A family of 14 have walked out on a West Coast religious commune to start a new life after concluding they had been living in a "false system".

The family left cut-off Gloriavale Christian Community in Haupiri at the weekend.
They are staying with a family 300km away in Timaru and setting about reintegrating into society.

"It's a huge deal for them to stop wearing their community clothes and so they are going to transition slowly," said Liz Gregory, who is putting up the family.

When word of their bold move went around the South Canterbury town on Monday, donations soon began flooding in.

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The family are said to have been "blown away" by the generosity of the local community after being gifted clothes, furniture, household goods, books and toys.

Two days ago, Mrs Gregory appealed on her Facebook page - which has since been deleted - for donations to help the family get back on their feet.

The team set up to help the family - known online as the Ben Canaan family - are no longer seeking donations after the massive response.

Supporters are no longer going ahead with plans for a Givealittle fundraising campaign.
However, the father James, who managed Gloriavale's self-sufficient dairy farm for 20 years, is seeking a job. The family also need a vehicle, said a spokeswoman who is helping them.

Members of the Gloriavale Christian Community, based at Haupiri, 50km from Greymouth. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Members of the Gloriavale Christian Community, based at Haupiri, 50km from Greymouth. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She said the family was "not interested" in speaking to the media today.
The reclusive Gloriavale Christian community, which currently has more than 500 members, was founded in 1969.

It relocated from its original site at Cust near Rangiora, where it was known as the Springbank Christian Community, to Haupiri on the West Coast in 1991.

But it has attracted much controversy over the years, particularly through its leader Neville Cooper, also known as Hopeful Christian, who was convicted of sexual abuse in 1994 and spent 11 months in prison.

Neville Cooper, founder of the Cooperite religious sect. Photo / TVNZ
Neville Cooper, founder of the Cooperite religious sect. Photo / TVNZ

There have been reports of several large families leaving the settlement in recent years.
However, with no birth control, the population is said to be still flourishing.

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"This family came to believe that they were in a false system and have left 500 of their family and friends (the only ones they've ever known)," Mrs Gregory said.

"Hugely courageous ... they are very excited about starting life out here.
"They are feeling blessed, but are aware of the road ahead of them.

"The family are in great spirits, which is incredible, because what they have done is massive.

"There have been a couple of other small families leave in the past year, and it's a tough road ahead, but this is a great community."

James and Hope Ben Canaan today thanked the Marchwiel Reformed Baptist Church and wider Timaru community for helping them reintegrate back into society.

"It's been quite overwhelming and we offer our sincere thanks to everyone involved," said a statement released by the family.

"At this time we are requesting privacy so that we can settle into our new lives."