The bros in one of Auckland's most feared gangs are turning to honest toil - but they say Pakeha leaders also need to change to admit the young and brown into mainstream society.

The Mongrel Mob's "Notorious" chapter in Mangere has started a labour hire business called Rent A Bro to do painting, demolition and other work.

"You name it, we'll do it," says leader Roy Dunn, who joined the Mob 30 years ago when he was 13.

"We are setting this up for our kids, creating the employment, bringing them in."

But he said the "Mangere peace conference", where he spoke alongside veteran Black Power leader "Knockers" on Saturday, was 20 years too late.

"It took us 20 years to have a talk. In that whole 20 years we wasted our lives," said Mr Dunn.

Former "Parnell Panther" Mark Tipene (formerly Stephens), who was convicted of raping an Auckland model in 1985, told about 125 Mangere residents at the conference that youngsters were still turning to gangs because of the way police treated their parents.

"A couple of weeks ago I was witness to an incident where a group of family members were housed up in a motel. I visited, and there were something like 30 police officers there," he said.

"They had got word that there was a major drug deal going on. There wasn't.

"A lot of the people there were old [gang] members. The police spent 20 minutes or half an hour searching the place and found nothing.

"A lot of our young people, when they witness things like that, it sends a clear message to them that we [gangs] are willing to change, but the other side aren't.

"They [police] will instil their big-stick syndrome to send a message that they are the greatest still."

Mr Tipene, now a youth consultant with the Otara Christian trust Hauhanga Rongo, said young people were naturally angry when they saw their parents "thrown down whether they are guilty or not" .

"Aren't our people allowed to walk the streets just because they're dark?" he asked.

"It's an indoctrination within their system. If you are Polynesian or Maori, you have a much higher probability of getting found. If you have tattoos you are going to get found.

"It's okay because we are dark we are turned over, but places like Remuera and Howick are not."

But the general spirit of Saturday's three-hour "peace conference" was upbeat, with a mix of hip hop and gospel music and speeches by MPs Taito Phillip Field and Pita Sharples.

Toko Manuel, of Mangere hip hop singers Recommended Dosage, said his group was willing to run music workshops for teens on the streets.

"We are the older generation. We are aged 28 down to 25. We've had our own little experience in this area," he said.

"If we had had opportunities, it could have been different for us. We've made our own opportunities."

World boxing champion David Tua, who grew up in Mangere, sent a message from the United States saying: "You don't have to do bad things to be cool, and you don't have to be cool to be bad.

"We are all in it together - help one another."

Kickboxing instructor and gospel music producer Solomon Matthews reported back from a youth workshop saying that young people needed more recreational facilities and more activities such as sports and music with adult role models who "live the talk".

Social work student Noni Tasi said the media could help by showing young New Zealanders on television instead of overseas programmes.

"We pick up the problems of other countries and bring them into our own community," she said.

Roy Dunn's niece, Donna Epiha, said young people needed to know that if they failed at one thing, there were other options.

"I wanted to do fashion and design.

"I thought it was my passion, but I failed at it.

"I closed off, thinking I'm a failure and there's nothing else for me," she said.

She is now a telemarketer.

* Rent A Bro is at (09) 476-9047 or 021 033-7204.