A veteran Dunedin gang kingpin got an unwelcome birthday present last week - a 15-month prison term.

Mangu Kaha chapter president Albert Victor Epere was jailed on the day he turned 52 on a charge of robbery and intimidation, but his increasingly "pro-social" attitude got him a pat on the back from Judge Kevin Phillips when he appeared in the Dunedin District Court.

The court heard Epere had recently worked with the Human Rights Commission around state care and was helping Maori youth on a variety of issues, including encouraging them to vote.

"I think if someone said that five or 10 years ago, talking about you Mr Epere, other people might have fallen on the ground in shock," Judge Phillips said.


The defendant nodded in the dock.

While the judge acknowledged Epere's offending had slowed in recent years, he added two more convictions to a list of more than 100 when he visited a "friend" in Green Island on March 7.

Epere went to the victim's business premises in the afternoon, believing he was owed money.

That was denied, sparking an angry exchange.

"The defendant then threatened to smash the victim, kick in his head, before demanding that the victim hand over the keys to his motor vehicle,'' a police summary said.

"The victim felt extremely frightened and intimidated and so complied with the defendant's demands by handing over his car keys."

As he left, Epere's parting shot was a threat to burn down the business.

The court heard the defendant returned the car keys to a third party shortly afterwards but by then the robbery was technically complete.

Judge Phillips said the victim was a kaumatua who had known Epere for some years.

He declined to attend a restorative-justice conference and said he did not want anything to do with the gang boss in the future.

Counsel Deborah Henderson said Epere was keeping busy while in prison.

While awaiting sentencing he had undertaken a course to address thought processes and one on tikanga and he had also started practising yoga.

Despite Epere's 20-plus years heading the gang, the judge acknowledged his efforts to change his ways.

"You have become slowly, reluctantly taking small steps into some pro-social activities," he said.

Epere was given a first-strike warning, under the three-strikes legislation, for the robbery conviction.