A Mongrel Mob PR person was heckled until she sat down at a heated public meeting last night in Tauranga about gang tensions in the region.
Louise Hutchinson, media liaison for the Mongrel Mob, got into a debate with Simon Bridges at the meeting, which was called by the National Party leader following months of unrest and several deaths.
Mr Bridges reiterated the party's tough-on-crime stance to the hundreds gathered at the Tauranga Yacht Club.
But Ms Hutchinson stood up during the meeting to talk about the Waikato Mongrel Mob's good intentions and how prisons were "a moral and fiscal failure".
"I'd encourage you, Simon, to come and visit us and not to use it as a political agenda. If you really want to win the election maybe it's something you should consider coming and looking at because you will not eliminate gangs."
Ms Hutchinson also talked about her kids growing up going to school and playing sports with Mongrel Mob members' children.
"I know what it's like. I wouldn't be representing the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom if I thought they were like what I see in Hawke's Bay.
"I'm a former corrections officer. I've seen this first hand," she said, adding the Waikato Mongrel Mob only had two members incarcerated in the past six years.
Mr Bridges said he accepts that "some good has been done" in the Waikato Mongrel Mob patch, but he asked: "Why is it that your Mongrel Mob chapter is growing exponentially in numbers? Why is it that the methamphetamine in Hamilton and the Waikato are going through the roof and continue to rise and rise? Why is it your leader won't give back the illegal guns he has in the hundreds?"
His questions were met with cheers from those gathered at the meeting, many who spoke about the fear they hold in the region at the moment.
"You're totally wrong," she responded, again inviting him to visit.
"Louise, I know you're driven by your own best intentions," National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell chimed in, talking about a young woman who "suffered horrendously" after joining a gang at 14.
Mr Mitchell said the woman pleaded to be kept away from gangs and to build a relationship with her children which he tried to help her to do.
"You took her down to the Waikato, you took her down to the kingdom to the Mongrel Mob. Do you know where she is now? She's back in jail breaching her parole. So please don't stand up here and start lecturing me about the Mongrel Mob.
"If that's just one case, I could give you a dozen," he said.
Mr Mitchell said the party would help willing gang members integrate into society, but said "as long as they keep illegal firearms, as long as they keep earning patches - and by the way, to earn a patch you have to have committed some sort of violent crime - as long as they keep dealing the methamphetamine and the drugs then we'll continue to take the position we won't talk to you."
He said National would provide "an offramp" for people to exit gangs to stop intergenerational harm.
Again those gathered at the meeting cheered.
"Sit down, you've had your time," the crowd yelled when she called out state care and claimed "Oranga Tamariki is the abuser".