Scien­tol­ogy opens NZ HQ

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - STAFF RE­PORTER

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.

How­ever, he said some of the speeches were swamped with jar­gon that lay­men at­ten­dees such as him­self found hard to fol­low.

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’’. The build­ing was pur­chased in 2007 for $10 mil­lion, bor­rowed in­ter­est-free from the Church of Scien­tol­ogy In­ter­na­tional. Its restora­tion is es­ti­mated to have cost $6 mil­lion.

OSSIAN BEE

The Church of Scien­tol­ogy spent $6 mil­lion restor­ing this her­itage build­ing on Grafton Road, Auckland.

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