A local chapter of the Mongrel Mob is keen to build bridges and promote understanding between themselves, council and the community.
Barbarians chapter spokesman Luke Smith spoke to a meeting of the Tararua District Council on Wednesday, saying the chapter was keen to "clear up some assumptions, answer any questions you have and start building a bridge between us, the council and the community."
Smith explained to the meeting that the chapter was started by Edwin Marsh in 2018 with a view to making Dannevirke a safer place and to help people.
They were well aware of the negative image Mongrel Mob chapters have, particularly around methamphetamine, and Smith emphasised that it was a rule that there were to be no drugs.
Many of the chapter members were recovered addicts, he said.
Smith said that some of the members had trouble with discrimination.
"We can't build this bridge together if we are being discriminated against by false assumptions," he said.
"Hopefully you can see that we are not the picture most people paint of us and there is great potential of us working together. We're here to help and we're not here to wreck the town."
Councillor Erana Peeti-Webber said she was not happy when the chapter first came to town, saying it had been quite volatile for a while.
She said that things had settled down now.
However, other chapters had come to town giving the local chapter a bad name and she suggested the chapters should work together.
Smith told her that was one of their goals.
Councillor Sharon Wards also noted the trouble with other gangs.
She said she used to run the hospital and there were always issues with other gangs coming in.
"If you want to do something different than being tarred with other chapters coming in and doing stuff ... what are you specifically trying to do to reduce the impact of other chapters and other gangs coming into town."
Smith told her that they would do their best to talk to them and explain their rules.
There are about 40 members of the chapter.
Many of them have families and work full time, and are trying to create a positive image, for both their families and the community.
Councillor Shirley Hull asked why the chapter was keeping the name.
Smith told her it was to act as a deterrent to other gangs.
Their next steps are to continue working to change the town's perception of them by providing employment through opening up businesses as well as looking after youth.
Smith said they were following Christian principles by wearing white patches to "represent the light" and to set an example to other chapters.
He said they are well aware it's going to be a slow process, but they will keep working at it.