Some of New Zealand's most notorious gang figures have banded together to produce a video urging members to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in a move cooked up by a Government minister.
The move has won praise from one expert on gangs, who says Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has shown courage to take on the political risk that goes with getting the Covid-19 vaccine to hard-to-reach communities.
The four-minute video features Stephen Daley of the Head Hunters, Paula Orsmby of Mongrel Mob Waikato Kingdom Wahine Toa, Dennis Makalio and Harry Tam of the Mongrel Mob, Ta'alili To'omalatai of the King Cobras and Black Power members Michael Te Pou and Denis O'Reilly.
The video came out of an idea by Jackson during a discussion with gang leaders who then provided footage that was edited by Jackson's son, Hikurangi.
A Black Power life member, O'Reilly said in the video: "I've taken a few shots over the time. I've taken my two shots against Covid and I'm asking you to do the same.
Daley was one of the most notorious of Head Hunters and taunted police after being found not guilty of kidnapping.
In the video, he acknowledged the nickname "Teflon 88" given after the 2016 not guilty verdicts - "Teflon" for nothing sticking and "88" for the letters "HH", meaning Head Hunters.
"I myself have got the jab," he said. "I've got it solely because I care about my children. I got it because I wish to protect my whakapapa."
Makalio said: "It's a no-brainer for me. At the end of the day, I'm looking at my mokos, my kids. Whether it works or it doesn't, you know, I'm not going to take that risk."
Jackson told the Herald he took on communicating with the gangs after Cabinet discussed how to get the vaccine to communities that were showing reluctance. It came about the time of speculation over gang links to the spread of Covid-19 in Auckland and into Waikato.
"I put my hand up to do it. I've been brought up around a lot of these guys," said Jackson, acknowledging his mother Dame June's long service with the parole board and work done through Ngā Whare Waatea marae in Māngere. With others, there were whānau connections.
"Knowing most of them and meeting some through the community groups gives me an access most ministers don't have."
The idea was Jackson's but the execution of it lay with the gangs. His son, Hikurangi Jackson, helped out with editing. "Not one cent of taxpayer money went into this. I'll buy my son lunch."
"The idea is to get them to mobilise their guys. It's not about supporting gangs, it's about supporting families. You can say anything you like about these guys… they have a love for their people. It's good to see."
Criminologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert applauded the move, saying it was "brave" of Jackson to publicly associate himself with such a broad range of people in gangs.
"This is an example of what needs to happen if we're going to reach hard-to-reach communities - by using people who are respected in those communities."
Canterbury University's Gilbert said the influence of those who spoke wouldn't just send a message to those in gangs, but to wider whānau.
"We need links into these communities for the welfare of everybody," he said, with the "crying shame" of the current Covid situation illustrating the risk of not doing so.
O'Reilly said Jackson's move was a mix of "courage and pragmatism" that would have real benefit in reducing the spread of Covid but - like a short pass in rugby - had the potential for political cost. "He's going to cop it."