8 Sep 2022

Harry Tam wants apology after being wrongly implicated in Northland lockdown

8:25 am on 8 September 2022
12072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Harry Tam has worked in for the Government in a number of roles, he's also a member of the Mongrel Mob. His reaction to Judith Collins standing down a Black Power member, Ngapari Nui.

Mongrel Mob life member Harry Tam. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mongrel Mob life member Harry Tam wants an apology after he was wrongly implicated in the Northland Covid-19 lockdown.

A police report released to RNZ under the Official Information Act shows the women at the centre of the 11-day lockdown in October 2021 were not gang-affiliated sex workers.

It also cleared Tam of any involvement after former deputy prime minister Winston Peters claimed Tam helped the women illegally travel to Te Tai Tokerau.

The report "found no evidence to suggest that [member(s) of the group] had any connection to Harry Tam, the Mongrel Mob or were involved in prostitution".

Tam told RNZ he was working long days at the time, pushing a vaccination drive for gang members, and found the accusations disheartening and depressing.

"It really upset me because I felt like I was there doing a public service at the risk of my own health and I'm getting vilified for something that I know nothing about.

"I was just fortunate that QC contacted me and offered his services to me and I took it up and we got an apology from Winston."

Peters has since issued a correction and apologised for making the allegations about Tam.

Tam said he had made inquiries about the women at the centre of the Northland lockdown after he was contacted by activist and former MP Hone Harawira.

"They had heard that some women had crossed the border that had gang links. We checked all our sources and no one knew these women so we were able to go back to them and say as far as we know they're not related to gangs."

He carried on with his work and next heard he was in the news from Harawira, after Peters claimed on television Tam had helped the women.

"I thought it was a big joke at first. I was actually driving down to Hamilton at the time to do a vaccination of some of the gangs down there. My phone was red hot with the media asking about my involvement in it. At first, like I say, it was a bit of a joke but after a while I got quite sort of depressed about it because I knew I had nothing to do with it and I was getting vilified for it."

Tam said officials knew the women weren't gang-affiliates thanks to him and should apologise for not clearing his name earlier.

"I feel like out of all this, no one got named; I got named. If anyone should be getting an apology it should be me because those officials could have cleared that up right away. When they knew who those women were and they had no gang affiliation. They should have spoken up but they didn't."

No govt apology to women - minister

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said there was no plan for a government apology to the women, after the police report released yesterday showed their application to cross the border was rejected by one government department, but was then approved by another.

Asked on First Up if they would receive an apology, he said that was not on the cards though mistakes were made in processing the applications.

"I think there was a mistake made, you would need to talk to the Ministry of Social Development about what was communicated to them at the time.

"In terms of those comments that were made about what their occupation was, I think the people who made those comments are the ones that need to think about whether they would want to apologise for that, and obviously that's people who aren't in the government any more so you'd need to talk to them directly."

Robertson said putting Northland into lockdown had been the right decision.

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