Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has hit back at Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki's claims the Government has stifled his attempts for the church to work in prisons.
In a statement released on Twitter, Davis said Tamaki's claims were not true.
"He [Tamaki] has claimed his programmes have been shut out of, and discriminated against, in prisons. That is not possible," he said from the US, where he has been attending the funeral of George HW Bush on behalf of the New Zealand Government.
He echoed comments made earlier today by Justice Minister Andrew Little, who said Destiny had never actually made a formal application to partner with the Government to work in prisons.
"There have been no formal applications made to deliver the Man-Up or Legacy programmes in prison."
Tamaki wanted Destiny Church's Man-Up programme – an initiative focused on tackling family violence, depression, obesity, addiction and suicide – to be brought into prisons.
Earlier today, Tamaki and 2000 others – including patched gang members – arrived at Parliament and presented a petition urging the Government to allow the church to work within prisons.
"For all of my efforts to try and get into prison, they [the Government] shut us down," Tamaki told those gathered.
But Little said he wanted to talk with Tamaki about the programme and what he and the Government could do together.
Davis said in his statement that any community group or organisation wanting to offer a programme in prison is welcome to make a formal application in writing.
"This process will not be bent for this group."
He said any organisation that wanted to help safely reduce the prison population should focus on preventing people from going to prison in the first place.
"So, stop the meth cooks in your community, stop those who commit sexual and family violence in your street and help those who commit crime to feed a drug, alcohol, gambling or other addiction in your town."
He said until there are no more drugs being baked, no more domestic violence and when people with addiction services are supported, there will be a need for churches in every community to "work their magic".
"No one needs my blessing to do that work."