National and Labour’s Napier candidates are firing up over claims relating to Mongrel Mob “Labour Endorsement” meetings across Hawke’s Bay and around the country in the lead-up to the election.
Labour Napier candidate Mark Hutchinson said National’s Katie Nimon was using “disinformation, smear tactics and gutter politics,” after she posted a map on her social media showing what was described as a “Mongrel Mob Labour Party Endorsement Tour” to garner votes for Labour from gang members across the country.
This comes off the back of National’s police spokesman Mark Mitchell claiming last week that a “Mongrel Mob Labour Party Endorsement Tour,” helmed by senior Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam, had visited all three electorates covering Hawke’s Bay encouraging local Mob members to vote for Labour’s candidates in these seats.
“These are flat-out lies and it’s hugely disappointing. While our political views obviously differ, I always expected Katie Nimon to act with honesty and integrity throughout this campaign,” Hutchinson said.
“Katie Nimon can’t or won’t be straight up with Napier voters about what vital public services National plans to cut to fill the $2.1 billion hole in their reckless, inflationary tax cuts, so she’s going for fear and smear instead.”
Nimon told Hawke’s Bay Today that Tam held an election meeting in Napier in July this year. She said he had been open about encouraging people to vote for Labour candidates in his tour across the country.
“Labour’s Napier candidate can keep campaigning for giving money to gangs if he wants, National and I will focus on tax relief for hardworking people.
“Gang membership has grown by 70 per cent, violent crime has increased by a third and retail crime has doubled under Labour. If the Labour candidate thinks people feel safe, he should meet some voters.”
Nimon provided screenshots of a social media post where Tam claimed to want to “keep National out”, after attending an election hui. It is unclear in what capacity Tam attended the hui or what they involved.
Hutchinson said that Labour was not working with the gangs nor encouraging them to vote.
“We have no time for gangs. Their illegal activities are a scourge on our society, and they offer nothing but misery. That’s why Labour is going hard against them,” he said, citing the emergence of Operation Cobalt and laws under Labour allowing police to seize cars, motorbikes and assets, and raid houses without warrants during gang conflicts.
Hutchinson also claimed that Nimon’s attacks were hypocritical, as many programmes involving gangs were started under the last National Government.
This included a $1.1 million spend on two programmes in the Bay of Plenty and East Coast for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to support the partners and children of gang members, and a $30,000 grant to Tam’s Hard2Reach company from the MSD in July 2017.
“It’s sad to see the National Party basically attacking Sir John Key and Sir Bill English, who started many of these programmes,” he said.
Nimon said National would continue to push for harsher punishments for criminals.
“National will give police new powers to crack down on gangs, hold serious young offenders to account and we’ll strengthen consequences for convicted criminals,” she said.
“Only a National Government will make our community safer, and I’ll be a relentless advocate for policies to achieve this.”
It was revealed in 2021 that the Labour Party funded nearly $3m for a Mongrel Mob-led drug rehabilitation initiative in Hawke’s Bay, Kahukura, a programme spearheaded by Tam.
Tam has been openly vocal about voting out National in the past, with a video also re-surfacing in 2021 in which he urged fellow Mongrel Mob members not to vote National.