A regional church and its pastor have been charged with providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer.
The offending is alleged to have happened in March 2015 and pertains to lying about the sponsorship form, salary and offer of employment for Samoan immigrant Uasi Siatulau who claimed he was exploited by the church pastor and treated "like a slave".
Everlasting Gospel Church in Hastings was charged in June this year with four counts of supplying information to an immigration officer knowing it was false or misleading.
Its pastor, Faaofo Fomai, cited as the church's chairperson on the Charities Register, was also charged with four counts of provided false or misleading information.
In September last year the Immigration and Protection Tribunal heard Siatulau left Samoa in 2015 to work as a youth pastor in New Zealand.
It was alleged the father of five arrived to find the church barely existed beyond the pastor and two couples, and that he could not be paid as a youth pastor and would instead be working in an orchard.
He was served a Deportation Liability Notice after Immigration New Zealand declined his application to vary his work visa conditions so he could legally work as a seasonal orchard worker.
During this application process the fact he was not working as a youth pastor and in breach of his work conditions came to light. He unsuccessfully appealed the deportation notice.
The primary issue of his appeal was a claim he had been exploited by the church minister who arranged for him to come to New Zealand to take up employment as a youth pastor.
Formerly a police officer in Samoa, Siatulau was granted a two-year work visa under the religious worker category for a youth pastor position in March 2015.
His appeal requested that he and his family be able to stay in New Zealand as they had been "victims of the pastor".
The tribunal declined his appeal, finding his situation did not meet the exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature required to keep him in New Zealand.
The decision also noted that despite the appellant saying he was put to work in an orchard within two days of arriving, he did not contact Immigration New Zealand to discuss the situation.
Siatulau said he did not know who to contact as the pastor was responsible for all paperwork and communication with Immigration New Zealand.
The tribunal described his allegation as serious and stated Immigration New Zealand would investigate and "carefully scrutinise any further employment offers to people to come from Samoa and work for the church".
A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said it had received most financials from the organisation for 2015 and 2016 but some information was "not yet complete" so the most recent returns were not showing on the register.
Everlasting Gospel Church and Faaofo Fomai are scheduled to appear in the Hastings District Court again next month.