Pamphlets attacking Covid-19 public health advice with the logo and branding of the Voices for Freedom group have been distributed during lockdown.
The Herald has seen copies of pamphlets distributed in two areas of Wellington at least 30 minutes drive from each other on empty lockdown roads.
The pamphlet tells people: "If your 'common sense detector' is telling you that NZ's covid narrative doesn't add up - congratulations. It's in perfect working order.
"The harsh reality is that critical data and facts are being censored countrywide in an effort to prevent you from thinking for yourself."
The "censorship" claim could be a reference to social and traditional media companies
limiting the spread of false information about Covid-19 to avoid damage to public health.
The pamphlet then lists nine claims about Covid-19 or the public response to it. The Herald has fact-checked the claims which are either not true or misrepresentations of the truth.
Voices for Freedom has not responded to Herald questions about the pamphlet drop.
One Kapiti Coast resident who found the pamphlet in her letterbox described the discovery as "kind of horrifying".
The resident, a health worker, said the delivery of it during lockdown was confronting as was the false messaging it carried.
"It's a pandemic. It's a public health issue," she said. "There are times when you just have to listen and have to trust there is a bigger picture."
In June, the Ministry of Health and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet developed plans to deal with disinformation and misinformation particularly with a view to communication that might hurt vaccination rates.
The strategy describes New Zealand's response to Covid-19 as "one of the most successful in the world". It then stated: "A significant factor in our success to date has been strong public trust and confidence in the response."
The concern among academics and officials working against the pandemic was that falsehoods - like those pushed by groups such as Voices for Freedom - create doubt in the public mind, leading to people not following public health advice or getting vaccinated.
Yesterday, Voices for Freedom founders Claire Deeks, Libby Johnson and Alia Bland were hosting a video interview with Canadian Covid-19 denier Dr Roger Hodkinson.
During the interview, Hodkinson referred to Covid-19 as "nothing more than a bad seasonal flu" and described vaccines to treat it as "death jabs".
The video chat is a continuation of a series of interviews hosted by the founders of Voices for Freedom. Guests hosted by the founders on its Courageous Conversations video interviews almost all come from Covid-19 denial positions with many edging towards or immersed in conspiracy theories.
They include Dr Sucharit Bhakdi, a microbiologist who has made repeated false claims about Covid-19, and German-American lawyer Dr Reiner Fuellmich, who has blamed the pandemic on elites trying to control the world.
They have also provided a portal for New Zealand medical doctors who clashed with public health officials by offering unlikely treatments or assessments as to the pandemic's seriousness that appear at odds with facts.
Voices for Freedom lost its Facebook page after it was found to have breached the company's guidelines around making "false claims which public health experts have advised us could lead to Covid-19 vaccine rejection".
The group now occupies space in lesser-known social media channels that were also popular with right-wing communities, including white supremacists.
In the broadcast today, Deeks said the loss of the Facebook page had cost Voices for Freedom the main avenue through which people came to know of the group.
Deeks said the group had 50 local groups across New Zealand and 2000 people tuned in to hear Hodkinson. Those identified by the Herald as involved in local Voices for Freedom groups illustrate its connections to other voices of opposition through involvement with other groups openly pushing extreme claims.
Those include Heather Meri Pennycook, who leads the Wanaka area chapter. Pennycook is also one of three founders of the Agricultural Action Group which pushes claims about secret world agendas.
Those claims include myths such as the so-called United Nation "Agenda 21" and World Economic Forum "Great Reset" myths popularised in New Zealand by conspiracy theorist Billy Te Kahika Jr. None are true, or have become niche perversions of the truth.
Voices for Freedom has yet to post any accounts nine months after launching. In that time, it has repeatedly held fundraising drives and sold merchandise featuring the group's branding.
On its website, it said it was funded through donations from "thousands of concerned Kiwis".
"Funding is put towards the various projects we facilitate and the general running costs and overheads of the organisation.":
The group's website stated its "major undertakings" were the design, printing and distribution of two million flyers and large rally signs. Other large costs included "bulk purchase (of) merchandise and clothing", putting on live events and the hosting of weekly web seminars.
"Like any well run organisation receiving funding we intend to provide basic information on finances such as to provide accountability and transparency at appropriate junctures and at least annually."
The Herald had yet to find any accounts published by Voices for Freedom showing how much had been raised, or spent, or whether any of the money had gone towards the founders or to whom they were connected. Questions seeking such information went unanswered.
The founders of the group - Bland, Deeks and Johnson - formed a limited liability company together in April. Companies Office records show the company, TJB 2021 Ltd, defined its purpose as "interest group" and had shareholdings equally divided between Bland, Deeks and Johnson.
The company appeared similar to the description of the vehicle described on the Voices for Freedom website. There, the Voices for Freedom brand is described as a "trading name" for a "not for profit" organisation incorporated and registered in New Zealand.