Zap’s top three now key Canty fig­ures

In the late ’ 70s and ’ 80s, Zenith Ap­plied Phi­los­o­phy fol­low­ers took to the streets to win con­verts. One ad­her­ent has close ties to the Christchur­ch City Coun­cil. Un­til re­cently, an­other was vice-pres­i­dent of theACTPart­y. MARTINVANB­EYNENlooks at the Zapp

The Press - - News -

Zenith Ap­plied Phi­los­o­phy (Zap) is a pe­cu­liarly Christchur­ch phe­nom­e­non. Its three most prom­i­nent ad­her­ents are well known lo­cally but not na­tion­ally.

Lo­cal de­vel­oper Dave Hen­der­son has been a com­mit­ted mem­ber for nearly 30 years and, th­ese days, is never far from the head­lines. Trevor Louden, who un­til re­cently was the vice-pres­i­dent of the ACT Party, is based in Christchur­ch, re­search­ing Left-wing groups.

For­mer Christchur­ch city coun­cil­lor and Can­ter­bury District Health Board mem­ber Robin Booth was also a mem­ber of Zap. The Wizard at­tended Zap meet­ings un­til go­ing his own way.

The city coun­cil’s pur­chase of five Hen­der­son prop­er­ties for $17 mil­lion this month has evoked a raft of ru­mours as­so­ci­at­ing mayor Bob Parker with Zap. Parker said he had never even heard of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

‘‘You have to ask where on earth are th­ese ru­mours com­ing from,’’ he said.

Zap ad­her­ents have been de­scribed as kooks and an­tiSemites but the sect’s man­i­festo re­mains some­thing of a mys­tery.

Over its 30-year his­tory, Zap has taken el­e­ments of Scien­tol­ogy, East­ern mys­ti­cism and the John Birch So­ci­ety to cook up a pot-pourri of ideas to suit peo­ple of many per­sua­sions.

Its hey­day was prob­a­bly in the late ’70s and ’80s when fol­low­ers took to the streets in Christchur­ch to preach an an­tiu­nion, anti-tax and an­ti­com­mu­nist mes­sage.

They flogged pam­phlets and books such as None Dare Call it Con­spir­acy, a John Birch So­ci­ety tract es­pous­ing a con­spir­acy the­ory that com­mu­nism was con­trolled by in­ter­na­tional bankers.

They en­gaged peo­ple in con­ver­sa­tion and those seen as ‘‘achiev­ers’’ or ‘‘high tone’’ were in­vited to take per­son­al­ity tests and en­cour­aged to take a se­ries of self-im­prove­ment cour­ses cost­ing be­tween $160 and $680, large amounts in 1979.

The early years of the move­ment were wild times by all ac­counts. The founder, John Dal­hoff, for­merly of Golden Bay and whose par­ents were from Den­mark, claimed to have mas­tery of the phys­i­cal uni­verse and at one time as­serted he had ab­sorbed aWelling­ton earth­quake which would oth­er­wise have cracked open con­tain­ers hid­ing Sovi­ets ready to take over the coun­try. He ex­pelled two fol­low­ers whom he ac­cused of be­ing aliens. He called him­self John Ul­ti­mate. His house at 193 Clyde Road was de­clared cen­tre of the uni­verse.

Zap ad­her­ents ran sev­eral busi­nesses, one of which was a chain of sand­wich bars called the Sand­wich Fac­tory owned by Hen­der­son. He blamed its fail­ure on a bit­ter fight with the unions. ‘‘Our staff did not want to be­long to a union. We weren’t about to force them,’’ he wrote in his 1999 tax saga, Be Very Afraid.

The fight, how­ever, was with five young women em­ploy­ees who claimed Hen­der­son had paid them un­der-award wages and de­ducted sums from their wages for mis­de­meanours. The Can­ter­bury Ho­tel, Hospi­tal, and Restau­rant Work­ers Union took their cases to the Ar­bi­tra­tion Court and won a $20,000 award.

There were also al­le­ga­tions of bizarre pu­rifi­ca­tion rit­u­als, rigid fi­nan­cial con­trols on mem­bers, and mem­bers grow­ing away from their fam­i­lies.

In 1985 MP Philip Bur­don, in whose elec­torate the sect op­er­ated, called for a gov­ern­ment in­quiry which never even­tu­ated for lack of hard ev­i­dence.

At its feisty peak the sect prob­a­bly had no more than a few hun­dred re­cruits, and by 1990 the mem­ber­ship had thinned to a core group of about 20 to 30.

