OPINION: When Hawke's Bay Today broke a story saying the Government was giving $2.75 million for a Mongrel Mob-led drug rehab programme, things went, well, a bit pōrangi.
Conservatives across New Zealand immediately jumped onto it. In a year where they have struggled to land any meaningful hits on Labour, this headline had exactly what they were after.
Jacinda Ardern had signed off the programme called Kahukura and in the eyes of her political opponents it turned her biggest strength into a weakness – a kindness that's so strong, it clouds her decision making.
Ardern that same day offered an explanation. She said history for gang rehab funding dates back to 2010, and the programme, run by Hard2Reach director Harry Tam, had the backing of Hawke's Bay Police.
It had shown signs of success at its first trial, she said.
"I for one want to stop victimisation so that means we will be offering programmes to people who have a criminal past," Ardern said to her critics, brushing neatly over the fact that Mob members will likely have a criminal future, even after they get clean.
By that point she couldn't kill the story – it spiralled all week and into the next as Tam ludicrously broke his silence on national TV with his sly grin soundbite: "Jacinda seems to trust me, why wouldn't you?"
So here we are, two months after the storm, surveying the landscape.
More time is needed to know for sure if Ardern's decision was right or wrong.
I feel for those who've now been through the first programme.
The glare – quite unfairly – will now follow their journeys to beat addiction, which is already difficult enough to do.
But what this whole saga has laid bare is just how out of touch Wellington is with Hawke's Bay and, by extension, regional New Zealand.
Ardern's advisers would have seen Black Power life member Denis O'Reilly's work in the meth rehab space in Hawke's Bay and felt it wouldn't be such a bad idea to give a Mongrel Mob life member a go too.
But it's now abundantly clear that Tam doesn't have the same credibility as O'Reilly, who's as close to public sphere royalty as a gang member is ever going to be.
Ardern was also misinformed that Hawke's Bay Police supported Kahukura.
The top brass may have green-lighted it, but cops on the beat who'd busted the Notorious chapter months earlier were none too happy about the perception that they were just giving the raid money back with interest.
If Wellington had simply picked up the phone to one of them in Waipawa and asked if it was a good idea to fund a programme that involved CHB Mob leader Sonny Smith, they wouldn't have crossed the Ts on the Proceeds of Crime application quite so fast.
Good things can still come out of this mistake.
Meth rehab programmes are worth investing in.
And gang-led programmes are one of the only ways we can heal the divide between the state and the people it has repeatedly stomped on.
We shouldn't be afraid of giving money to the Mob.
But as CHB mayor Alex Walker put it so well back in our very first story about this programme: "Keep your eyes wide open".
If only Wellington had done that to start with.