God Squad Property Split

The spoils of a multimillion-dollar North Canterbury property which once housed a bizarre religious cult will be split three ways.

The Press, New Zealand/February 24, 2007
By Robin Bristow

Charity appears to be a big winner from the five-year tug-of-war for a share of the Waipara property, with $500,000 being set aside for "charitable purposes" in a High Court judgment from Justice Panckhurst released yesterday.

The settlement was reached between about 70 former members of the Full Gospel Mission Trust , dubbed the God Squad, and those who remained closeted in the mission headquarters, Camp David, after the cult disintegrated in 1996.

Its terms remain confidential.

But the judgment says in broad terms it recognised the equitable claims of members, which would be met through land acquisition and cash settlements.

It is believed the handful of people living on the property and Eagle Engineering, which runs its business behind the fortress-like walls, will get land, on terms, while those on the outside, who led the charge for the property to be sold, will get cash.

Kerry Ayers, counsel representing Trustees Executors, the sole trustee of the trust, and the court-appointed spokesman on the settlement, said yesterday he was not sure when the property would be put on the market because there was some subdivision work which had to be done first.

The sale of what is left of the 37ha property could reap more than $2 million, despite its government valuation being $785,000.

Yesterday, real estate agents said land in the heart of Waipara's winegrowing area was commanding between $60,000 and $85,000 a hectare, depending on water access.

The sale will bring closure for former members, who poured millions of dollars into the sect and walked away with nothing when its foundations crumbled.

The break-up came after revelations in early 1996 that the sect's late founder, Douglas Metcalf, who died in 1989, was an adulterer.

The sect gained notoriety after a police raid in 1977 confiscated firearms and ammunition at the camp. Former camp members have since said that at the time adherents were prepared to fight for the cult's survival.

They claimed women at the camp were treated as lesser creatures and children were left to run riot as strict regimes of work and long scripture meetings took their parents away for hours nearly every evening, leaving them mentally and physically tired.

Kevin East and Marie Squires, who was 19 when she joined the cult with her husband Stacy and their young family, led the battle to have the property sold, fearing another sect was rising from the ruins and that others could benefit from the assets their earnings had helped build.

Squires said yesterday she could not speak to The Press because of a confidentiality agreement. But in 2002 she said ridding the property of any reminders of the past would help members, many of whom were struggling to deal with a period in their lives that had left them deeply troubled.

Squires and her husband were in their 40s when they left and began to rebuild their lives with "no money, no job, no nothing".

"That was the worst part. The best years of my life were gone. That was the hardest thing to come to terms with," she said at the time.

Ayers said the charities which would benefit from the $500,000 had yet to be determined.

The settlement was "unique" because of the number of people involved and because it had raised a large number of legal issues.

But everyone had seemed pleased with the outcome, he said.

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