The Corrections Department says it was prepared to back an ex-gang affiliate working in prisons until it found out he was a patched member.

Former Whanganui Black Power member Ngapuri Nui was stood down from his volunteer position earlier this week after his gang connections were pointed out to Corrections Minister Judith Collins.

Radio New Zealand reported today Corrections had prepared a media release backing Mr Nui, but the department was overturned by Collins.

Corrections chief executive Ray Smith said that was not the case.


He said the media release was drafted based on information which was available last Wednesday, when his department was first made aware of Nui's links to Black Power.

"We then sought further information from Mr Nui about his links to the gang. On Friday, Mr Nui confirmed his status as a patched member. On Monday we suspended his registration as a registered volunteer."

In discussing Nui's case, Collins pointed out that specialised Maori programmes had not been effective.

This was despite the fact that Nui did not work for a Tikanga Maori programme.

The minister's comments angered former Maori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia, who accused her of racism.

Dame Tariana said prisoners did several programmes, and it was impossible to single out one programme for blame.

"What I am saying [is] for her to pick on one programme, actually what it highlights for me is the racism that resides in Judith Collins," she said.

She described the minister as "a woman who had no respect for any opinion other than her own".


A spokeswoman for Collins said she would not respond to personal attacks, while adding that "she has absolutely no tolerance for racism".

Her comments on Maori programmes were "based on evidence", the spokeswoman said, such as the 2.6 per cent increase in reconviction rates among people enrolled in Tikanga Maori programmes.