As hundreds of people started to gather at an anti-lockdown protest in Auckland, authorities sent text messages to Destiny Church's Brian Tamaki telling him to tell the crowd to social distance.
Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha sent a series of texts to Tamaki on the morning of Saturday, October 2, as crowds started arriving at the Auckland Domain and nearby Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The messages were released by police after a request under the Official Information Act.
"Kia ora Brian. Can you ensure that the museum isn't impacted.
"Message from museum - museum chief is not happy that motorbikes are congregating up by the cenotaph. We would be obliged if Mr Tamaki would move the bikes from the museum / cenotaph. We will block access. There are plenty of other places to park the bikes."
'Brian, you need to tell the people to social distance'
There is no reply - and in a later text, Haumaha asks where Tamaki is as an Inspector Ivan Sarich is trying to locate him. Sarich was said to be "a safety net for the day".
Just before midday - and still no reply from Tamaki - Haumaha sends him another text: "Brian you need to tell the people to social distance otherwise they are in breach of the Health Order and the organisers become liable for the rally."
It is not until the next day that Tamaki replies; thanking the Deputy Commissioner for the Police support.
"I thought it was a great day," he texts Haumaha.
The rest of the three-screenshot message has been blacked out.
The newly released documents reveal the communications between Tamaki and top Police bosses - including Commissioner Andrew Coster - ahead of the first anti-lockdown protest.
More than 1000 people, including children, turned up to protest against ongoing lockdown measures around the country and particularly in Auckland.
Many of the supporters were Destiny Church members, while a number of motorcycle gang members were also spotted outside the museum.
Since the country was plunged into a sudden lockdown in mid-August after confirmation of a Delta Covid case, there have been a number of Auckland-based protests supported by the Destiny Church.
Haumaha was in regular contact with the church leader in late September and early October.
A zoom meeting involving Haumaha, Coster and Tamaki was held on September 24.
"Kia ora Bishop thank you that was a great korero and an opportunity for Andy to get to know you and the contact behind what you are doing. Awesome anything you need just let me know," Haumaha writes.
Tamaki replies: "Yes I will thank you too Wally...I will keep in touch...thank you both." He adds three thumbs up to end his text.
Police Commissioner warned Tamaki of risks - police enforcement and Covid transmission
On Monday, September 27 - the week of the protest - a letter from Coster is sent to Tamaki via email.
He tells Tamaki that he does not wish to end up in the position other jurisdictions have when policing protest activity and prefers to take a "preventative approach".
"You have indicated that you intend the protest to be run lawfully, ie: You will maintain 2 metre distancing between family/ household groups in an effort to avoid a gathering as the term is defined and you will be operating QR scanning.
"In our conversation, you also agreed that you will mandate mask-wearing by those in attendance."
The email is levelled, but does include warnings to Tamaki about potential enforcement actions against himself, as an organiser, given the rules and risk of Covid transmission.
"Your leadership in this matter will have an impact in protecting the well-being of the community and those who decide to attend," Coster writes.
"My focus as Commissioner of Police is on ensuring community safety. Please note that in continuing with your planned event, you do risk an enforcement response by Police."
On September 28, Tamaki sends a long message to Haumaha, but which has been blacked out.
Haumaha replies: "Thanks, Brian. Appreciate your response and I understand completely. Some people just can't help themselves." Haumaha inserts a praying hands emoji at the end.
Tamaki, 63, has since been charged three times after appearing at large protests that have been in breach of Auckland's strict lockdown rules.
His wife, Hannah Tamaki, has also faced charges of failing to comply with a Covid-19 Act order.
Brian Tamaki has come close to being remanded in custody, but has always been remanded on bail and is due back in court next month.