Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says anti-vaccination activists planning to gather and protest this weekend are "probably beyond redemption" and will end up costing the taxpayer when they end up in ICU.
One of the organisers of Saturday's protest is Brian Tamaki, head of Destiny Church, who Goff thinks is an "idiot".
"I think we're all keen to come out of it as soon as possible - me in particular. I've got two sons and two grandkids just across the border in Raglan and Te Kauwhata. I haven't seen them for a long time, except on Skype," Goff told The AM Show on Friday.
"We're all keen to get out of the lockdown as quickly as possible, and the way to do that - here's the message to Brian Tamaki - we do that by following the rules and getting vaccinated, not by the opposite messages he's sending to his congregation and to everybody else.
Auckland is at level 3, struggling to stamp out the Delta outbreak. Even if it goes to level 2 next week there's a chance the borders might remain in place to stop the virus spreading to other parts of the country.
Tamaki, who has said he won't be getting vaccinated despite being in his 60s and at high risk of serious illness should he contract COVID-19, has been spreading false claims about the pandemic and the Government's response.
On his Facebook page Tamaki has falsely claimed suicide rates go up during lockdowns (there was actually a decrease in suicides during last year's nationwide level 4), that lockdowns have killed more people "many times over" than COVID-19 (the pandemic has killed almost 5 million people according to official confirmed counts, possibly several times more), and that Finance MInister Grant Robertson wants "jobs to collapse" (the unemployment rate actually dropped to its pre-pandemic level this year, with economists saying New Zealand was effectively at full employment).
He claimed in a video on Friday the Government was deliberately carrying out "an attack on the church" by forcing its doors shut to stop super-spreader events, comparing level 3 restrictions to a "torture camp".
Goff said it was "irresponsible" talk, considering many of Tamaki's congregation are Māori and Pasifika and "most vulnerable to getting the virus".
"He and his wife have said they don't believe in it, they don't believe in masking. You know, leave it to God. Well, my grandmother used to say, 'God helps those who help themselves.'"
Goff said while it’s people's right not to get vaccinated, they're "letting the side down". The Government has indicated it will take 90 percent-plus coverage to open up safely without relying on lockdowns. Delta is very infectious, and there's still no approval for vaccines in people under 12 years of age, who at this stage will rely on those around them being protected.
"The anti-vaxxers who make up about 5 percent of the population, well, they'll have to take their chances. No doubt when they end up in ICU and we'll be paying our taxes to keep them there, and I'm not against that. I just wish they would take sensible steps to protect themselves, their family and the community."
Goff clarified those who aren't entrenched anti-vaxxers but merely hesitant aren't "idiots" in his view. But getting them jabbed is key - the city is currently at 83 percent with a first dose, and needs another 10 percent or so.
"The people we are working very hard with are those people who are hesitant, unaware or need help to overcome barriers to get vaccinated."
Police said they are aware of the protest and will be keeping an eye on it. Tamaki has made one concession to science - urging those who turn up to wear masks, though not all of his followers are happy about it.
"Why have you sold us out !!! Why do we have to wear mask?" one person wrote on his Facebook page. "Why do we have to social distance? Why do we have to sign in? … I bet you are going to have the jab bus this is not a freedom rally this is a PR stunt."