National MPs demanded the Mongrel Mob stop selling meth and hand in illegal guns during an appearance at Parliament, in a fiery exchange the gang's spokeswoman labelled a "PR stunt".
The Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom's public relations representative Lou Hutchinson appeared before the Justice Select Committee on Thursday to submit on National MP Simeon Brown's Firearm Prohibition Orders Bill.
Brown's legislation would provide new powers to the police to make sure certain gang members don't have access to firearms, while not putting unnecessary restrictions on legal gun owners.
Hutchinson pulled out of an appearance last week due to scheduling issues, prompting Brown to call the Mongrel Mob a "bunch of scaredy-cats" - but she showed up in Wellington on Thursday, fired up and ready to give Brown a piece of her mind.
"Dog-whistle politics are great at playing on people's fears and anxieties but not so good at solving any problems," Hutchinson said in her opening remarks. "The drive to create a boogeyman out of the so-called gang problem is nothing more than politicking for votes."
She challenged Brown to stand by his 2017 maiden speech, in which he outlined his concerns for New Zealand society: "I worry that our society is becoming harsher, less caring and less compassionate."
Hutchinson said: "I wonder Simeon, do you stand by your statements in your maiden speech. Or have you changed your views?"
Brown said he "appreciated" what Hutchinson had to say, but described her presentation as "more of a PR exercise than a submission" on the particular piece of legislation.
"You've talked about how you think gangs have a right to a gun to gather their kai, you've talked about how you want a more compassionate and caring society - something that I want too - but I ask the question: why am I reading in the papers that your members are still selling meth?" Brown asked.
"I can listen to everything you've said which is about how you're changing and all the other work you're doing, but until you stop selling meth to the community across New Zealand, and you hand in your guns, I'm not going to believe it."
Hutchinson said it was Brown who was doing a PR stunt.
"He doesn't have guns," she said of Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter President Sonny Fatupaito. "We don't run a dictatorship in the Waikato. Sonny leads by example. He teaches. We're not going to dictate to people."
Brown cited the arrest of 29 people in a major drug bust in the Waikato in July last year. Then-Police Minister Stuart Nash said after the arrests that senior leadership of the Mongrel Mob's Waikato chapter had been "taken out" as a result of the operation.
"That's not even us," Hutchinson said. "It's not us."
National MP Simon Bridges challenged Hutchinson on Fatupaito telling Stuff in March 2019 that despite the Government's gun buyback in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, gang members would not hand in their firearms.
"Will gangs get rid of their weapons? No. Because of who we are, we can't guarantee our own safety," Fatupaito told Stuff.
Bridges asked Hutchinson why he should take her seriously when her leader "made quite clear publicly" that he wasn't going to respect the order to hand back guns.
"Is this a PR stunt, Simon?" Hutchinson asked.
"If the police have proof that there are guns in our organisation, you don't think they would have been arrested by now? I come from a history of child sex abuse, rape; I would not be supporting an organisation if I believed with a shadow of doubt that it condoned gun violence, drug and alcohol illegal activity."
She said there's an "alterior motive to this Bill and it's about politicking", and that National MPs had failed to distinguish between gangs and organised crime. She said politicians had also failed to recognise that poverty is the underlying cause of violence.
Labour MP Ginny Andersen, who chairs the Justice Select Committee, had to step in more than once to call for respectful dialogue between Hutchinson and the National MPs.
National MP Nick Smith asked Hutchinson how she could defend gangs when a Mongrel Mob riot earlier this month resulted in an 18-month-old baby being admitted to hospital with serious injuries.
"How can it be racist to be opposed to that sort of violence and serious offending?" Dr Smith asked.
Hutchinson maintained her position that Brown's legislation was "racist in its intent" and unfairly targeted gangs.
"Clamp down on crime? Yes. If a gang is doing crime, lock them up," she said. "But don't assume that people who form or join a rōpū, as they call themselves, are all breaking the law and are there to intimidate you even though you're intimidated by them."