The Press (New Zealand), Nov. 20, 2002
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Former members of a Waipara religious sect say they are “disillusioned and gutted” that they will have no say in what happens to the assets of the Camp David, where many spent more than 20 years of their life.
They feel betrayed that the five trustees of the charitable trust, which was set up by the former leader of the fellowship, Douglas Metcalf, will have the final say on the assets.
Marie Squires and Kevin East have headed a campaign by about 70 former members to have Camp David sold in an effort to give them closure on a period in their lives that has left many troubled and emotionally scarred.
They fear the trustees might transfer the assets to another charitable trust and continue to reap the benefits of the years of hard labour of many former members.
“It is our contribution that got them (the trustees) where they are. Now we have been told they can do what they like,” they said yesterday.
The trustees’ lawyer, Kerry Ayers, yesterday denied the trustees could do whatever they liked with the assets. He said the trustees had identified their rights and obligations, had circularised every former member of the sect they could identify, and had asked them for suggestions about any “deserving charities” they thought could benefit from the assets of the trust. Mr Ayers said there had been a “lot of responses”, and the trustees were now getting more information about some charities. The terms of the constitution of any trust or charity would have to be adhered to if assets were transferred to it.
“Basically, the process is ongoing,” he said.
Assets of the trust include 180ha at Murchison, a 48ha property in the prime wine-growing area of Waipara, and Camp David, the fort- like headquarters of the fellowship.
The former members petitioned the trustees to sell, fearing a new religious sect was rising from the ruins left after revelations in 1995 that Metcalf, who died in 1989, was an adulterer. They asked that the proceeds go to charities in Amberley and Waipara to compensate for the impact the sect had on their communities, and for the high- profile media attention it had attracted since being set up in the early 1970s.
Mrs Squires said the trust deed allowed the assets of the trust to be transferred to another charitable trust, but it could be a carbon copy of the existing one.
She said three of the trustees either had a business or a home on the property. Mrs Squires and Mr East were scornful of a concession by the trustees to burn 20,000 audio tapes of meetings and gatherings. They said that although their lawyer, John Brandts- Giesen, had been invited to watch the tapes being burnt, they would never know if they were the right tapes, how many remained at the camp, and where other property was, including about 200 firearms collected by Metcalf.
However, there had been some positives from the campaign to shake off the past, such as getting people to talk about the past and being assured by Mr Ayers that the Full Gospel Mission Fellowship no longer existed.