A prominent Hawke's Bay advocate for gangs is calling on the Government to note the difference between indigenous gangs and criminal cartels.

Last week, Police Minister Stuart Nash announced a substantial increase in funding to tackle organised crime.

"When we talk about gangs, I like to talk about organised crime," Nash said.

"There are some very, very bad people who are running some of our gangs. This is why I talk about cutting the head off the snake.


"We want to go after the people who are responsible for peddling methamphetamine into our communities."

However, high-profile lifetime member of the Black Power, Denis O'Reilly, said there was plenty of potential for gang members to make positive contributions to communities.

"I'm arguing that our groups and affiliations have got youth, energy, skills and intelligence and we will tackle our unemployment one van at a time – by the vanload," O'Reilly said.

"Whether it's picking fruit in Motueka or Hawke's Bay or the Bay of Plenty, or whether it is building roads in Transmission Gully or in Auckland, whether it is building houses in Auckland - we do it as a group.

"So we take gang and we turn it back to building gang, forestry gang, fencing gang, picking gang. We take that affiliative instinct and we turn it into a positive purpose."

Gangs as contractors was once government policy but O'Reilly said it was deconstructed by the fourth Labour government, in favour of an overseas model.

"The North American model is based on ethnic gangs. And people who may not actually have a belief in the society from which they have come.

"In New Zealand we need to differentiate between criminal gangs and the indigenous gangs. The indigenous gangs belong here.


"We saw the biggest shift of a rural population to an urban population in history in the 1960s and 70s, and these are the second and third-generation product of that."

The urbanised communities were now asserting themselves.

"We now have a demographic that is very similar to Māori society as a whole," O'Reilly said.

"So we are seeing as these people - who have been through life journeys in their own right and decided that's a waste of time going to jail or whatever - [are saying] I don't want to see my kids go there."

The Government recently sponsored a hui for Black Power in Hawke's Bay where a film called How To Make Money Selling Drugs was screened.

Despite the title, it's actually an anti-drug movie showing the consequences of drug dealing, as told by former dealers, and a Skype session with some of those dealers afterwards.

As one of the organisers of the screening, O'Reilly said: "You end up in jail, you end up dead or you end up soulless."

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