Billy Te Kahika sows discord among COVID-19 'freedom' groups as he lashes out at Brian Tamaki, Voices for Freedom

Discontent is growing among 'freedom' groups just days before a COVID-19 protest in the capital, with Billy Te Kahika Jr lashing out at Brian Tamaki and others who oppose anti-vaccine mandates in an impassioned livestream.

The failed politician and conspiracy theorist took to social media this week after attending a 'unity meeting' alongside representatives of a range of groups that oppose the Government's COVID-19 restrictions.

He claims he and several attendees were concerned that Tamaki's Freedom and Rights Coalition (TFRC) would dominate speeches at this week's protest at the expense of hearing from representatives of other anti-mandate groups.

In a half-hour-long video that took aim at several groups, Te Kahika said this is what happened at the November 9 protest and described it as "disgraceful".

He went on to accuse Tamaki of manipulating "concerned, distressed and angry people" and exploiting the success of TFRC protests to recruit members to Destiny Church, the church he founded and leads.

"The Freedom and Rights Coalition have come along, and of course they're promoting Brian [Tamaki] as the only guy who's ever stood up and spoke up," Te Kahika said.

"Well the reality of it is, I wasn't the first - but I was way before Brian."

Te Kahika was arrested alongside fellow conspiracy theorist Vinny Eastwood on the first day of the nationwide lockdown while participating in a protest in Auckland. He was charged with two offences under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act and another under the Search and Surveillance Act, and was temporarily banned from using the internet.

Responding to the claims against him, Tamaki told Newshub he suspects Te Kahika just "feels left out" watching the success of TFRC protests from the sidelines, and denies that they have anything to do with attempts to recruit people to Destiny.

He described Te Kahika's comments as "unfortunate".

"This is the first I have heard of any criticisms from Billy. We've not seen or heard from him in a long time. One can only surmise that he feels left out seeing the success of TFRC organised protests around the country," Tamaki told Newshub.

"There are other more successful ways to engage in open and unifying conversation, rather than taking to social media like this. I'm sure any of these parties would have been keen to talk with him if he'd made contact with them."

Tamaki says despite Te Kahika's claims of dissension in the ranks of the anti-mandate movement, there is actually "great unity" among members. He says a "wide and diverse range of speakers across organisations" have spoken at other TFRC-led protests.

He rubbished the suggestion he was exploiting the protests for Destiny Church's gain, saying if that was the case he's been "doing a very bad job of it….lol".

"That's never happened, and it won't happen," he said.

Later in his livestream, Te Kahika went on to attack both anti-vaccine group Voices For Freedom and farmer advocacy organisation Groundswell for allowing only approved messaging on protest signs.

He questioned who these groups and TFRC were working with and accused them of "playing into the hands of the Government". He reserved further criticism for Groundswell for publicly distancing themselves from anti-vaxx sentiments expressed at protests they organised.

A Groundswell spokesperson told Newshub no one from the group had ever had contact or spoken with Te Kahika. They said they hadn't seen his social media comments, and insisted the organisation is just focused on advocating for farmers and rural New Zealand - "nothing else".

"He also made a comment about Groundswell aligning with National - which is not correct," the spokesperson went on. "We are against the unworkable regulations from the Government. It does not matter which party set those regulations. We are against the unworkable regulations."

Voices For Freedom did not respond to Newshub's request for comment.

Te Kahika's claims of disunity among those aligned with the freedom movement comes amid preparations for another TFRC-led anti-vaccine mandate protest on Thursday outside Parliament in Wellington.

A similar demonstration was held last month, at which a number of people spoke - one of whom labelled the media "terrorists" and encouraged demonstrators to "roll" Parliament.