Napier city councillors were left in near tears of emotion yet patting themselves on their backs after hearing of the success of a pilot whanau transformation project which the council had sponsored for $70,000.
The reaction to an hour-long presentation opening a full-council meeting on Thursday, delivered by both those who delivered the two 10-week "cohorts" on opposite sides of Napier's gang and geographical divide, and gang members who took part.
"It's fair to say there were some very emotional reactions from councillors hearing the impacts on peoples' lives," said Mayor Kirsten Wise.
Part of the presentation, on what was a partnership between the Maori Movement operation of internationally-travelled former professional rugby player Ngarino Te Waati, of Auckland, and Napier movers Angel Promotions, run by Theresa Carter (formerly O'Brien), was done in-committee (without the live-streaming), to protect the participants as they spoke of the changes that were happening, and the backgrounds in their lives.
Wise said the figures were impressive, starting with the numbers of participants - with 41 in the pre-Christmas wananga based on the "red whanau" of the Mongrel Mob fraternity around Maraenui, and 79 in the second this year based around families in mainly Black Power lifestyles associated with Waiohiki.
A woman in the first wananga convinced her partner to take part in the second, despite the obvious lines of gang rivalry of the past, and evidence was now of two once staunchly opposed men becoming firm friends.
Councillors heard varying stories of people having "unpacking" generations of trauma and family and personal history in search of resolution of drugs, violence, suicide ideation and other issues, many with immediate signs of success.
Theresa Carter has been in the community and social service sector at least years and says there were people who through the programme are now well advanced in putting such issues as methamphetamine addiction and other negative lifestyles issues, one of the measurable outcomes being the emergence of 12 business "start-ups" as participants sought to "move-on" and do better for their families.
They hadn't had "the tools" to process the issues or "let it go," she said, describing seeing numbers of people who had experienced a "major shift" by saying: ""I have not in my life seen this amount of shift. This is going to be quite a game changer."
Councillors were told by Te Waati that people who had a year ago been shooting guns at each other had taken part, and were coming together, with hopes all of those who had participated could take part together in a future wananga.
The Mayor said that in her younger days she would have been among those who were "sceptical of these things", but she said she believed all of the councils had, like herself, become "fully" supportive of the project and she expects steps to now be taken to enhance its future, including encouraging other government departments and agencies to be on-board to help sustain the transformation.
"We are absolutely committed to support the next stage, but we have to sit down and talk about what that looks like, and to ensure it is sustainable," she said. "It was incredible value for money."