The Police Association says the payment of nearly $3 million to a Mongrel Mob-led methamphetamine addiction programme has riled police officers, particularly those involved in organised crime investigations.
The Kahukura programme, which targets Mongrel Mob members and families, has attracted funding of $2.75 million over the next four years from the Proceeds of Crime Fund.
Run by Hard2Reach director and longtime Mob member and public servant Harry Tam, it is designed to address drug-related harm amongst a group of Mongrel Mob chapters known as the "Chaindogs", and their families.
A live-in mārae-based programme, the 10-week course followed by eight weeks of post-course support, aims to address drug-use and trauma, instil better coping mechanisms, and prevent relapse.
One of the key figures in the programme is Central Hawke's Bay Mongrel Mob president Sonny Smith, who is currently subject to a six-month suspended sentence after a stun gun disguised as a torch was found after a police raid of his Waipawa home earlier this year.
Association President Chris Cahill said he had been contacted by officers asking why they should even bother making the huge commitment and taking the risks they do to bring to account gangs who are armed, dangerous, and dealing meth on a massive scale, when the money is just going to go back to the gangs.
"One officer likened it to the most successful money laundering scheme he'd heard," Cahill said.
"Police take $2m of dirty money - as they recently did from the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob in Operation Dusk in Hawke's Bay - and the Government returns $2.75m in clean money to people so closely linked to the same gang.
"Association members are clearly angry that Police hierarchy and the Ministry of Health consider a gang such as Notorious Mongrel Mob, which is responsible for the majority of meth dealing in central Hawke's Bay, should now be trusted stewards of millions of dollars to fix a problem they are instrumental in creating."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the decision to approve nearly $3m of funding from the Proceeds of Crime fund for the programme, which was revealed by Hawke's Bay Today on Monday.
Ardern said earlier this week:
"We either make a decision to fund programmes which, yes, involve people with criminal history but we are determined to address their methamphetamine addiction, or we exclude people with criminal histories from meth addiction programmes."
Cahill said he had no problem with drug rehabilitation initiatives and officers were constantly left to pick up the pieces because of a shortage of "rehab" resources.
But he had little faith in the scheme to do anything other than "line the pockets of key gang leaders" and called for the money to be funnelled to "legitimate" addiction services in provincial New Zealand.
Ardern said the scheme had the support of Hawke's Bay police, and Cahill said police leadership needed to listen more closely to their staff and understand how the Mongrel Mob in the region operates, and to recognise the extent of the harm they cause.
"I'd say that's the least (that) the staff who work at the sharp end of organised crime deserve.
"Otherwise, we will see a growth in gang-run addiction services, which is really akin to a pharmacy infecting its customers with a cold, and then selling them cold medication."