Govt support for gang families 'can only be good' - ex-gang member

A former gang member has welcomed a Government trial of two new programmes aimed at stopping the children of gangs also joining gangs by giving them better educational and work opportunities. 

Social Development Minister AnneTolley says the Government is paying providers to "go in and work on a one-to-one basis with a number of gang families". 

Headhunters, Black Power and Mongrel Mob are believed to be co-operating to keep up with the demand for methamphetamine. Source: 1 NEWS

Former gang member Eugene Ryder told ONE News the programmes "can only be good for the families that are involved in that". 

Ms Tolley announced the programmes yesterday as a new report showed more than $700 million in welfare assistance has gone to gang members and their children since 1993.

"So that's why we are saying, yes, we do need to have law enforcement part of this solution, but we also have to start working with these families," Ms Tolley said. 

Police Minister Judith Collins says the Head Hunters gang is using the Mongrel Mob and Black Power to distribute methamphetamine and the gang co-operation is being driven partly by demand for meth from wealthier New Zealanders. 

"There's a lot of middle class kids who go to the best schools who are being targeted because their parents have plenty of money," Ms Collins said. 

The Drug Foundation responded that it's not aware of school-aged children being targeted and that methamphetamine use has halved in recent years.

Mr Ryder says it's also unfair to imply all gang members are criminals selling drugs. 

"Some of these directives are based on an assumption that a gang member is a criminal and that all gang members are criminals. And that's not really the case, just like not all criminals are gang members," the former gang member said. 

Meanwhile if the two programmes being trialled in Bay of Plenty and East Coast don't work, the Government says it's got other initiatives and would like up to three or four pilot programmes. 

ONE News political editor Corin Dann says he's been told some of the initiatives could target the wives of gang members and encourage them out of the gang life, "because the big issue here is this inter-generational problem of the kids of gang members becoming gang members themselves".

"That's what the Government is really trying to tackle here. And it's quite a radical shift for them to actually get in and get involved with gang families one-on-one," Dann said.