Scientology's multi-million dollar headquarters to open in NZ

Herald, New Zealand/January 15, 2017

By Ophelia Buckleton

The Church of Scientology will open its new $16 million Auckland base next Saturday - with the church's high profile leader David Miscavige tipped to be coming to cut the ribbon.

The religious movement, which counts the likes of actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers internationally, has transformed the former Whitecliffe School of Art and Design, on Grafton Rd, into its new HQ.

Scientologists bought the building in 2007 for $10 million. A further $6m has been spent on transforming the historic building into its new Auckland HQ.

A week out from the opening, a source told the Herald that arrangements were being made for Miscavige to travel from his American base to Auckland for the opening; including elaborate security arrangements.

But the church was tight-lipped on the possible trip, with a spokeswoman saying: "We do not comment on Mr Miscavige's travel plans or schedule in advance and are unable to provide you with the confirmation you ask for."

Scientology is one of the world's most secretive religions and followers practise the learnings of founder L Ron Hubbard.

It has had many celebrity devotees in its 62-year history, including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Elizabeth Moss, Juliette Lewis, Kirstie Alley, Anne Archer and Beck.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology said hundreds of members from New Zealand, Australia and around the world have donated towards the restoration of the new HQ.

"We are extremely delighted and excited about the opening of this building." Facilities include a public information centre with more than 500 films about the beliefs and practices of Scientology, a chapel, multiple seminar rooms, classrooms and an entire floor dedicated to 'auditing' or spiritual counselling.

"The new Auckland Church provides visitors with an introduction to Dianetics and Scientology," said the spokeswoman.

"It also features a Chapel that provides for Scientology congregational gatherings, including Sunday services, weddings and naming ceremonies, as well as a host of community-wide events open to members of all denominations.

"We are making this place available as a community hub for other groups."

Around 100 staff will move into the church from the organisation's previous building on the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway.

It is part of a programme launched in 2004 to restore heritage buildings in cities around the world, to "meet increasing worldwide demand for Scientology services and community initiative", known as Ideal Org.

Ideal Org is focused on ensuring each church is able to provide the full services of the religion to its parishioners, while also serving the community - in impressive buildings.

"We chose this building because of its beauty. It suits our needs and is a great place for the community to come and see what Scientology is and what we are doing in the society," the spokeswoman said.

"We saw the potential in this beautiful, historic property and consider its restoration a valuable contribution to the heritage of the Auckland city."

To date more than 50 of these new churches have opened in major cities across four continents.

The local arm of the church's annual accounts for the year ending December 2015 showed donations of more than $1.9 million.

In the accounts, filed before the completion of the $16m building, the church listed ownership of $10m worth of property in New Zealand.

According to the organisation's New Zealand website, the global Scientology movement has more than 10,000 churches, missions and groups ministering to millions of people across 165 countries.

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