3 Mar 2021

Destiny Church leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki leave Auckland on eve of level 3 lockdown

7:02 pm on 3 March 2021

As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was putting Auckland into a snap lockdown on Saturday night, Destiny Church leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki were packing their bags.

Brian and Hannah Tamaki have launched the Coalition New Zealand party.

Brian Tamaki (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The couple left the city for Rotorua, arriving around midnight, where they told a crowd gathered for the Sunday morning service they had escaped Auckland to avoid the level 3 lockdown.

It comes as concern mounts over some churches defying lockdown rules and spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was clear on Saturday night in her message to people who were considering leaving Auckland ahead of the lockdown coming into force the following morning.

"The order that we put in place in order to create an enforcement regime around level 3 will take effect from 6am tomorrow morning," she said. We do ask people, though, to adopt those level 3 standards and rules as soon as they can."

But the Tamakis weren't prepared to be confined by the lockdown so headed to Rotorua where Destiny has a church.

The following morning, Hannah Tamaki took to the stage during the Sunday service to explain their reasons.

"So of course we escaped down to Rotorua, got here just after 12am because the shutdown was at 6am, and Mark and Daniel got down here to help us do this," she said.

"But it was better for us to be here - be in the atmosphere, be able to do this for you. So thank you for all the team that has made this happen."

Tamaki went on to encourage members to do more than just tithe to the church.

"The thing about Brian and I the whole time is that we've always believed you never come to the house of the Lord empty handed, even though you may do an AP [automatic payment].

"One dollar coin, two dollar coin, bring something into the house of the Lord. Bring what you can, over and above, because really it's the offering where God commands the blessing.

"The tithe is being obedient, so you bring 10 percent. That belongs to God. And then you get to thrive on the 90 percent.

"And then if you go over and above and give a little bit more for an offering, that's where God commands the blessing. So it's up to you - you make the decision, you make the choice."

Hannah Tamaki

Hannah Tamaki. File photo Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

She described the blessings that people could expect in return, like new cars, while an unknown number of people in the crowd clapped and cheered.

"If you're still thinking, 'Where's my jubilee blessing?' It's coming. You be patient, you just keep speaking it in faith, you be thanking the Lord in advance for what he's going to bring to you.

"I mean, we had a jubilee blessing that we didn't even ask for - we got given a Tesla. Hello? You know, we didn't need another car but the abundance of God is for his children, so I'm not going to say I'm going to sell that car, give it away. No, it was given to me."

Brian Tamaki, who describes himself as an apostle, explained his reasons for getting out of Auckland.

"We're on lockdown three in Auckland, that means there's to be no business for seven days. I made a decision with Hannah to go out before the 6am road blockages by the police and we can't get out for seven days.

"I'd be locked in my house. Gardening is okay, but I think I'll be more productive out in the rest of the country."

And he urged his followers not to fear the virus.

"God said that no plague will come near your house: 'I will send angels to guard and look after those who are in the secret place with God'.

On Sunday, microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles tweeted her disappointment at Aucklanders fleeing the city, describing it as a "shitty thing to do".

It's a sentiment echoed by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who said anyone who dodged Sunday's lockdown deadline potentially put the community at risk.

"Those who live in Auckland and who deliberately beat the deadline to get out of it clearly didn't give any consideration as to why the restrictions were being put in place.

"Health authorities didn't know how much community transmission there was and they restricted movement out of the region in order to stop people inadvertently spreading the disease to other parts of the country.

"Frankly, it's not smart and it's not in the spirit of acting responsibly to protect the community.

"We all need to play our part and, sadly, there's a minority of people - including those people who dodged the deadline to get out of the city knowing they were at risk, potentially, of spreading the disease - [who] weren't playing their part."

When RNZ's First Up sought comment from the Tamakis, a spokesperson for the church said it wasn't appropriate for RNZ to tell Apostle Tamaki where, when and how he should relate to the congregation of Destiny.

On Tuesday, Hannah Tamaki posted on Facebook the couple were now touring the country and would be in Invercargill this weekend.

In a statement released today, Destiny Church said it was not the media's job to sanction, on behalf of the state, Brian or Hannah Tamaki's work or travel arrangements, and it would not be dictated to by the state.

The church said it was timely to address the negativity that is constantly targeted at this couple, which it said reeked of contemporary discrimination and racism against Māori from within New Zealand media.

The statement said the couple's work was essential.

"In difficult times, people need to be able to turn to faith....otherwise all they are left with is hopelessness. We believe if Destiny Church and our leaders were to stop functioning, there would be an enormous breakdown in many families across this country."

"We declare, that the church will not be dictated to by the state. Woe betide when state tries to shut down the operations of a vibrant, problem-solving church," the statement said.