The Hawke's Bay woman who has become an unpaid public relations person for a Hamilton chapter of the Mongrel Mob has no intention of giving up the controversial role.

Louise Hutchinson, or Lou to her friends, feels somehow born to try to help others looking for change and it's not just the boys down at the pad that need to change.

It would help if a few perceptions changed, and why not? "These guys are committed to change, they all have jobs, they work hard, they don't see themselves as a gang," she says. "They want to enjoy normal family lives."

As for other perceptions: "I'm probably in the safest place in New Zealand."

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Now living in Hamilton, but having lived in Hawke's Bay for most of her 40-plus years, she's teamed up with Mongrel Mob Kingdom, the Waikato chapter headed Sonny Fatupaito, aka "Paito", who she's known just a few months after being intrigued about the leadership and direction it seemed to be taking, and deciding she wanted to see if she could help.

A shot was fired outside a Napier medical centre earlier this week, and has been linked to ongoing gang tension in the city.
A shot was fired outside a Napier medical centre earlier this week, and has been linked to ongoing gang tension in the city.

She does have a background which suits her to be making such decisions, even if it could have led her one a more formal pathway.

Simply she grew-up in Hastings, daughter of well-known late rugby stalwart Owen Hutchinson, who despite reckoning she should be doing ballet kept taking her along to rugby every Saturday.

After a full five years at Hastings' Girls High School, she did two years in Massey's teachers training college in Palmerston North, where she finally got to play some rugby, for Kia Toa club and then the Manawatu women's team.

There hadn't been any women's rugby in Hawke's Bay, and she kept the fact she was playing secret, from her dad, who she reckoned would not have approved.

But when you're a flanker with a little prospect of making a name for yourself, you can't keep a secret from someone who's immersed in it that long, and so it was that he did get to know, as she returned to Hawke's Bay, became one of Hawke's Bay's earliest women's representatives, and was even good enough to get a Black Ferns trial.

He even got to ref her once, and she recalls "I think he sent me off… I got a bit lippy."

Where he would have been proud of her was that she also followed him into rugby administration, and became involved as a volunteer helping organise women's rugby in Hawke's Bay.

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She was alongside the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union CEO of the time, former All Black and later key All Blacks coaching team member Wayne Smith.

It doesn't seem to be a sign of big-noting, but she says that was where much of her future started to help.

"Actually, he gave me my break," she says. "He believed in me."

"Sport," she says, "is a big thing".

She recalls that when she was younger, in the late 1980s and early 1900s, the growth of rugby league in the Bay was around a positive use if its gang base, and the formation of the Napier Bulldogs Club which had over 60 adult players all practicing three nights a week and playing on Sundays.

A mum of two, who moved to Wellington in the interests of her son's rugby career he hoped would take him to a professional career in Australia, another part of her jigsaw was the four years she spent as a corrections officer at Hawke's Bay Prison, where she says she was able to develop a rapport with inmates based on respect. She showed them respect and they respected her back.

"That is what it's about with any relationship," she says. "It is about respect."

Having also had to deal with some depression issues of her own, she found an empathy for those caught in struggle, and spent a time in Wellington working in suicide prevention.

Motivated by a friend's struggle with Ministry for Children agency Oranga Tamariki – or as she puts it what the agency had done to her friend, she saw that many mums had been poorly-served and needed help.

It was Lou Hutchinson who in May called a meeting in Raglan to muster support for people who had children removed from their families, or were at risk of having children removed.

It was like an aligning of the stars when Oranga-Tamariki's attempt to uplift a newborn child from its mother's care in Hawke's Bay Hospital back home in Hastings on May 6, just a few days before that meeting.

While having been involved in other issues back in Hawke's Bay, such as homelessness, this was the kick-start to the PR, issuing a media release which suddenly in the glare of the Hastings issue attracted TV crews and other media to the Raglan hui, where the loose umbrella Whanau First was established.

The response was warming, she says, and gave her confidence that she could achieve a few things where maybe some others hadn't or couldn't, and she set-about meeting Paito, triggered by the Kingdom response to and support for the Muslim community in its grief after the mosque killings in Christchurch.

Hutchinson believes questions about how she deals with the issue of putting on the spin for an outfit commonly linked to crime, are naïve, in that they don't consider the possibility that there are people in the fraternity genuinely trying to find a better life.

Her role is with Mongrel Mob Kingdom in Waikato, and when it comes to crime and all the other negatives, she says: "I don't see any of that around here. If I did, I wouldn't be here."