A gang ceremony that throttled sunny Saturday afternoon vehicle access to iconic Hawke's Bay lookout Te Mata Peak was bigger than expected, a veteran leader says.
Hastings Mongrel Mob leader Rex Timu says the ceremonies have been held at "Rongokako" for more than 20 years, but usually at night, when few, if any, other members of the public are around.
Timu said he was also concerned about the numbers as they arrived on Saturday.
He said the timing of the ceremony was chosen because there were members who had to get to work later in the day.
That and what Timu said was a greater involvement of family swelled the numbers of vehicles, to the stage where congestion on the road became a problem and a danger, as it does often during the summer cruise ship season.
"A lot of the vehicles were not the guys — it was families, wives, uncles ..."
He says he's usually advised police as much as a month in advance. "That's why they were there on Saturday," he says. "Because we told them."
Timu also says he had never been told of any "process" that had to be gone through to stage the events, but is happy to meet with parties to discuss how they can take place.
He was surprised he had not been invited to a meeting at which council, police and Te Mata Park board representatives were to discuss the issue today.
"The thing is, to us it is not just a public place, it is Rongokako, our ancestor," he says.
Reflecting on a space culturally and spiritual significant to Māori: "We don't see it as (just) a public place. We go there to pay our respects, we open with karakia, and pay our respects to our ancestors, and our elders and members and others who have passed before us."
"There were no crimes being committed," he says. "The police were stopping the guys at the bottom by the carpark, but as far as I know no one was charged with any offence at the park or on the day."
Timu struggled to find an answer as to why membership numbers and following appeared to be growing.
"Maybe they like what we are doing."
He says many people can't get over old images of gangs, but among his crews the focus is on "employment, get back into education, and the family side ... those sorts of things".
"About 80 per cent, I reckon, have jobs," he says.
"People think we're all into crime, but if all our members were criminals then we'd be all in jail and they's need 10 times as many prisons for everybody."
"I've been in this change-thing for years," he says, conceding "it's not easy" when part of the problem is detractors who don't give people a second chance.
"It is hard for some of the boys to get a job, but I can tell you they're real hard workers when they do," he says.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst met with the Te Mata Park Trust board and police on Thursday to discuss Saturday's incident
Hazlehurst said the aim was to allow members of the public to get up to the park and feel safe.
She said police informed council on Saturday there was going to be a Mongrel Mob event at the top of the peak, but no one was aware of the numbers of people who would be arriving.
She said Thursday's meeting was positive, and the next step was meeting with gang leaders to discuss options, which would be happening in the next couple of days.
Te Mata Park Trust chairman Mike Devonshire said they were looking at a collective approach.
"Our fundamental concern is one of public safety.
"The park is a private park but there purely for the benefit for all of Hawke's Bay."
He said they had gotten feedback from people on the peak on Saturday that they had found the experience intimidating.
He said there had been Mongrel Mob gathering over a number of years, but of concern for the community is that there have been two this year, both without a lot of warning.
He said the discussion with the Mongrel Mob would be full and frank.
Both Devonshire and Hazlehurst said it would be difficult to ban mob events from happening on the Peak.
"It is a public space, it is a public road, it is about how we manage all groups that access the peak," Hazlehurst said.