Gloriavale has labelled claims of sexual abuse within the isolated community as "just nonsense".

A new report on an 18-month government investigation has hinted a sexual predator is active in the Gloriavale community, a religious expert has said.

The Christian Church Community Trust, which governs the isolated West Coast community in Haupiri, was the subject of the Charities Services investigation.

The probe began in April 2015 after media reports about an increase of people leaving Gloriavale and allegations of sexual and physical abuse, the Newsroom website reported.


The main allegations in the report included:

• Of the 18 former Gloriavale members interviewed, five of the females claimed they were victims of sex crimes

• Claims of unfair work conditions, including working excessive hours

• Senior Gloriavale members acting illegally in operating bank accounts of members without their knowledge

• Members forced into an isolated hut as punishment

• Those who left were not provided means to support themselves or to transition to life outside and were unable to maintain contact with members still inside.

'It's just nonsense'

Police are already investigating allegations of sexual assault within Gloriavale.

"Investigations into allegations of offending at the Gloriavale Christian Community are ongoing.

"Any and all complaints received by police are treated seriously," the acting area commander for the West Coast, Inspector Dan Mattison, told the Herald.

No charges had yet been laid.

"In recent times, police and their partners have actively built a proactive relationship with the Gloriavale community," Mattison said.

"For example, school community officers have worked with the children and provided interaction that is typical of that across all communities within our district."

He said police were committed to building trust with those who had come forward about sexual offending and had promised they would not be identified.

Massey University religion expert Peter Lineham told Newsroom of the report: "There's obviously things that we don't know. There are hints that there is a sexual predator loose in the community."

The outcome of a police investigation could result in further action, and any other allegations could spark new investigations, Charities Services acting general manager Jane Pierard said in a letter sent to the trust.

"In the event that any of the other allegations referred to other agencies should result in either the identification or prosecution of offences that represent serious wrongdoing . . . further compliance action would be considered."

Gloriavale trust board head Fervent Stedfast told the Herald sexual assault allegations as well as comments that there was a sexual predator on the loose were "just nonsense".

"The stories are getting out of hand. There's no such thing at Gloriavale. It's not the case."

Asked whether he was satisfied claims of sexual assault were dealt with appropriately, Stedfast said: "Yes, absolutely."

"And that's not our way of life. Our way of life is purity. And there can be no people in all of this country that don't stand for purity of life as we do. We believe first of all in marriage for life. We don't have divorce and remarriage."

As for claims of forced marriage, Stedfast said they weren't true either.

"There was no forced marriage. There was no such thing as a forced marriage. No one has ever been forced to married anybody.

"No one gets married unless they come and ask to be married, no one's told to be married."

The report stated that "no one was forced to get married if they do not wish to get married".

Stedfast said Charities Services came to "quite a reasonable conclusion" in its report.

"They finished up on a good basis. They're happy with things, they got no charges to make against us. They're taking no action. They were satisfied with our responses and we're working together in a positive basis."

He said the 18 recommendations had been completed, including the appointment of two external advisers to the Gloriavale board.

"There's lots of allegations, I agree, without substantial basis."

As for whether it affected the community, Stedfast said everyone was aware of the investigation.

"Jesus Christ when he was alive was treated in a somewhat similar way and in the end he was crucified. And when somebody's different people often react to it, but we're different because we follow the New Testament."

As for his thoughts on the people who had since left Gloriavale and were making claims, Stedfast said: "That's their choice. These things happen in life."

Agencies step in

Other serious complaints were referred to other government agencies by investigators.

The Ministry of Social Development confirmed to Newsroom that children from two families had been given assistance from Child, Youth and Family.

The unfair work conditions findings were passed to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which is receiving guidance from Charities Services before beginning its own investigation.

The report concluded that despite evidence of serious wrongdoing, the trust should not be issued with a warning notice but work with Charities Services to bring it up to standard.

"Charities Services has, therefore, determined that the most appropriate outcome for the current investigation is for Charities Services to continue to engage with the Trust and assist them in implementing policies that will improve the governance and management of the Trust."

Pierard listed 18 actions the trust needed to take to remain compliant and enjoy the tax exemptions that come with charity status.

They included making a formal policy to deal with sexual and physical assault complaints; holding board meetings; appointing two external advisers to its board;and making it easier for people to leave.

Pierard issued an informal warning about the way personal bank accounts are operated.

The investigation involved interviewing trustees, 18 people who left the community and the people who helped them.

Bank and finance records were also analysed, and police, Ministry of Social Development and MBie were spoken to.

• This story was originally broken by the Newsroom website.