By BRONWYN SELL
Bert Potter and his followers have been paid $1.35 million to leave the Centrepoint community, which will be rebuilt and renamed.
The convicted child sex offender and his 25 adult followers will have no more influence over the Albany commune he founded more than 20 years ago.
Potter and his supporters, called the Old Believers, and their children will receive $49,200 each after costs under a deal which was approved yesterday by the High Court at Auckland.
Justice Dame Silvia Cartwright said the amount would outrage some people, but fitted the provisions of the Centrepoint Community Growth Trust.
"What skills and experience [the Old Believers] might have had before entering the Centrepoint community have withered and their reputations as members of a group which either perpetrated criminal activities or permitted them to continue makes it unlikely that any are readily employable."
A spokeswoman for some of the abused children and non-resident members said yesterday that they had made the deal reluctantly, but were relieved a long battle to oust Potter was over.
Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, a spokeswoman for about 40 abused children who are now adults, said she would have preferred to get rid of Potter's influence without having to pay.
"Maybe we didn't fight long enough, but we just didn't have it in us any longer."
Barri Leslie, who represents 50 non-resident members, said it would take the Centrepoint Trust, now the New Zealand Communities Growth Trust, a few years to recover financially from the payments.
The court judgment said the trust had a $7 million to $8 million net worth.
"We hope it will become an educational, therapeutic trust that can help people who have suffered abuse through Centrepoint but also people who have suffered abuse from similar organisations," said Barri Leslie.
Seventeen adults and their children still living at the Albany site are planning a new community on the land, which they will lease from the new trust, said member Ayran Von Dreger. They would try to "rebuild the trust that was broken here with the wider society."
One of Potter's chief supporters, David Mendelssohn, said it had not been decided what the Old Believers would do.
He said the Department of Child, Youth and Family had threatened to take their children away if they continued to live together, but the service denies the claim.
Potter is living in Mt Albert, but could not be contacted yesterday.
By BRONWYN SELL