Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has defended the Human Rights Commission for giving koha to the Mongrel Mob stating one can "never walk away from tikanga".
The Human Rights Commission has copped criticism from National and Act after Newstalk ZB revealed it gifted $200 as koha – a customary Māori gift or donation – to the Waikato chapter of the gang ahead of a hui in May.
The parties said taxpayer money going to a gang was unacceptable, and called for chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt to resign.
Jackson was asked by media if he had ever given koha to the Mongrel Mob, having met with gang representatives on a few occasions.
Jackson said he had not met with them on a marae and thus it was not relevant, but he defended the process as tikanga, custom.
"We are talking about carrying out tikanga. You get invited somewhere your obligation as Māori never leaves you, you give a koha.
"It is not about supporting them, we absolutely reject that gang life, you come to my marae you are not allowed patches.
"But it is not about supporting the Mob, this is nonsense from National and the Act Party."
Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence Marama Davidson, who attended the same hui as Hunt, said she had not given koha.
"No, but all groups we visit around the country, when they are hosting and taking care of us it is up to us if we give koha, like we would for any group."
Asked in the House today by National's police spokesman Simeon Brown if the Government supported the commission's actions, Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins, speaking on behalf of Justice Minister Kris Faafoi, said it was not appropriate to comment.
The commission was legally established to be "independent and free from the direction of ministers or government policy", he said.
"The positions that they take will sometimes be positions that the Government of the day disagree with, and the members opposite should think carefully if they want to end up in a position where the chief human rights commissioner can only express views or take actions that the Government of the day sanctions."
When asked if he thought Hunt should resign, Hipkins stated it required the Governor-General to be satisfied there was just cause.
"This Government follows the law," Hipkins said.
Act Party leader David Seymour asked Hipkins if giving money to a criminal organisation met the threshold to remove the commissioner or if it was just "hakuna-matata", a Swahili phrase referenced in The Lion King loosely translated as "no worries".
In response, Hipkins reiterated the commission's independence.
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi asked a supplementary question about whether the minister thought the Opposition's interpretation of donation was "very different to the interpretation of koha"?
He also asked of Act's former leader, "Don Brash sitting on an educational trust with the Mongrel Mob; does that sound like hakuna-matata?"
Brown told media while independence of agencies like the commission should be respected, the Government should take responsibility for the inappropriate use of taxpayer funding.
"I refuse to think the minister thinks donating to organised crime is appropriate use of taxpayer funds.
"Hunt simply has to go and then the Government needs to take a long look at itself and how it is managing the rise of gangs in New Zealand."
text by Michael Neilson, NZ Herald