Pastor Derek Tait: A loyal deputy

Destiny Church pastor Derek Tait has been leading the charge in Christchurch against Government Covid-19 measures. Martin van Beynen tries to find out what this warrior for God and vaccine freedom is all about.



Stuff NZ Newspapers


Iexpected to be having a nice coffee and a sandwich as I welcomed Destiny Church pastor and former New Zealand representative boxer Derek Hohepa Tait at a Hereford St cafe where we had planned to meet. Maybe he would turn up on his Harley-Davidson motorbike or some other upmarket vehicle. Maybe he would bless the beggars who often occupy the footpath outside the cafe. I expected the exboxer to be bouncy and cheeky, ready to do a few rounds with the mainstream media he so scorns. He can be a bit of a wag with reporters. When a Stuff reporter asked him to spell his name recently, Tait gave him the wrong spelling. LOL. However, at the last minute he pulls out of our scheduled interview and photo shoot. He doesn’t say why. ‘‘I was suppose to meet with someone, maybe more than one? But my wife said Hun I have not got a good feeling about this, (not often she says that, she 99 per cent of the time lets me lead),’’ he says later on his Facebook page. It’s disappointing but perhaps understandable. He is, after all, on a war footing. ‘‘Everyone had thier (sic) rest? Good, because we charge this sat 15th in the north island #Wartime,’’ screams a recent post on his Facebook page. Spelling is not one of his strong points. This latest skirmish in the war is happening in Auckland at the Family Fun Day Out at the Manukau Sports Bowl where Destiny Church/The Freedoms and Rights Coalition is holding a rally – sorry Family Fun Day. ‘‘Hey Jacinda Leave our kids alone – upholding parental consent over government control,’’ is the theme, according to the publicity programme. For Tait, the vaccination of children against Covid-19 appears to be a do-or-die moment. ‘‘I’m a good man a peaceful man BUT you touch our kids that’s a game changer,’’ his Facebook page says. ‘‘When NOT if children get sick & or die from the Vax (they the media & Jabcindy & Dr Doomfield will say it’s Covid & blame unvaxed) WILL you then make a stand?’’ He remains defiantly ‘‘unvaxed’’. ‘‘I personally am NOT getting COVID Vaccine,’’ he tells his Facebook audience. ‘‘But that’s my choice/decision, no hate no judgement if you do get Vaccinated, each man (& women) have to make their own informed decision . . . My faith in Christ & belief in the strength & health of my immune system means I don’t need it & if I did get it it would not harm me.’’ Prominent role Tait, who has been Destiny Church’s pastor in Christchurch since 2008, has over recent months taken a more prominent role in the church’s resistance to the Government’s Covid-19 measures and dictates. He has led Christchurch protest marches and gatherings, some dressed up as picnics, and welcomed his beloved leader, the Visionary and Bishop, Brian Tamaki, to the south. The ‘‘evil state’’ embodied in the person of ‘‘Jabcinda or Jucinda’’ is clearly reeling. The marches and protests have occurred under the banner of the Freedoms and Rights Coalition Group, basically a Destiny Church organisation that has drawn together an eclectic bunch of disgruntled people and groups. Tait’s Facebook page boasts a recent image of him at a big January 8 march in Christchurch in which he wears a T-shirt saying ‘‘Free to Parent’’. A protester next to him is carrying a placard reading ‘‘Vaxinda is a Nazi, Communism Untermensch narcissism totalitarianism’’. Tait has bought into several recent fights. He is currently involved in a wrangle with the Christchurch City Council over noisy Destiny Church meetings and services in Cranmer Square in Central Christchurch, which have upset residents and breached bylaws. The council has billed the church for traffic management and forced it to apply for the required permit. The police and council met this week to decide how to approach the issue. The meetings are a big affair complete with a truck stage, sound equipment and portable toilets. Members are protective. When a Stuff reporter went to cover a recent gathering at which Tamaki spoke, she was surrounded by a group of male church members with ham-like biceps. When she remarked the approach was a bit intimidating, one of the group said: ‘‘Is it because we are black?’’ The crusader The crusader for God and vaccine freedom grew up in Rotorua and went to the big co-educational Western Heights High School. He seems to have excelled in sports and went on to represent New Zealand in boxing. What he did after school was to be a topic for our aborted interview, but he has hinted at a shameful past. When someone hijacked his Facebook page and made disparaging remarks about his wife Marina, an administrator for the Destiny Church, he complained of being stalked. ‘‘Even at my lowest trapped in my sin back in the day I never attacked a mans missus & children . . .’’ Tait posted. Whatever transpired in those years, he was close to being a founding member of Destiny Church, which started in Rotorua in 1998. By 2003 he had been dispatched to Whangarei to be the senior pastor there and five years later, he and Marina moved to Christchurch to lead the flock in the city of Christ. He has been active in the church’s Man Up programme, a 15-week rehabilitation-style exercise that teaches men to ‘‘open up, not harden up’’ and is recognised as straightening out hundreds of dysfunctional characters. More than anything, Tait has been a faithful follower of Brian Tamaki. ‘‘My whanau & I honour our spiritual father, our Apostle, our man of God, your courage is contagious, being under your Apostolic Authority has given me Apostolic Authority . . . I to am a man under Authority, Jesus I know & Apostle Brian Tamaki I know. . .’’ he says. When Tamaki expressed affront at a broadcast of the Muslim call to prayer after the mosque shootings in Christchurch in 2019, Tait organised a meeting of church members in Hagley Park, opposite the Al Noor mosque, proclaiming New Zealand and Christchurch belonged to Jesus. Tait was one of 700 men who swore a covenant oath of allegiance, obedience and deference to Tamaki in 2009 and wears the covenant ring on his right hand. The oath embodies a code of conduct which obliges the sworn to stand when Tamaki and his wife come into a room and never be over familiar. If they dine with him, they must not start eating before he does. Holy roller Tamaki preaches a form of prosperity religion which holds that sickness and poverty are curses that can be broken by faith. He and his wife have often been criticised for their ostentatious wealth, which is seen as being inconsistent with Destiny Church’s charitable status and true Christianity. In 2017 Hannah Tamaki’s purchase of a Mercedes-Benz SUV worth about $200,000 created a media storm. Tait and his wife live in a $1 million house in Rangiora, which is owned, at least on paper, by his son Zane, 33. This is strangely similar to the Tamakis’ accommodation arrangements. Their resort-style home in Papakura, near Auckland, is owned by their granddaughter Eden O’Connor and the Proton Trust Ltd. Late model vehicles are a feature of life at Tait’s address, although most of the vehicles appear to be owned by Zane. Zane’s fleet boasts a 2017 Land Rover Discovery, and he has recently bought a 2017 Ford Ranger Wildtrak. The cars are worth between $60,000 and $70,000 each. Zane has apparently recently added a flash fizz boat to the family assets. Tait recently posted this amusing Christmas exchange on his Facebook page. Zane – merry Christmas Dad Dad – thanks son , merry Christmas Zane – do you like your present Dad Dad – yes the t shirt fits well, can I drive your new truck son Zane – No dad that’s why I got you a t shirt Dad – what about your new boat Zane – gee Dad Zane is the director of a company called Authorised IT, which he owns with his mother. The company provides computer consultancy services. Tait drives a 2016 MercedesBenz C worth about $60,000, but his favoured mode of transport is a red 2005 Harley-Davidson Screaming Eagle motorbike, worth about $17,000. He worries his children, who have chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19, could, because of their stance, lose their homes. His daughter Jade owns a $700,000 house in Woodend with her partner. ‘‘They are being demonised by this government. They are all in Position of a Possible No jab No job, which means they will lose thier house which means they could become homeless . . . Can you imagine your children & grandchildren becoming homeless. ‘‘I can hear ‘‘just get the jab then’’ that’s exactly why You don’t get the jab . . . just step back & think about the mass national Control going on here !!!! ’’ If we had had our cafe chat I was going to ask him what he thought the Government was going to do with this new control and whether the sale of a few vehicles and the fizz boat might stave off the homelessness. God will provide It’s unclear how Pastor Tait and his wife make ends meet, but the church has a vigorous tithing system in which members devote a part of their income to the church. Where the tithe money goes is not completely clear. Destiny Church Christchurch is a registered charity but hasn’t filed annual returns for either 2020 and 2021. Neither for that matter has Destiny Church Auckland. The Christchurch branch’s last return, filed for the year to February 28, 2019, shows income of $150,000. On the books, only two people worked for the church full-time, earning about $60,000 in total. Tait does not appear to have much of a business record, so a private income seems unlikely. He was a director of the Wha¯ nau Ora Community Clinic (He Waka Tapu), but the company was removed from the register in October 2021 after only a year in business. Perhaps the couple lead a frugal lifestyle. Tait champions (on Facebook) self-restraint, advising his parishioners to be disciplined over lockdowns. ‘‘Crucify the flesh, bring the dirty ol hungry soul into subjection, highten the spirit,’’ he posted. He claims to have lost 15 kilograms since the beginning of 2021, but the weight loss has its downside. ‘‘I seem to feel the cold more, (especially riding my bike me thinks I need a bit of winter fat.’’ Mouth in the south Tait’s new profile is obviously sanctioned by Brian Tamaki, who normally tends to hog the limelight. The Christchurch pastor is quickly becoming the face of the Destiny Church in the South Island, not to mention the poster boy for the Freedoms and Rights group. Perhaps Tamaki sees the South Island of New Zealand as a potential bastion for the fundamentalist Christian faithful in the way the south of the United States provides a more patriotic and morally conservative home for Pentecostals like Destiny Church members. ‘‘Many Southerners have had a raw deal with all of the Covid lockdowns and restrictions as they’ve had very few cases in the South Island, but been punished regardless. They’ve felt forgotten and discarded by this government,’’ Tamaki says. The church cultivates a feeling of societal collapse just around the corner, as is evident in Tamaki’s inspiring new year message. ‘‘Armageddon! The battle is going to heat up! We may have been locked down and knocked down in 2021, but in 2022 we’ll breakthrough for you!’’ If the great rapture does come, Tamaki can count on a loyal servant in Christchurch.