Destiny Church's plans to build a ten-acre 'town' in South Auckland has many describing the movement as a cult.
Speaking at Destiny Church's New Year's Eve 'MegaService' in Rotorua, self-styled 'Bishop' Brian Tamaki declared that the church has secured resource consent to build schools, a university and a massive auditorium in South Auckland.
Footage screened on TV ONE showed the crowd rising and cheering when Tamaki told followers that ten acres of land had been acquired and that "we signed a contract" and that "we can do anything we want - we can build it".
"We had to get resource consent meaning that the council would let us build our schools, our auditorium - basically building a town," Tamaki said.
The move has drawn spirited comment on ONE News' Facebook page.
While some defended the church's right, many were quick to label the church a cult.
"How about pumping that money back into the church into those families that really, honestly can not afford to pay his fees that he so calls "Tithing" [&] Too much money in one mans pocket to be "right" in my books," Harley Lass said on ONE News' Facebook page.
Craig Sherson said there was "nothing Christian about bleeding people dry to feather your own nest."
The Auckland Council was also a target for criticism for its decision to grant consent to the church.
"What insane Council actually granted resource for this?" said Julian Tyerman.
"I trust in the future when the inevitable happens, it will be the Council that is taken to task."
But others were supportive of the church's right to build a town. Cameron Setefano put forward the view that Destiny's detractors should support the town.
"As long as their practices don't impose on others' lives, and I can't think of a time they did apart from the anti-gay march a few years ago, then who cares?" he said.
"Too many people here are undermining others' free will and freedom of choice. Once they build their little community and live there, they'll probably be out of our hair," said Setefano.
And others pointed out that Destiny's actions weren't unlike some other religious congregations.
"Isn't it funny, Exclusive Brethren have been operating as a cult for centuries, having there own communities, own schools yet when Destiny Church decides to do it. BIG NEWS!" said Charlotte Kamprad.
"Believe it or not, there is a lot of good in this Church minus the negative pomp the media coats it with."
Call for money
The block of land Destiny intends to build on is on Druces Rd, Wiri is just off the Southern Motorway.
The deal allows Destiny to lease the property with an option to buy after it has sold its current headquarters in Mt Wellington.
The church will take possession of the land in December.
Tamaki is now calling for money from members of his congregation.
"Much of your seed is going to go toward the foundations of an offering toward our promised land, and that beginning is not going to come without a fruitful start financially," he said.
ONE News was told by Destiny Church that Tamaki is camping in the Bay of Plenty.
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