Join me on the outside, the world’s not the evil place you imagine, says former member of community.

A young woman who fled the secretive Gloriavale Christian Community has urged the family she left behind to join her in the modern world.

Julia, 22, who spent the first 19 years of her life in the isolated community, has spoken of how she left because of the strict rules and regulations enforced on church members.

"I couldn't handle all the control, all the rules. I felt like I was getting suffocated. I needed to be myself," she said on Campbell Live last night.

Julia, who left behind her parents, six brothers and two sisters in Gloriavale, struggled to hold back tears as she spoke of how she would not be able to go to their weddings or visit their children. "[I'm] banished, shunned. We're not allowed any contact with people in there."

Advertisement

Her parents "don't count me as part of their family any more".

"I'm not welcome ... I'm not welcome any more in there."

Asked if she would encourage her family to leave if they could hear her message, she said: "Yeah, I would definitely tell them to come out."

"They just think it's evil [in the outside world], everybody's horrible. But really everybody's so welcoming out here, everybody's supportive. It's amazing."

Julia said she was now engaged, and had received "amazing support" on the outside.

She was speaking after it was revealed the Gloriavale leadership applied to have a public road near its compound closed, claiming the community had been subject to vandalism and abuse.

The farm attacks went beyond the common animal poaching many farmers in the area had experienced, Federated Farmers West Coast health and safety spokeswoman Katie Milne said.

Animal poaching was a "huge problem" in the area, but the other attacks at Gloriavale were unusual, she said.

Advertisement

Reports of a person letting milk out of the community's silo was "something completely different" and could be seen as a "facetious" act.

"It probably doubly feels like a bad thing for [Gloriavale], because they perhaps perceive it to be about other issues around their side of life."

Gloriavale leader Fervent Stedfast said community members needed to protect themselves from "the small element who from time to time invade our privacy to steal, destroy and cause personal offence".

"There has been a very small minority of people who have used this short section of the legal road inside our property to gain access illegally into our private land to shoot prime deer on our farm, let all the milk out of our 24,000-litre milk silo, tip out valuable dairy semen, and break into our lodges and other buildings to steal valuable equipment."

Two weeks ago people illegally trespassed, cut down fences and let deer out, he said.

"Other trespassers have caused offence to our people and even our children. Please remember that this is the private home of 540 people, including over 300 children, and our school and early childhood centres use this property extensively."

Advertisement

In November, the Grey District Council agreed to close a section of the road after a request from Gloriavale, despite public objections.