Group ordered to dismantle prayer garden

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2014
Porirua church group
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

LIVING ON A PRAYER: Church group members senior pastor Kitiona Kereti, Simotu Williams, Papalii Tanielu and Fata Meafou.

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A Porirua church group is refusing to destroy their 'Garden of Eden' even though it is built on land they don't own.

Bread of Life Multicultural Worship Centre members have been told to take down an open-air prayer garden they have built on land opposite the buildings they lease on the former Kenepuru Hospital grounds.

Church members, with the support of other Assemblies of God around the Wellington region, have cleared the land of scrub and created a guided walk, including a fenced lookout point and a large gateway welcoming people to Mt Zion Prayer Mountain, where they can meditate, pray and exercise.

The group does not lease the Rauta Cres land, which is currently held by the Crown, and is part of a Ngati Toa settlement deed to be signed off later this year.

Property manager Colliers International has asked for all work to be stopped and for all structures to be cleared by this Friday after concerns were raised by a member of public.

Mt Zion Prayer Mountain spokesman Papalii Tanielu said the group was frustrated there were no attempts to find a compromise, such as extending the scope of the church's lease.

"They've come along and condemned it. I can't see the sense in doing that when it is to feed people, physically and spiritually."

Mr Tanielu said he would be making his case to city councillors and MPs, and had also written to Ngati Toa. "It's a community project - we stand by it and we're going to die by it."

Office of Treaty Settlements director Kevin Kelly said property managers raised health and safety concerns over the standard of the garden's construction.

A letter from Colliers to the church group said it had concerns about the stability of the land and potential liability the Office of Treaty Settlements might face if an accident happened on the site.

The church was asked to remove all structures by last Friday, but when it failed to do so, Colliers cordoned off the site. The church has until this Friday to remove the structures, or they would be taken down at the tenant's expense, Mr Kelly said.

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- The Dominion Post

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