For many of our businesses, the move to alert level 2 has provided some much-needed relief. But for churches, level 2 has been a disappointment after expecting they could gather groups of 100.

"You can have 100, then nope, you can only have 10 of you and the doors are going stay shut," said Dave Moore, pastor of Harvest Church, Rotorua.

"We've been hanging out, ready to get together again.

"Faith is personal but also corporate, so really gutted that it seemed like the rug was pulled out [from underneath us]."


"We respect the rights of our Government," said JP Metcalfe, pastor of C3 church, Rotorua.

"And we love our Prime Minister, we respect the decisions to protect the vulnerable few and stand by that. But the church has an important role within community."

As it stands only gatherings of 10 are permitted under level 2. However, cinemas, restaurants and, more recently, funerals have been allowed larger numbers.

That's prompted a group of Rotorua churches to join together to write a letter to the Government, asking for the rules to be reconsidered.

"We are a vital, we think essential, part of the Rotorua community," said Andrew Parrington, pastor of Living Well Church.

"It's been a challenge for us to accept why we can't meet together in the level 2 conditions that were put to us prior to the announcement on Monday.

"The Government website said group gatherings could be of 100 people. We were quite shocked when it was announced that had to be maxed out at 10.

"A bar can have 100 people gather, the picture theatre can have 100 people gather," Parrington said.


"We just want to stand together as ministers in the city and say this is an opportunity for the Government to reconsider."

Matai Bennett, a church pastor in Kawerau and Rotorua said: "In a Māori environment, the minister is a huge part of what they do when it comes to funerals and weddings."

"When it comes to death and location, the minister comes in and sorts all the bits and pieces out, from a te Ao Māori point of view.

"There's a whole raft of things that a minister takes place in a Māori community, on a regular basis."

National MP Todd McClay said he heard the cries of his electorate's faithful folk.

"It doesn't seem reasonable," said McClay. "You have a situation where a restaurant can have 100 people in it, a cinema can have 100 people in it, but a church is not allowed to open with more than 10.

"If you talk to most of the churches in Rotorua, they would very happily make sure they met requirements of social distancing and all the other things required for them to go about their business.

"The Government changed it's position on funerals. Now a funeral can be up to 50 people, but I suppose you couldn't have a funeral in a church, if a church can only have 10? So it doesn't seem fair."

A Ministry of Health spokesperson wouldn't appear on camera, but did reinforce that large gatherings present a high risk of transmitting Covid-19.

They said the most important measure was to prevent mingling and close contact with people who don't know each other. A risk that seems just as likely in cinemas and restaurants.

Made with funding from