Members of an Auckland church embroiled in the city's ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 have let down the team of five million by failing to abide by alert level protocol, says New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and should have been taken to task "from the beginning".
The Deputy Prime Minister has berated members of the Mount Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, the church at the centre of Auckland's sub-clusters, for flouting the restrictions during level 3 lockdown.
Speaking to Magic Talk's Road to the Election host Mitch McCann on Sunday, Mr Peters argued that the non-compliance had come at a heavy cost for Aucklanders.
He said the church should have been held to account for their actions "from day one".
"The so-called team of five million had to follow the rules. I know we can all have different arguments and disputes about the level of rules and surveillance, but when someone is defying science and gravity... and costing the country a fortune [with] businesses going out of business and people losing their work, the response of the Government should be, 'Here's what the systemic rules are, and you're going to abide by them - if you don't, here comes the cost'. We cannot allow this to go on."
The New Zealand First leader argued the Government was "too soft" on the church members who had flouted the rules, and that greater penalties should have been enforced following the revelations of non-compliance.
"We should tell them that if you're not going to abide by the rules then here come the punishments, and there are a whole host of them," he said.
"You will not carry on as though the whole country can foot, pay and undergo the sacrifice for this while you please yourself. It's just not right."