Af­ter 1990, the street ac­tivism took a back seat with ad­her­ents gath­er­ing at Dal­hoff’s large home in Clyde Road on Sun­day nights for a meal and widerang­ing dis­cus­sions. At­ten­dees would be en­cour­aged to con­trib­ute to talk­back on Ra­dio Lib­erty, a lib­er­tar­ian ra­dio sta­tion owned by Hen­der­son, which folded in 1995 af­ter seven months on air.

Dal­hoff would par­tic­i­pate in the gath­er­ings but only by way of an in­ter­com. He had be­come mor­bidly obese and seemed to have an aver­sion to meet­ing peo­ple face to face al­though he would tele­phone ad­her­ents. The meet­ings con­tin­ued for 10 years, dur­ing which time at­ten­dees did not see him once.

The group has rules and prin­ci­ples and breaches re­ceived penal­ties such as a pe­riod of work on an or­ganic farm run by the sect in Belfast called Na­tro­dale Plus Or­gan­ics. The op­er­a­tion is now a com­pany di­rected by com­mit­ted Zap mem­ber Su­san Dawe, who also owned Farmer John’s burger bar in Colombo Street.

Other pun­ish­ments in­cluded giv­ing a speech in Cathe­dral Square and help­ing out at an old peo­ple’s home or the SPCA. Dal­hoff was re­garded as a harsh dis­ci­plinar­ian.

The per­sonal growth cour­ses con­tin­ued in the ’90s al­though th­ese were al­ways run by Dal­hoff’s wife, Joy, a pe­tite, strik­ingly at­trac­tive woman. She now runs the cour­ses from her suite in The Her­itage, the for­mer Gov­ern­ment Build­ing in Cathe­dral Square.

Dal­hoff and her son, Jens, own one of the two lux­ury pent­house suites in the build­ing with a com­pany called Her­itage Trus­tee Com­pany Ltd owned by Auck­land res­i­dents Anne and Dou­glas Somer-Edgar. The pent­house suite next door is owned by Prin­ci­pal Unit 60 Ltd, a com­pany owned by Hen­der­son’s wife, Kristina Bux­ton.

Joy Dal­hoff con­tin­ues to teach the eclec­tic mix of prin­ci­ples de­vel­oped by John Dal­hoff from a num­ber of sources. Es­sen­tially, they cen­tre on the 200 ax­ioms of Scien­tol­ogy. The ax­ioms were com­posed by founder Ron Hub­bard and re­garded as the dis­til­la­tion of all wis­dom. In­com­pre­hen­si­ble to the un­trained, they posit that life is ba­si­cally a static that has no mass, no mo­tion, no wave­length, no lo­ca­tion in space or in time. It has the abil­ity to pos­tu­late and to per­ceive.

Dal­hoff joined the Church of Scien­tol­ogy while study­ing at Massey Uni­ver­sity in the late ’60s and went to the UK to study at the Saint Hill Manor Scien­tol­ogy Cen­tre in West Sus­sex, Eng­land. He re­turned in New Zealand as a full-time Scien­tol­ogy worker and in 1972 was ex­pelled for fail­ure to com­ply with the eth­i­cal codes of the church.

In Au­gust 1974 he de­clared he had reached the ‘‘ul­ti­mate’’ state and in Septem­ber an­nounced he was John Ul­ti­mate. He died in 2001.

It is im­pos­si­ble to know how much money Dal­hoff made from his time in the sect and he in­vested for years in the US stock­mar­ket. He was a gen­er­ous donor to a large num­ber of causes.

Joy Dal­hoff has re­port­edly taken a softer line than her hus­band and read­mit­ted mem­bers who were pre­vi­ously dereg­is­tered. Dereg­is­tered ad­her­ents were not al­lowed to talk to cur­rent mem­bers un­der John Dal­hoff’s rules.

Her wa­tered-down Zap has not de­terred com­mit­ted mem­bers and it looks set to carry on for many years to come.

Dave Hen­der­son was asked about his in­volve­ment in Zap but re­fused to an­swer spe­cific ques­tions. He sent this re­sponse: ‘‘My re­sponse which I ex­pect to be pub­lished in full is that th­ese are very stupid ques­tions and propo­si­tions and fol­low on from an ex­traor­di­nary amount of bit­ter­ness ex­tended from Martin Van Bey­nen to me. My ex­pe­ri­ence with Martin is that he brings his per­sonal fears, bit­ter­ness and ha­treds to bear in his sto­ries and that he quite hap­pily omits im­por­tant facts or rel­e­vant com­ment from a story in or­der to give that story its sig­nif­i­cance. Such ap­proach pre­cludes mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion on what are of­ten se­ri­ous mat­ters.’’

An il­lus­tra­tion from cov­er­age in The Press of re­ac­tion to Zenith Ap­plied Phi­los­o­phy in 1980.

Dave Hen­der­son

Trevor Louden

Robin Booth

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