COVID-19: Cabinet Minister Willie Jackson has meeting with gang members about vaccination

Cabinet Minister Willie Jackson has had a meeting with gang members about COVID-19 vaccination.

Earlier this week, it was revealed prominent Mongrel Mob members including life member Harry Tam and Waikato chapter president Sonny Fatupaito were allowed to travel to Auckland to help ramp up vaccination efforts. 

"We've got cases in gangs and that makes this job really hard," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Radio Hauraki earlier this week. 

TVNZ's Q+A reported that Māori Development Minister Jackson has since met remotely with gang members about vaccination. 

Jackson said the meeting was a "good start". "I can't play politics here, we can't play politics here," he told Q+A. "We've got to look after the safety of all Kiwis and that's what this is all about."

Earlier this week, Mongrel Mob spokesperson Louise Hutchinson said the National Party was driving a negative narrative against gangs.

"We're talking about communicating with the most discriminated types of people in New Zealand who have no trust for authority," she told RNZ's Morning Report.

"It is extremely dangerous, this narrative that's being played out, and needs to stop."

Jackson told Q+A someone had to work alongside the gangs.

"Someone's got to engage with the gangs and maybe that someone should be me because I've worked with gangs for many, many years."

The National Party, meanwhile, was furious Fatupaito and Tam were given exemptions to enter Auckland.

"Some gang leaders have been declared essential workers by this Government… I think the Government's got a lot of work to do," National leader Judith Collins told The AM Show earlier this week.

But COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said stopping the virus was the primary concern.

"I have no time for the gangs. I don't have any sympathy for them," Hipkins said. "But the number one priority here has to be stopping COVID-19."