Key players in the controversial Hokitika plastics factory proposal are devotees of the Church of Scientology. Wayne Byrne, of Sydney, and Soren Kierkegaard, of Tauranga, are the two principals of FT Manufacturing (Westland) Ltd, which has received a $500,000 loan from the Westland District Council, along with a council commitment to build the factory for a further $2.2 million.
Several others involved in the Hokitika project are believed to have links with the American-based church, which is centred on a controversial belief system created by the late L. Ron Hubbard.
The Hokitika plastics proposal has been questioned by financial expert Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which warned the council about the high-risk nature of the venture and the lack of information about those involved in it.
An online testimonial from Mr Byrne, an accountant, said his discovery of Hubbard's management and administration technology had changed his approach to business.
"This technology is admirably workable in every organisation, and I apply it with success each working day," he wrote.
He said most of what he had learned at university and within his profession was "quite useless" in the management of any kind of business venture.
"In particular, accounting is a very poor management tool for understanding what is really happening."
Mr Byrne is the financial adviser to FT Manufacturing, and is listed as the group in-house accountant for the troubled Phoenix Technology Corporation, which is being investigated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission for alleged illegal share trading.
Phoenix was quoted extensively to the Westland council during dealings for the Hokitika proposal.
Mr Kierkegaard, a New Zealander who has returned after 30 years overseas, changed his name by deed poll to that of the 19th-century existentialist philosopher.
He and his Sydney-based company, Technology Group Management Ltd, are named as members of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises.
The three directors of Technology Group Management, which is handling the Sydney side of the plastics project, are Mr Byrne, and Mr Kierkegaard and his wife, Sue. Mrs Kierkegaard is a Scientologist.
Scientology is based on a psychotherapy technique that is supposed to let people free themselves from their unhappiness, but the organisation has been involved internationally in several court cases, high-profile disputes over alleged tax evasion, and claims that it exploits its adherents. It has some high- profile followers, including actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise.
Westland Mayor John Drylie would not comment on the Scientology link, or any other aspect of the Hokitika project.
Mr Byrne and Mr Kierkegaard own a web of companies in Australia and New Zealand.
Their parent company in New Zealand, Fundamental Technology (NZ) Ltd, was formed three years ago to "hold and license the intellectual property rights to a series of technologies created wholly or partially by Soren Kierkegaard".