A former leader of the Tribesmen and the Rebels Motorcycle Club, both with well established links to the drug trade and organised crime, will contest the Far North mayoralty in October.
Jay Hepi, who announced his candidacy in Kaikohe on Thursday, has been described as the first candidate in Destiny Church founders Brian and Hannah Tamaki's quest for a seat in Parliament for Coalition New Zealand.
Mr Hepi, who has gang connections, and is now described as the Northland regional facilitator of the Destiny-linked Man Up organisation, said he was standing because the Far North District Council hadn't paid heed to all its communities, with those living in Kerikeri and Paihia enjoying greater benefits than other areas. There were "blood clots" in the council's financial and representation system.
He had never voted in a local body election, and believed there were many who had not got involved because they didn't believe it was possible to make a difference.
Mr Tamaki said the promotion of Mr Hepi was part of the wider political aspirations of those aligned with the Destiny Church His campaign would be aimed at encouraging Māori in the Far North to vote.
"Jay will be running with the Man Up organisation behind him. He wants to give the people of the Far North a go to get out of poverty," he said. Far North politics suffered from a lack of Māori representation and voter engagement, despite having one of the highest Māori populations in the country.
The campaign would "get a lot of the Māori up north who have not been voting to get out of the bottom and get in to the top". Mr Hepi's aspirations including improving Māori employment and housing.
His reputation as a gang leader who had seen the darker, and criminal, side of life in the Far North would secure his authority among voters as a candidate who understood the issues facing communities.