Jacinda Ardern says involvement in funding for Mongrel Mob-linked meth rehab scheme 'not a fair comparison' to Gumboot Friday

Jacinda Ardern says she doesn't believe the Ministry of Health needs more information about mental health charity Gumboot Friday - despite its boss saying they do.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield last week said the ministry didn't "have a problem" with charity founder and mental health advocate Mike King - and the door was always open if he wanted to apply for funding. 

King has repeatedly criticised the ministry after Gumboot Friday didn't receive funding. The ministry has said it was unable to fund it because King didn't apply on time.

But King called that misleading, saying he didn't apply and claiming the ministry told him several times there was no point.

Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show on Friday every mental health charity had to provide evidence of efficacy and safety.

"We need to work with the Gumboot Friday team to get that information so that our professional leads here, as they do with every other application for funding, can assure themselves that there is proper clinical governance and safety."

But on Monday, Prime Minister Ardern said she understood the ministry was looking for "innovative ways" to support Gumboot Friday.

"I don't believe, at this stage, more information is required," she told The AM Show. 

Mike King and Jacinda Ardern.
Mike King and Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: The AM Show

Host Duncan Garner pushed Ardern on the matter, "this guy works, Jacinda", he said of King.

"Duncan, I'm not the one who sits down and goes through every application..." Ardern said.

"You did with the Mongrel Mob," interjected Garner, referring to the funding of millions of dollars for a meth rehab programme linked to the gang.

"Duncan, you know that is not a fair comparison," Ardern responded. "That was a process that was supported by Corrections, police, [Ministry of] Health for treatment of drug addiction and harm.

"That was a process that officials are involved in that comes through me but for Ministry of Health tenders, no - I'm not involved in those. However, I do believe that there is an innovative solution in there somewhere, the Ministry of Health continues to work on it and as soon as we have that solution, Duncan - I'll share it with you. 

"Given that there are a number of mental health organisations that go through processes to be funded by the Ministry of Health, I need to be fair to them too. They don't get to litigate here, on Newshub - I need to be here and let the Ministry of Health finish their work."

Ardern said she stays in touch with the ministry about Gumboot Friday.

"I don't know the last time they sat down with them but I don't believe more information is required at this stage."

The Government would let Ministry of Health officials do their jobs to find a resolution, Ardern said.

"They've been back-and-forth in contact with Gumboot Friday since 2019 - they've been in fairly when there have been issues around their funding."

Ardern couldn't say when the matter might be resolved - only that she was in regular contact with the ministry.

In a Facebook post on Friday, King accused Dr Bloomfield of questioning the qualifications held by Gumboot Friday's counsellors. The former comedian has been highly critical of Ardern and the Ministry of Health and earlier this year returned his NZ Order of Merit medal over a lack of progress in the mental health sector.