A former Christchurch gang leader will lose the sickness benefit he has claimed for 26 years.

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Peter Hughes said Darryl Harris had been told his sickness benefit would stop from January 10 because "he no longer meets standard eligibility requirements", The Press reported .

Hughes was replying to an Official Information Act request by the newspaper.

The decision comes as the Government takes a tougher line on benefit claims, including work-testing for sickness benefits from May.

Harris, who has three months to appeal against the decision, and his wife, Marcia Robins, made headlines a year ago when it was revealed they had been claiming unemployment and sickness benefits continuously since 1984.

They had received $30,000 in special-needs grants since 2000, including payments for new tyres for their 2007 Chrysler saloon and to fence a swimming pool at one of their Christchurch properties.

Previous efforts to cancel Harris' sickness benefit failed after he obtained a medical opinion that he was addicted to cannabis. The opinion was from one of Work and Income's designated doctors after the agency appealed against a medical opinion that Harris was suffering "stress and anxiety" over being work-tested.

Harris could not be contacted yesterday.

A family member has previously said it was difficult for Harris to find work because "he is an ex-gang member".

- NZPA