Destiny Church has staged a dramatic protest demanding access to New Zealand’s prisons.
Brian Tamaki led hundreds of people, including patched gang members, onto the forecourt of Parliament.
The church wants to run a rehabilitation programme in the prisons, and it wants the Government to pay for it – but they’re protesting before they’ve even applied for the money.
Bikies rolled up to Parliament along with leader of the pack Mr Tamaki, telling the Government to ‘man up’ – the name of Destiny Church’s prison programme.
“Man Up programmes do far better than any Government programmes,” Mr Tamaki told Newshub.
The initiative aims to turn around the lives of Māori overrepresented in our crime and prison statistics, changing lives like that of Andre Nicholas, who was among the protesters.
“We looked up to our brothers who were in the gangs; drug dealers, angry men who were violent. But this programme has helped us to overcome our mental monsters.”
It’s supported by gangs like the Mongrel Mob.
“[It’s] helping our brothers out of prison and making them men,” said one member.
“Good for our Māoris, trying to help out our communities,” said another.
Newshub asked Justice Minister Andrew Little how he felt about having patched gang members associated.
“When you say patched gang members, there are guys here with patches with ‘Tū Tangata’ on the back,” he said. “This is a public place, so you can’t stop folks coming here.”
“There’s a few gang members, but it’s all part of it,” added Willie Jackson.
Mr Tamaki had his own question for the Government.
“I’ve never seen so many Māori MPs in Parliament at one time. What are you doing?”
He’s issued a Treaty claim to get the programme funded, saying he’s been denied access to prisons and to funding. The Government has a different story.
“The advice I have is that no application has been made,” says Mr Little.
“That’s the problem here – they haven’t actually gone through a formal process,” says Mr Jackson.
But Mr Tamaki says the church has applied for funding “on different levels, and been told we couldn’t”.
Mr Little is welcoming his contribution, saying “we need every bit of help” – gang members, Destiny Church and all.