For 10 years, the Māori Wardens have been distributing drug free booklets provided and paid for by the Church of Scientology.
Despite their working relationship, some Māori Wardens have told Native Affairs they felt pressure from Scientologists to join their church and had their beliefs forced upon them.
“Sometimes they can get very pushy, in regards to wanting Wardens to be involved with other kaupapa, but it doesn't fit our mahi,’ says Thomas Henry from the Mangere Māori Wardens. “The only stuff that fits our mahi is what they have given in resources with the drug free books and DVDs that we've been using.”
Mike Ferriss, secretary for the NZ Church of Scientology, says he’s surprised at the feedback.
“We can be enthusiastic about who we are and what we're doing and some of our programs and maybe it got misinterpreted. Certainly we're not trying to push anybody into something they don't want to do,” says Ferriss.
Native Affairs was granted a rare media tour and given an exclusive look at the church’s purification centre.
Ferriss says he’s happy with the relationship between Scientology and the Maori Wardens.
“They’re the people on the ground, they’re in contact with communities, families, individuals and they’re a community group that are very effective.”
The church’s drug education program is a resource of booklets and DVDs. It highlights the dangers and side effects of drugs. More than 250,000 booklets have been distributed across the country by the church and the Māori Wardens.
At the opening of the new $16 million Church of Scientology headquarters in Auckland in January, Henry from the Māori Wardens was a keynote speaker. Henry defends the Māori Warden’s relationship with the Church. He says they will work with Scientologists as long as they have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.
“If we can't have that relationship around that then certainly we will go elsewhere to look for the resources that we're able to use in our communities. The interests that the Māori Wardens across NZ have is about creating a safer and a better place for our people to live without drugs.”