Ju­bilee plans ring alarm bells

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By TESSA JOHNSTONE

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.

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