Greens co-leader Marama Davidson has defended her visit to the Mongrel Mob gang pad, saying it's "vital" that a "range of communities" are engaged with.
Davidson and Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt came under fire from National and ACT for speaking at the Waikato Mongrel Mob headquarters over the weekend.
Davidson tweeted that gangs were part of "diverse communities, who have been subject to enduring and systemic racism", while Hunt was reported as saying rhetoric about being tough on gangs is stigmatising.
National MP Simeon Brown said it was "outrageous" that Davidson and Hunt accepted an invitation to speak to the Mongrel Mob, because gangs "cause untold misery in our community and have no regard for the human rights".
ACT's justice spokesperson Nicole McKee said Davidson's "coddling of violent gang members" was a "kick in the guts" for victims of gang violence.
"Gangs are terrorising our communities, there is gun crime everywhere, harm is being caused in our emergency housing, and Davidson turns up to tell them, 'It's all OK, you only do this stuff because of racism'."
Davidson defended her actions on Tuesday as she walked into Parliament.
"It's really important that I engage with whānau-led solutions and that includes all whānau. For some years now I've been engaging with the women who are affiliated with gangs and their desires to see healthy, violence-free lives for them, their mokopuna and their whole whānau.
"It's vital that we talk to a range of communities."
Prior to becoming an MP, Davidson worked for the Human Rights Commission for 10 years, and has publicly spoken about her own experience with sexual violence.
Despite Labour holding a majority in Parliament, the Green Party co-leader holds two ministerial portfolios - homelessness and family and sexual violence prevention - after Labour and the Greens struck a post-election agreement.
Brown asked in Parliament if it was appropriate for Davidson, as a Government minister, to visit a gang pad, when Operation Tauwhiro - a major police crackdown on gangs - is currently underway.
In the 10 weeks it has been operational, police have seized 281 firearms, $2.2 million in cash and just under 8kg of meth, arrested 319 people, and conducted 254 search warrants.
Kris Faafoi, speaking on behalf of Police Minister Poto Williams, said Davidson visited the gang pad in her capacity as a Green MP, and therefore Williams had no responsibility for her actions.
Faafoi's comments were met with jeering from the Opposition benches.
The Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom's public relations representative Lou Hutchinson has defended Davidson's appearance at the gang pad, telling Newstalk ZB other ministers have visited "under the radar".
"We are an organisation that's working bloody hard in the community to turn around the wrongs of the past."
Hutchinson appeared before Parliament's Justice Select Committee earlier this year to opposed Brown's Firearm Prohibition Orders Bill that would provide new powers to the police to make sure certain gang members don't have access to firearms.
It led to a fiery exchange between Hutchinson and National MPs, who demanded the Mongrel Mob stop selling meth and hand in illegal guns.
Hutchinson denied the gang is still dealing meth or engaged in criminal activity.