Real question, will Kahukura work?
The controversial decision to fund a drug rehabilitation programme in Central Hawke’s Bay that is facilitated by the Mongrel Mob could hurt the Government, even though a pilot programme was successful and it is run by a consultancy called Hard to Reach, headed by former gang member Harry Tam and public health expert Angie Wilkinson.
The latest development has National leader Judith Collins asking the Auditor-General to investigate the issue. While that is a political move, there is clearly genuine public opposition to the proposal.
The Kahukura programme aims to support participants to work through past trauma and drug use, serving up to 10 people over eight weeks living at Whatuiapiti Marae in Patangata, northeast of Otane.
Many of those riled at this can only see the words Mongrel Mob and $2.75 million (over three years, coming from the Proceeds of Crime fund). The situation was probably not helped by Tam’s seemingly smug answer to an interviewer at the weekend, that “Jacinda trusts me”.
Tam told television’s Q+A that methamphetamine didn’t finance gangs, in his experience at least, but rather individuals within gangs.
“People get into selling meth initially to support their own habit, then they realise they can make quick money and big money and then they go on and on.”
People who joined gangs and were ravaged by addiction had often suffered abuse in state care.
“You only have to have a look at what’s coming out of the Royal Commission of Inquiry, you know where . . . gangs originated from in New Zealand. It’s the people that have been in state care and have been abused and their traumas have never been dealt with.
“So, it’s an intergenerational transfer of trauma and dysfunction.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, one of the Ministers who approved the funding, says she is comfortable with it “because it’s a programme that was not just brought forward by the Ministry of Health. It was supported by Corrections, Police, MSD and the local Hawke’s Bay Police, and they would, of course, know more of the programme because it was trialled for a short period of time in 2020, and I place weight in the local police officers’ view”.
The Police Association does not support the decision and the Government has made a bad job of explaining it . . . it probably now ranks with the Auckland Harbour cycle bridge for unpopularity.
The real question to be debated is whether the programme will work, but that is being lost in the uproar.