Jan 21, 2017

Church of Scientology's supreme leader David Miscavige in Auckland for opening of new headquarters

Supplied The gala opening of the new Church of Scientology headquarters in Auckland
January 21 2017

The gala opening of the new Church of Scientology headquarters in Auckland.

The controversial Church of Scientology opened its first New Zealand base on Saturday.

It's housed in one of Auckland's landmark heritage buildings - the red-brick former Whitecliffe Art College on Grafton Rd.

Scientology's leader David Miscavige mingled with the hundreds of attendees, which included its local followers as well as curious members of the public.

The Church of Scientology spent $6 million restoring this heritage building on Grafton Road, Auckland.

Detected media were booted out of the proceedings.

President of the New Zealand Rationalist's Association Peter Harrison went along out of curiosity and said the event kicked off with a "Maori welcome that felt a bit staged".

He said that while he was "naturally a bit of a cynic" about the religion - which counts Tom Cruise and other high profile actors amongst its flock - he wanted to hear about its values first hand.

"In fact, the speakers had a big focus on how Scientologists help disenfranchised youth and stand up for human rights," he said.

"We can support that regardless of the underlying theology."

President of the New Zealand Rationalist Association, Peter Harrison, said he attended the opening ceremony out of curiosity.

However, he said some of the speeches were swamped with jargon that laymen attendees such as himself found hard to follow.

"They were mentioning buzzwords like 'time-tracking', 'energy driving trails', and 'OTA'... I knew what the words themselves meant, mostly, but couldn't define them when put together," he said.

Harrison said he heard one of the speakers say "psychiatrists should be wiped off the face of the earth" which he thought was "a bit harsh".

"But I didn't come away brainwashed - that was good."

Known to be secretive about its practices, Scientology preaches the teachings of founder L Ron Hubbard.

Harrison and others spoken to - who did not want their names associated with Scientology - agreed that the church had restored the heritage building "beautifully".

"It was dilapidated inside," said a man who worked on the restoration project.

"But they got expert craftsmen to redo all the stonework as it originally was."

The building was purchased in 2007 for $10 million, borrowed interest-free from the Church of Scientology International.

Its restoration is estimated to have cost $6 million.

The premises at 136 Grafton Road will be open daily to the public and contains a cafe.

- Stuff


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