Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has stamped out any hope Brian Tamaki may have held of winning government funding to deliver his Man Up programme in prisons.

The Destiny Church founder has been vocal about what he says is the success of the 15-week programme to help “dysfunctional” men with a record of violent offending and addiction.

Tamaki has repeatedly criticised the Government for not funding him to deliver his programme in New Zealand prisons, despite never making a formal application as part of the Corrections tender process.

Davis said there was no verified, independent research showing the programme has achieved success, and lashed out at Tamaki, calling his claims duplicitous.

He said that, despite what Tamaki claims, Man Up has never been shut out of prisons, and has never followed the proper application process.

“If they’re going to lie about the small stuff, how am I going to trust them with the big stuff?”

Tamaki refused to comment. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the church said, “we are still talking and communicating with the appropriate people regarding these matters”.

Long road to nowhere

In December last year, Tamaki marched on Parliament with about 2000 supporters, talking about the high rates of Māori recidivism and touting his programme as a way to reduce Māori reoffending and incarceration rates.

“For all of my efforts to try and get into prison, they shut us down,” he said, referring to the Government.

The protest was theatrical, with supporters wearing leathers and arriving at Parliament on motorbikes. They swarmed around politicians on the forecourt, including Justice Minister Andrew Little, before Tamaki delivered what felt a lot like a sermon to the large crowd.

Documents released under the Official Information Act, show Tamaki has requested numerous meetings with ministers, including Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis, Justice Minister Andrew Little, and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Peters met with Tamaki in September last year, and the radical Christian leader gave a presentation about the Man Up programme. Following the meeting, Peters advocated to Davis on behalf of Tamaki, but the Corrections Minister said all Tamaki provided at the meeting was a single sheet of unverified numbers.

Tamaki claims the programme has a success rate for non-reoffending of 72 percent.

Davis and Peters discussed the programme, but it did not progress further.

Kelvin Davis says he would not go near the “circus” that was Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church. Photo: Laura Walters

In his letters to ministers, Tamaki outlines troubles facing Māori men in the justice system, and the programme’s involvement in prisons so far.

Tamaki said Man Up director Caine Warren, who is his son-in-law, was invited by Serco to deliver Man Up at Auckland South Corrections Facility in Wiri, in 2016 but after seven months was shut out, without explanation.

Tamaki said Man Up was shut out due to its affiliation to Destiny Church, which was religious discrimination. Media reports at the time said Warren was suspected of trying to solicit for Destiny Church.

Serco prison manager Mike Inglis said Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility has had no association with the Man Up programme, and the organisation has never been approved to deliver services to prisoners at Kohuora.

Inglis met with the Destiny Church team in March 2017, and asked them to provide further information on what they proposed to deliver; he never heard back.

“We recognise the importance of spiritual guidance alongside programmes which address prisoners’ offending,” he said.

“We work with a number of organisations, including iwi and various faiths, to support the men in our care. We do not accept any organisation to deliver programmes to men without information that clearly establishes the purpose and content of their programmes.”

Tamaki said he had also received invitations from, or had initial meetings with, leaders at Mt Eden Prison and Northland Prison. Neither progressed any further.

Tamaki claims he received a note on behalf of Northland Prison’s assistant prison director Simon Tanner in 2016, saying it would be inappropriate to communicate due to “publicity that’s being bandied around at the moment regarding Destiny Church”.

A Corrections spokesperson said Destiny Church’s Man Up and Legacy programmes were not delivered in any prison in New Zealand, and reiterated that no formal application had been made to deliver the Man Up or Legacy programmes.

However, emails between Davis’ office and Corrections show Spring Hill Corrections Facility facilitates one-hour Man Up information sessions for prisoners three months from release. These sessions are not run by Corrections and attendance is not mandatory.

“Why would Corrections allow a group talking about waging war on society into a prison?”

And Stuff reported Man Up set up information stalls at the Christchurch and Manukau courts in January. Ministry of Justice southern manager Bruce Findlay told Stuff the stand was in the building on a four-week trial and was a local initiative.

Meanwhile, there has been recent negative coverage of the Man Up programme, with Stuff reporting a woman’s partner broke her jaw the same day he graduated from the programme. She launched separation proceedings, but he later used the Man Up certificate in court as evidence of his good character.

And one of the programme’s facilitators was stood down after messaging a domestic violence survivor, telling her it was her fault if she provoked her partner into hitting her.

Kelvin Davis slams Tamaki’s ‘circus’ and lies

Tamaki seems to be fighting an ongoing battle to get Man Up into prisons, and has had varying degrees of success with delivering ad hoc volunteer information services over the years.

But while Davis is the corrections minister, it seems unlikely Man Up will receive any formal government contract to administer its programme.

“Why would Corrections allow a group talking about waging war on society, into a prison,” Davis said, in reference to comments made by Tamaki in the wake of the Christchurch attack.

Davis also said Tamaki had been duplicitous in painting himself as the victim, during the “circus” on Parliament’s forecourt late last year.

“I don’t trust any contract that they had – if they were to work in prisons – wouldn’t go into funding an extravagant lifestyle, overseas holidays, cars, jewellery, and Harley Davidsons. I don’t believe the money would go where they say it would go.”

“If they’re going to lie about small stuff, and about being banned from prison and preaching war, why would we open ourselves up for them to go into a prison,” he said.

“They need to disengage their tongues and engage their brains.”

Davis also questioned how any Government funding would be used, given Tamaki’s high-flying lifestyle.

“I don’t trust any contract that they had – if they were to work in prisons – wouldn’t go into funding an extravagant lifestyle, overseas holidays, cars, jewellery, and Harley Davidsons. I don’t believe the money would go where they say it would go.”

Destiny Church had enough money, and if it wanted to make a difference it should use that money to help people in the community, and did not need the Government’s blessing to do so, Davis said.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, and the claims he’s made in relation to his Man Up programme. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

There was an infatuation with working in prisons but 30,000 of the 40,000 people managed by Corrections were in the community.

“While people are still being arrested and our court houses are full, and there’s gambling and addiction, there’s work for them to do in the community.”

Davis said he had received one request to meet with Tamaki – that did not result in a meeting.

In the 2018 financial year, Corrections spent about $200 million on rehabilitation and reintegration services. Corrections said it aimed to provide offenders with the right intervention at the right time to encourage them to address their rehabilitation and intervention needs.

“To help people address their offending we assess offenders and provide programmes according to risk, need and their ability to be responsive to the programme.”

Current programmes included a focus on motivation to change, cognitive-behavioural interventions and general skills such as education, employment, therapy parenting and practical life skills.

The Government was working to specifically address Māori reoffending, however, the nature of the programmes and delivery would not be announced until next month’s Budget, Davis said. The coalition Government has promised to reduce the prison population by 30 percent in 15 years.

Leave a comment