Gloriavale under pressure as police make daily visits to remote West Coast community

West Coast police have been making daily visits at Gloriavale this past week.
West Coast police have been making daily visits at Gloriavale this past week. Photo credit: File

The Gloriavale Christian Community has been under intense pressure as police and social agencies circle in on the remote West Coast community. 

In the past week, West Coast police have been making daily visits to Gloriavale, The Greymouth Star reported. 

Area commander Inspector Mel Aitken declined to detail the reason behind the visits, or if there were any charges pending as a result of the visits. 

It is understood at least 33 females within the community have been interviewed in the past week and a slew of charges were pending. 

Gloriavale leader Fervant Stedfast declined to say if the community was feeling under siege, but said "there's always rumours". 

"I have no comment whatsover," Mr Stedfast told The Greymouth Star.

A source with personal knowledge of Gloriavale said another operation was focused on how the community cared for and protected children. 

"I think they've been gunning for them," the source said.

They described the community as "under siege" and the leadership was increasingly being questioned by younger members. 

It is understood whistleblowers were being ostracised. 

People in the wider Grey district were increasingly aware of what was happening at Gloriavale as younger men banished from the commune were given outside support and employment. 

This was to do with the police being in an active "education role" at Gloriavale, particularly in the community's school. 

"We're out at Gloriavale all the time because we do a lot of education in the school, so it's not unusual for police to go to Gloriavale," Insp Aitken said. 

Last year, an 18-month Newsroom investigation showed reports of serious misconduct within the community.

Documents obtained from Charities Services, which is part of Internal Affairs, revealed an 18-month investigation into allegations of forced marriage, physical and sexual abuse and enforced control of personal matters such as passports and bank accounts, Newsroom reported. 

The Charities Services undertook interviews with people who had recently left the community.

The main allegations in the report included that of the 18 former Gloriavale members interviewed, five females claimed they were victims of sex crimes.

There are 55 families at Gloriavale, a small Christian group based at Haupiri on the West Coast of the South Island, which was first formed in June 1991, and became a charity in May 2008.