Scientology opens New Zealand headquarters
The controversial Church of Scientology opened its first New Zealand base on Saturday.
It’s housed in one of Auckland’s landmark heritage buildings - the red-brick former Whitecliffe Art College on Grafton Rd.
Scientology’s leader David Miscavige mingled with the hundreds of attendees, which included its local followers as well as curious members of the public.
President of the New Zealand Rationalist’s Association Peter Harrison went along out of curiosity and said the event kicked off with a ‘‘Maori welcome that felt a bit staged’’. He said that while he was ‘‘naturally a bit of a cynic’’ about the religion - which counts Tom Cruise and other high profile actors amongst its flock - he wanted to hear about its values first hand. ‘‘In fact, the speakers had a big focus on how Scientologists help disenfranchised youth and stand up for human rights,’’ he said.
‘‘We can support that regardless of the underlying theology.’’
Harrison said he heard one of the speakers say ‘‘psychiatrists should be wiped off the face of the earth’’ which he thought was ‘‘a bit harsh.
‘‘But I didn’t come away brainwashed - that was good.’’
The building was purchased in 2007 for $10 million, borrowed interest-free from the Church of Scientology International.
The Church of Scientology spent $6 million restoring this heritage building on Grafton Road, Auckland.