The head of an evangelical church in Auckland has been discovered attempting to rig a cabinet minister’s poll on a pending equal marriage bill.

Peter Mortlock, who has been outspoken in the past about his anti-gay views, is a pastor at the City Impact Church.

He wrote to his congregation via email urging them to vote on a poll by the MP and government minister Murray McCully that asked: “Do you support or oppose the proposed legislation that would make it possible for same-sex couples to marry?”

Mr Mortlock told his followers: “Since we are able to vote as many times as we like I’d encourage you to place your votes and keep checking back.”

The MP’s staff reportedly noticed the large numbers of multiple votes and then decided to delete them.

In 2004, Mr Mortlock and a fellow pastor underwent a three-week fast in opposition to the proposed legalisation of same-sex civil unions.

Despite this, proposals went ahead and same-sex civil unions were legalised in 2005.

New Zealand’s Marriage Amendment Bill would build on this by allowing marriage between same-sex couples.

The Bill’s first reading in August 2012 was largely well-received, with 80 votes in favour, 40 votes against, and one abstention.

A final decision on the Bill should be made in the early half of this year.

At the time of writing, the poll stands at 64.9% of voters supporting and 35.1% opposed to equal marriage in New Zealand.