Jubilee plans ring alarm bells
Residents of properties on a rural Porirua road are concerned a religious group is quietly setting up in their neighbourhood – but the group says they’re ‘‘not Waco’’ and there is nothing to worry about.
Homeowners in Belmont Rd, Judgeford, have raised concerns with Porirua City Council and local politicians after it appeared Wainuiomata man Selwyn Stevens had started work on a religious retreat on the road without consent from authorities.
Stevens, founder and president of Jubilee Resources International, bought an eight hectare property in Belmont Rd in June and has also recently secured a large former convent, currently on a Taita property.
He planned to move the 490sqm building to Belmont Rd, but told Kapi-Mana News it would be used primarily as a family home.
Belmont Rd residents became concerned when they looked on the Jubilee website and saw Stevens had plans to develop the site into a training centre and retreat.
Stevens said the neighbours had misunderstood and it would not have any negative impact on residents.
‘‘It’s just for my wife and I, and from time to time we have people who aren’t too difficult to deal with, but just need some time out. So we talk with them, pray with them,’’ said Stevens.
‘‘One way for people to sort out their lives is to get a bit of dirt under their nails. They can help grow the food that will feed them.
‘‘We’ve done that in the past and nobody has stayed more than about five weeks, and most of them it’s usually a weekend.’’
Plans for the site have been removed from the Jubilee website and it now features this statement: ‘‘Because of some busy-bodies misrepresenting our intentions regarding our private property, all refer- ence to that [Ministry] has been removed from here for now.’’
Stevens said the major earthworks that had started on the property, which Porirua City Council officers told him to stop because he needed consent for the work, were simply for the garden and were not intended to make way for the house.
When officers issued Stevens with the abatement notice to stop the works, he gave them a trespass notice and told them he would accept the council notice in exchange for $100,000.
The work has stopped, but Stevens said he was waiting for the ‘‘condition’’ on the abatement notice to be satisfied – council said it had no legal capacity to negotiate conditions on notices.
Wellington Regional Council is investigating a claim Stevens altered a stream that runs through the property.
One neighbour said the trespass notice Stevens posted at the property gate was a ‘‘confronting start’’ – a one-page notice with reference to God’s laws – and it is understood volunteers working on the land have told Stevens’ neighbours they are trespassing when on a shared driveway.
Resident Lisa Dymond said she was concerned they were led to believe it was a private home when there were other plans, and to some extent about the activities that might be happening there.
‘‘If it was Ruth Pretty with a cookery school that’s a totally different concept,’’ she said.
Stevens has described Jubilee as a ‘‘family group’’ with Christian foundations, and said residents had nothing to fear.
‘‘In my observation most churches are boring and irrelevant and quite a few of the rest are led by control freaks. ‘‘That’s the last thing we want there. ‘‘It’s just a family group. We’re not Waco or anything like that.
‘‘In fact, we help people get out of those groups.’’
He criticises some other churches, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, as cults. He also describes Freemasonry and alternative health therapies as spiritual deceptions and he has published e-books with titles such as Apocalypse Soon: End Times Explained.
Residents were also concerned that the Jubilee website said it had raised 75 per cent of the funds for the ‘‘Kingdom project’’ through donations from Jubilee members, but the land titles were in Stevens’ name rather than Jubilee’s. Jubilee is a registered charity. Most neighbours spoken to just wanted open communication about what Stevens’ plans were, and wanted to see him go through the correct consent process.
Stevens said while he would be happy to talk with residents, it was ‘‘ none of their business’’ because it was private land, and he said they had no reason to think any development would increase traffic volumes on the single-lane road.
He was now going through the consent process with councils and the old convent would be stored on a commercial site until the consent was granted, he said.
Kapi-Mana News has been advised that at least one of the residents is seeking legal advice.
Divine plan: Jubilee Resources’ Selwyn Stevens, with his wife, Anne.