Members of South Taranaki's Ngati Ruanui iwi are infuriated their kaumatua Ngapari Nui has been stood down from voluntary work at Whanganui Prison because of his Black Power affiliations, CEO Debbie Packer says.
Mr Nui was chosen by Ngāti Ruanui for the kaiwhakamana role five years ago. It is unpaid and aims to uplift and empower prisoners and integrate them into life outside prison.
The Patea man has been stood down because the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Scott Guthrie found out about his gang affiliations and told the Corrections Department. Minister Judith Collins is now promising a full scale review.
Mr Nui didn't want to talk to the Chronicle, afraid it would jeopardise his kaiwhakamana status.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui Trust CE0 Debbie Packer said her iwi was outraged and there had been many phonecalls and posts on Facebook.
Asked whether Mr Nui was a patched Black Power member, she said he has had connections with the gang since his youth.
"I'm not sure what patched means. He will wear it on his clothing at certain tangi."
He was now a transformed person, didn't use alcohol or drugs, spoke te reo Maori and was active on marae. He lived a "humble life" in a household of three generations in Patea.
He was active on many fronts, and was one of the first on the scene to smooth gang tensions after Craig Rippon's murder in Whanganui last November.
Mr Nui was an ideal role model to help prisoners, and worked with people from any gang, including pakeha. His past meant he could "go into homes others were frightened to go into" and "model other ways of living whanau had never seen".
Both Whanganui MP Chester Borrows and Dame Tariana Turia could vouch for his good character, Mrs Packer said, and "do-gooders who have never made mistakes" couldn't possibly replace him.
"It may not be orthodox, but show me another way."
She was angry the Corrections Department did not contact the iwi that appointed Mr Nui before standing him down.
"We want answers as to why Judith Collins has not contacted us directly. We are a post settled iwi and and the crown has obligations to us."