Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker says the funders of a $2.75 million drug rehabilitation programme led by the Mongrel Mob, must keep their eyes "wide open".
Close to $3m in funding seized from gangs and criminals by police is being used to fund the new Kahukura programme, a live-in mārae-based project aimed at addressing trauma and drug-seeking behaviour.
A powhiri was held earlier this week at Tapairu Marae in Waipawa to launch the Kahukura programme, with invitations signed off by Mongrel Mob national president Sonny Smith and his wife Mahinaarangi Smith.
Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Alex Walker said it was a "confronting issue".
"Meth is scourge in our communities and anything which will remove its influence from our families is important."
However, she acknowledged government funding of a gang would not be "well received" by the community, adding: "I hope the funders have their eyes wide open".
The Ministry of Health's deputy director-general mental health and addiction Toni Gutschlag said it had received a request from H2R (Hard to Reach) with the intention to work with a collective of Mongrel Mob Chapters.
Information on the H2R website describes a pilot of the Kahukura programme as being led by the Chaindogs, a cluster of Mob chapters with a common affiliation to the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob.
The pilot ran at a Poukawa marae in Central Hawke's Bay independently of the ministry between September and November last year, with 10 men taking part.
The name "kahukura" refers to the "red cloak", and is a term used for a warrior that acknowledges his role and leadership within his whānau, hapu and iwi.
Gutschlag said there was a gap in current service provision which the proposed initiative provided a way to fill, engaging with a hard-to-reach segment of the community.
"Drug use is prevalent among gangs across New Zealand and can have a detrimental impact on the wider community," she said.
"It is understood that if gang members can be supported in stopping the use and sale of drugs, that also has positive impacts on the wider community."
The Ministry of Health accordingly made an application for funding from the Proceeds of Crime, which is administered by the Ministry of Justice, with decisions determined by a panel representing a range of government bodies.
This application was successful with $2.75 million awarded to the Kahukura programme over four financial years, panel chair Claire Austin confirmed.
Kahukura is expected to run for three cycles of 10 weeks per year over three years, serving up to 10 participants and their whānau - about 40 people - per cycle.
"The Proceeds of Crime Fund aims to address organised crime harm and drug-related harm, test innovative solutions to complex issues relating to crime related harm and enable agencies to build an evidence-based case of what works in addressing crime-related harm."
Austin said the programme would be subject to six-monthly performance reporting as well as ongoing evaluation across the duration of the initiative, with MoH appointed as the lead agency.
Hawke's Bay Today contacted people involved with the programme but were told to refer all questions back to the ministry.