Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has vehemently defended him and his wife's decision not to receive the vaccination against Covid-19.
Hannah Tamaki has faced a backlash after announcing on Facebook this morning that she won't get the jab.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield avoided condemning Tamaki's comments outright today, but said: "I'm confident we've got a really powerful narrative here, and New Zealanders will take up the opportunity and make the decision themselves."
When speaking on Newstalk ZB's Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive show this afternoon, Brian Tamaki confirmed he would also not be getting the vaccine because of his faith.
"Absolutely that's part of our faith and for 40 years it's been a part of our faith, and it's worked pretty well for us," he said.
But he claims he is setting a good example to his congregation, and they can make up their own minds about whether or not to be vaccinated.
"We're not anti-vaxxers, I'm not into conspiracy theories.
"We've said very clearly this is our personal belief but we've said to them ... you won't be condemned for making your choice."
Tamakis flee Auckland
Brian Tamaki has also hit back at the public outcry after he and Hannah fled Auckland before alert level 3 restrictions came into place from 6am Sunday.
The pair left Auckland late on Saturday night and arrived in Rotorua about midnight, where they told a crowd gathered for the Sunday morning service they had escaped Auckland to avoid the level 3 restrictions.
They have since been travelling down the country, and Brian Tamaki was seen in Te Anau on Tuesday.
But Tamaki told Heather du Plessis-Allan they have stuck to the rules and haven't flouted the rules at all. He said the church gathering in Rotorua had around 25 people. Rotorua is currently in alert level 2, allowing up to 100 people to gather in a crowd.
"There was no large gathering at all ... we're entitled to leave Auckland."
But the travel has been criticised by both locals and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
Hipkins said yesterday the Tamakis' actions were "completely irresponsible".
He encouraged everybody to exercise their own judgment.
"Sneaking out of Auckland right at the beginning of a lockdown and having large gatherings of people is simply putting people at risk unnecessarily."
At the Sunday service in Rotorua, Brian Tamaki, who describes himself as an apostle, explained his reasons for getting out of Auckland.
"We're on lockdown three in Auckland, that means there's to be no business for seven days.
"I made a decision with Hannah to go out before the 6am road blockages by the police ...
"I'd be locked in my house. Gardening is okay, but I think I'll be more productive out in the rest of the country."
He urged his followers not to fear the virus.
"God said that no plague will come near your house: 'I will send angels to guard and look after those who are in the secret place with God'."
The couple have issued a strong response to the media attention they received for fleeing Auckland, saying it was "not the media's job" to sanction them.