Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern 'comfortable' signing off $2.75m to Mongrel Mob's Kahukura rehab scheme

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she signed off on millions of dollars to fund a meth rehab programme run by the Mongrel Mob. 

Nearly $3 million in funding seized from gangs and criminals by police is being used to fund the Mongrel Mob's Kahukura drug and trauma rehabilitation scheme, Hawke's Bay Today newspaper revealed on Monday.

The Ministry of Health confirmed to Newshub it supported the Kahukura proposal to receive funding under Proceeds of Crime, which is administered by the Ministry of Justice. The programme received $2.75 million over four years. 

The Ministry of Justice website says Proceeds of Crime money must ultimately be signed off by the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and Minister of Justice, following an evaluation of proposals by an expert panel. 

In this case, the proposal was the Mongrel Mob's Kahukura programme, and Ardern confirmed she signed off on giving it millions of dollars. 

"I am one of the ministers," she said at her Monday press conference. 

"I'm comfortable because it was a programme that was not just brought forward by the Ministry of Health - it was supported by Corrections, police, [Ministry of Social Development], and the local Hawke's Bay police.

"They, of course, would know more of the programme because it was trialled for a short period in 2020 and I place weight on the local police officers' views."

National MP Simeon Brown described the Government's endorsement of the Mongrel Mob-led scheme as "a sick joke".

"The Government is giving millions of dollars to the people who import drugs into New Zealand and infect our communities with their scourge with the purpose that they get people off drugs! Where is the logic?"

But Ardern says the scheme is based on a programme that was run back in 2010 as part of the previous National-led Government's Meth Action Plan.

"It is very much focussed on trying to address meth addiction and the crime that often results from meth addiction," Ardern said. 

"It is not new and it would be a shame to see a political party who once supported addressing meth addiction and crime-related meth addiction stepping away from that, as appears to now be the case."

The current Government cancelled National's Meth Action Plan - announced by former Prime Minister John Key in 2009 - which set $10 million aside each year from Proceeds of Crime. 

According to a Cabinet paper, the Government cancelled the programme as it is considered a "broader-based approach to crime-related harm was needed". 

The Mongrel Mob-led initiative is a live-in mārae-based programme which aims to address trauma and drug-seeking behaviour. A previous edition of the Kahukura programme ran independent of the Ministry of Health from September to November last year. 

"This is a programme that has run for a short period back in 2020 and the outcomes of that suggested higher compliance with court orders, it suggested that people were passing their drug tests, and it showed signs of success," Ardern said. 

"We have to make a decision in New Zealand - we either want to fund programmes that yes, will have people involved in them who have a criminal history but we are determined to address their methamphetamine addiction, or we exclude people with criminal histories from meth programmes.

"I for one want to stop victimisation and so that means we will be offering programmes to people who have a criminal past."