5 Mar 2021

Tamaki's hunting trip in Te Anau riles mayor

7:24 am on 5 March 2021

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Or any dollars at all. That's the message from Southland's mayor to Destiny Church leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki who he says are not welcome in his region.

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Brian and Hannah Tamaki have visited several areas of the country since leaving Auckland just before alert level 3 took effect last Sunday. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

It comes as the couple fronted for two radio stations at the same time last night offering two very different versions of events.

Speaking for the first time since First Up revealed their late night exodus to Rotorua to avoid Auckland's week-long level 3 lockdown, Brian Tamaki told Checkpoint that like 9000 other Aucklanders, they had been legally entitled to do so and had important business outside of the city.

"I'm in the people-changing business and for me to carry on my people-changing business, which I'm into, it was very important for me to be able to carry on that 'cause I had previous bookings around the country."

But speaking to Magic Talk, at exactly the same time, Hannah Tamaki was on the phone to host Ryan Bridge offering a very different explanation.

"If people actually check our Facebook page out, they'll see that Brian hunts in Te Anau every March. And when we started seeing this, we just moved his hunting forward because he always said, 'Oh, I'd rather be out in the bush'," she said.

"That's something that we had decided we would do at the last one, and when we heard it we thought, 'Well, let's go. We'll go earlier'.

"Brian had packed up the the buggy to go hunting, loaded in the dogs, threw the suitcase in the car and we went to Rotorua."

The couple left Auckland after Saturday's level 3 announcement, arriving in Rotorua just after midnight and hosting a church service there on Sunday morning.

And while Auckland was in level 3 and Rotorua following level 2 rules of no more than 100 people, the couple were confused about how many people were in attendance.

Here's what Brian Tamaki told Checkpoint's Lisa Owen: "There was less than 20, 25 people at the most at that gathering," he said.

And here's what Hannah Tamaki told Magic Talk's Ryan Bridge: "We only had 100 people in a 500-seat auditorium."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield expressed surprise the Tamakis had travelled the length of the country in just a few days.

"Whether it's the Tamakis or anyone out of Auckland the request of them has been clear: Actually they should be minimising their interaction with large groups of people, and in fact there should not be large gatherings anywhere in the country."

The couple are still in the South Island, Hannah revealing she's in Christchurch while her husband is now on a hunting trip in Te Anau before they meet in Invercargill for a church service on Sunday.

Southland Mayor Gary Tong was in no doubt how he felt about their visit to the region.

"They're not welcome. Due to the circumstances, they're just not welcome here," he said.

"The way they left Auckland under cover of darkness, really, it's not good ... the whole thing's disappointing."

Brian Tamaki, who calls himself an apostle, told Checkpoint that while Destiny Auckland had claimed more than $90,000 in wage subsidies, lockdowns have been bad for business.

"Aucklanders are a bit tired about being locked down, jeopardising our businesses," he said.

He was asked whether it was jeopardising his business specifically. "You know what? It does for the whole country."

Hunting trip 'a worry'

Tong said if leaving Auckland under the cover of darkness to avoid the level 3 lockdown wasn't bad enough, news that Brian Tamaki avoided lockdown to go on a hunting trip is "doing his head in".

"That's actually quite a worry. Te Anau's really down at the moment and to have these people up in that area is just not on.

"You know, the people up there are suffering with their businesses, they're waiting to hear when the Covid level is going to be lifted, and now we've got somebody from Auckland just blatantly wandering around up there. That just does my head in, actually.

"They haven't come down here on the business trip, they haven't come here for any any essential work, that's for sure."

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Southland Mayor Gary Tong: "They haven't come here for any any essential work, that's for sure." Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Tong was receiving messages from Southlanders who also didn't want the Tamakis in town.

"l've had a call just in the last quarter of an hour in regards to it, and I don't think that will be the last one.

"I don't think people actually realise that this couple are in our community now and have travelled irresponsibly from Auckland, to Rotorua, down to here. I just find it absolutely disappointing."

He said the person who contacted him found it "unbelievable that they were in our area when there's been no sign of Covid in the South Island".

"It's certainly in the Auckland area, so that's telling you that we need to do exactly what the caucus and the prime minister are telling us to do and to behave.

"And I'm sorry, but I find it absolutely disappointing, for want of a better word."

Brian and Hannah Tamaki say neither of them will be getting the Covid vaccine. Hannah told Magic Talk she was confident she wasn't infected.

"I haven't got Covid, I've had my test and I'm negative," she said.

Asked when she had a test, she replied: "Six weeks ago."

The couple also launched attacks on the media yesterday and threatened to take legal action against journalists who covered the story, labelling them a modern-day lynch mob.

As for the Tesla the couple told their flock at Sunday's service they were gifted, they wouldn't disclose who the donor was.

"Somebody who obviously wanted to give us the Tesla handed the keys over and said, 'Would you like this? We want to give it to you as a gift," Brian Tamaki told Checkpoint.

"Well I wouldn't turn it down, would you?"

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