Destiny's $6 million windfall

The New Zealand Herald/December 7, 2014

By Bevan Hurley

Destiny Church-affiliated charities received nearly $6million in donations in the last year after self-appointed Bishop Brian Tamaki demanded churchgoers give generously for the so-called "City of God".

Destiny's finances are back in the spotlight after Tamaki last weekend implored his parishioners to shower the stage with high-denomination bills during a church service, boosting church coffers by $100,000.

He later tweeted: "A Sweet-Smelling Fragrance that is Acceptable to God (Phil 4:15-19). My God shall supply all your need".

A Herald on Sunday analysis of Destiny's latest charity statements show its 14 charities received $5.75m in donations in the 2013-14 year, up from $4,610,023 the previous year.

The figures are in financial reports to the Department of Internal Affairs Charities Service. The charities include individual churches, the Destiny School, social services and housing organisations, and receive hundreds of thousand of dollars annually in Government grants.

The rise in donations follows several years of declines in charitable donations to the church. When unveiling plans for Destiny's "City of God" in Manukau in 2012, Tamaki said: "I don't care what the media say. I don't care what your relatives say. I don't care what the world says. Nobody should be not tithing."

Charity deed papers show Tamaki has been removed as a trustee from all of the church's charities, but retains "absolute power of veto of any decision made by the Trust Board" over the Destiny Church Auckland Trust, which received more than $2m in donations last year - the highest for any of the charities. Hannah Tamaki is a trustee of 11 of the charities. The Destiny charity statements were uploaded to the Charities Service register in October, after the Herald on Sunday revealed the 14 charities were overdue in filing their returns, in some cases by more than a year.

Emails released under the Official Information Act show Internal Affairs issued a "please explain" to Destiny after Herald on Sunday inquiries about the late-filing charities.

The Tamakis have refused to release a more detailed breakdown of where the charities' money is spent, or how much they are paid in salaries. They have been criticised for their lavish lifestyles, enjoying overseas trips travelling business class, buying expensive cars and jewellery, but say how much they are paid by the church is their business.

Destiny Church spokeswoman Anne Williamson said: "The church has experienced a steady growth in membership since our move to 25 Druces Rd, and that is reflected in our donations." The church's financials were available to the "giving community of Destiny Church", but they would not be posting details of staff wages to "others".

Destiny also receives more than $1m a year in taxpayer funding for its school and social services.

Its trust Te Roto Taone Nui Trust, which provides housing, received $507,158, in Government funding, up from $392,460 the previous year. And the school received a Ministry of Education grant of $269,179, up from $266,400.

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