Less Govt oversight for Gloriavale community

Less Govt oversight for Gloriavale community

| 1 News | Ryan Boswell |

Former Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood wants an all-of-government response to the controversial Gloriavale community.

He said the leadership of the sect has “not acted in a way that creates an environment of trust”.

A previously mandated joint response ended last December.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment general manager of workplace relations and safety policy, Anna Clark, said the current Government has not yet made any decisions on extending the mandate.

Therefore, the formal reporting and coordination roles agreed to by the previous government has ended, she said.

In 2022, Public Services Commissioner Craig Churchill was appointed to coordinate engagement and share intelligence between 10 government agencies working inside the West Coast commune.

Wood said there were real concerns about the way people were being treated, and allegations of “severe psychological abuse” against people “being forced to stay… against their will”.

He said the former government wanted individual agencies to take a coordinated approach to ensure resources were deployed effectively, and for the Public Services Commissioner to be able to report directly to ministers.

“So ministers would meet regularly, would receive status reports, and we were able to measure the progress at Gloriavale against our clear objectives.”

The then Labour cabinet agreed on five key outcomes it wanted Gloriavale to implement at the commune.

The agreed outcomes were:

  • Work at Gloriavale to be undertaken by community members without the threat of penalty
  • Gloriavale community members to receive at least minimum legal entitlements for their work
  • Children to have their rights upheld, including receiving an education and not being exploited for commercial gain
  • No tolerance for any form of avoidable serious harm to anyone at Gloriavale
  • Those who want to leave Gloriavale can do so freely, with appropriate support to help them (re-)integrate into society.

“In my personal view, it would be an error to use a word like trust in this situation,” Wood said. “Frankly, the Gloriavale leadership over successive years have not acted in a way that creates an environment of trust.

“Their approach has often been to say the right things when government agencies are there, and then to hope they go away and go back to the way that they were behaving before.

A spokesperson for Gloriavale told 1News the community was committed to the requested objectives even without an all of Government response.

Improving how to support those wanting to leave has been a particular focus, the spokesperson said.

It was understood 25 people have cut ties with the community since Christmas.

Wood added: “I think it’s important to remain strong oversight, and expectations around what is happening, not just a handshake.

“The issues are significant and serious and go to the human rights of people who live in this community.”

MBIE general manager of workplace relations and safety policy Anna Clark said: “Agencies will continue working with Gloriavale for the foreseeable future, and taking a collaborative approach where it makes sense to do so.”