrel Mob and it's all gone now just by sitting down and being diplomatic."

She said there are misconceptions about what it takes to get into a gang. 

"People say, 'oh, remind me again how you get a patch?' They get a patch in the Waikato by doing positive, constructive things like getting a job and getting an education - it's not the old days here."

Hutchinson said one of the reasons why gang violence is flaring up is because of Australia's policy of sending back Kiwi criminals who have little connection to New Zealand. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised to raise the issue again with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison during their bilateral in Sydney.