National targets Government's funding of meth rehab programme in latest 'demand the debate' billboard

As the controversy over a Government-funded, gang-led drug rehab programme continues to rage, Judith Collins is calling on Jacinda Ardern to rule out a separate justice system for Māori.

Her challenge to the Prime Minister is part of National's 'demand the debate' series, which was launched earlier this month and has put the spotlight on the controversial He Puapua report. 

The independent report was commissioned by the Government in 2019 and laid out a roadmap for how New Zealand can meet its obligations under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People, which was signed by Collins' own party in 2010. The Government, which insists the report's contents are not policy, started consultation with iwi on some of the report's recommendations this month, with wider public consultation also planned.

But Collins says some of the report's recommendations have already been implemented "without the wide-ranging debate these significant issues deserve".

"Following revelations that Labour gave $2.75 million to a Mongrel Mob trust and reports of escalating gun crime, the public needs confidence in the justice system," Collins said on Sunday.

"At a time when the public is rightly concerned about money to gangs, gun crime and the significant harm that methamphetamine is doing in New Zealand, Labour needs to be clear about its intentions with the justice system."

Her comments refer to the Government's approval of the multimillion-dollar Kahukura meth rehab programme run by a member of the Mongrel Mob, Harry Tam.

Footage of Tam shot last year recently surfaced online, showing him urging other gang members to vote Labour and showing him saying the Nazi phrase "sieg heil".

But speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, Police Minister Poto Williams defended the Government's decision to fund the programme, saying despite Tam's flaws the programme had been proven to work. 

"I've been saying all week that we are funding a programme that has been shown to work," she said.

"We are not funding the gangs. I don't know how much clearer I can be."

Her views were echoed by Labour MP Duncan Webb, who told Magic Talk's Sunday Cafe the Government funding was going to "an agency, and they are using the gangs to access those communities [needing the programme]".

"What we also need to do is work with social agencies to make people want to lead better lives and sometimes that means helping them up from a very low place," Webb said.

Ardern confirmed earlier this month she signed off on the funding for the programme, which comes from Proceeds of Crime and is administered by the Ministry of Justice.

The programme received $2.75 million over four years.