National leader Judith Collins has leapt to the defence of MP Simon Bridges after police and commentators downplayed his concerns about a car park gang fight.
Bridges took to social media on Saturday after claiming to have witnessed patched gang members beating someone up in the car park at Tauranga Hospital, while he was visiting his elderly father.
"So many want to downplay this gang thuggery and violence," the Tauranga MP wrote. "There have always been gangs but nothing like what we see today. It's at epidemic proportions."
But his concerns were dampened by police, who said there was no evidence to suggest any gang activity and that while officers did attend the scene, there were "no issues".
Bridges came under fire from some commentators on social media accusing him of telling fibs to stir up negative sentiment towards gangs.
"What will Simon Bridges make up next?" one Twitter user wrote. "I'm pretty sure when Simon Bridges says 'gang members' he just means poor people," another wrote.
Bridges followed up with another post on Monday, saying he'd been contacted by a "responsible community member" with "direct knowledge of what happens in Tauranga Hospital" who purportedly backed up his claims.
"They have told me that on Saturday evening a gang member was operated on for a life threatening stabbing that reportedly happened in the car park. They believe what I saw would have been part of surrounding events."
A Bay of Plenty District Health Board spokesperson, when asked to confirm Bridges' claims, said an investigation is underway.
Bridges has the support of his boss, who told Magic Talk the backlash was a result of "the freedom that the far-left gives itself to be extraordinarily unkind".
Collins says she believes Bridges that a violent gang fight occurred in the car park.
"Simon's father is clearly very unwell and if Simon says he saw a gang fight going on, and his wife saw it too, I believe him. I can't understand why people would think that someone would make that up," she said.
"I also find it just deeply offensive that people who came in after or didn't see it suddenly say they know what happened when they weren't there. If he says it happened, in my opinion it did."
Collins then launched into attacks on Labour's Willie Jackson and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson after they met with gang members in their capacity as Government ministers.
"We've got ministers of the Crown like Willie Jackson and Marama Davidson cuddling up to the Mongrel Mob. We've got Willie Jackson inviting Mongrel Mob people into the Beehive, for goodness sake. Then we've got Marama Davidson going off to the Mongrel Mob show in Hamilton and saying they're all such good guys and community people.
"They're not. They're thugs. They're methamphetamine dealers. And the latest big bust by the police, working with 90 other international agencies, has shown exactly what these people are - just methamphetamine dealers, they're violent offenders and they shouldn't be allowed in the community."
Collins also took a crack at ACT MP Nicole McKee, who Newshub revealed had also met with the Mongrel Mob's representative Louise Hutchinson.
"That was just ridiculous," Collins said of McKee's meeting. "She is a backbench MP. David Seymour can answer for his own MPs, but I know this: my MPs didn't have them."
Lifetime Black Power member Denis O'Reilly has accused Bridges of stereotyping gang members to cause fear and hysteria.
"It looks like he's confused... he's doing this for a political purpose and that's to whip up apprehension amongst the general public who are the people least likely to be affected by gang violence," O'Reilly told Newshub.
"It confuses the good work that the New Zealand police might be doing in, for instance, tackling international organised crime."