Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it was "completely irresponsible" for Destiny Church leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki to leave Auckland on Saturday night for Rotorua, attending a Sunday morning church service.
Auckland's Level 3 lockdown began at 6am Sunday, however Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked the public on Saturday night to adopt Level 3 behaviour as soon as possible. The pair left Auckland, arrived in Rotorua late Saturday, then attended a church service the next morning. RNZ reported they were planning on touring New Zealand.
"I would encourage everybody to exercise judgment here," Hipkins said.
"Sneaking out of Auckland right at the beginning of a lockdown and having large gatherings of people is simply putting people at risk unnecessarily."
In response, a press release from Destiny Church said it stood by Brian and Hannah Tamaki, "who travel the length and breadth of this country to do their job, meeting people, encouraging and inspiring many".
"Their job cannot be done from the comforts of home. Māori respond kanohi ki te kanohi [face to face]. It is also not the media’s job to tell the Tamakis what they can, and cannot do.
"We believe if Destiny Church and our leaders were to stop functioning, there would be an enormous breakdown in many families across this country. The Tamakis therefore need to continue their essential work."