New Zealand taxpayers' money has been used to prop up two churches that supported a mass anti-lockdown protest in Auckland last Saturday.
Brian Tamaki's Destiny Church organised the event, but City Impact Church leader Peter Mortlock also encouraged members to attend.
A total of $127,903.20 was paid to Destiny Church in wage subsidies, $91,384.80 for its 13 employees in Auckland and $36,518.40 for six in Hamilton.
Meanwhile City Impact claimed nearly $1.08 million, including $869,944.80 for 131 employees in Auckland, $75,866.40 for 12 staff in Balclutha and $133,562.4 for 19 employees in Queenstown.
Mortlock did a sermon a day before the rally urging people to go to the Destiny-led anti-lockdown rally.
"On Saturday, this Saturday, there is a gathering, and it's about freedom, and it's in the park in town, and a lot of people are going over to it," Mortlock said.
"It's your choice if you go or not, I know there will be all sorts of controversy over it, but it's under the Freedom and Rights Coalition, you can find it on the website."
Mortlock said he was asked to be involved in the rally but had taken a back seat in it.
"But enough to say if you want to go I just want to let you know about it," Mortlock said.
"I think sooner or later we are going to have to make a stand — a stand for our rights, the way our freedoms are being stripped away."
A 63-year-old man has been charged in relation to organising and attending anti-lockdown protest.
A man, whom the Herald understands is Brian Tamaki, has been summonsed to appear in court next Tuesday. Tamaki spoke at Saturday's rally and is the leader of the Destiny Church.
The man will appear on charges relating to breaching the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and Alert Level 3 Order.
Tamaki said he was "surprised" by the police action and said he will defend the charges.
The gathering of around 1000 people on Saturday was in breach of alert level 3 restrictions, and the investigation is ongoing, police said.
The protest was condemned by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who said he supported sanctions against the church leader.
Ardern said the protest was "a slap in the face" to Aucklanders who had been following the rules for weeks.
She confirmed the protest was illegal but would not say if there should have been arrests, saying it was an operational matter for the police.
Tamaki hit back at Ardern's comments on social media.
"If any true democracy-loving caring NZer ... value their Freedoms [sic] and the Freedoms of their children's children, you should never be angry at people who want to recover what's priceless and beyond value, and protect them," Tamaki said on Facebook.
"What price do you put on your personal Freedoms? Why would you hate us for that? As for the pathetic cry, you will cause a super-spread is unreasonable panic.
"You're vaccinated, not in the vicinity, and safe in your bubble, you then should be thanking us, who took the courageous risk, in the face of restrictions, to push back on oppressive laws from this Government."
As many as 2000 anti-lockdown protesters gathered, including families with young babies.