Charities Services announces investigation into Gloriavale while WorkSafe and Labour Inspectorate to visit

The Charities Services has announced an investigation into Gloriavale and both WorkSafe and the Labour Inspectorate say they'll be visiting the community, following a landmark Employment Court ruling

But a former Gloriavale leader said he wants to see action, not just noise, and thinks every resident there should be interviewed in detail to ensure their rights are upheld. 

Zion Pilgrim was a senior figure at Gloriavale - and now he wants Tuesday's court decision to be a catalyst for change.

"There needs to be a huge level of detailed interaction with every person in there," he told Newshub.

And there was movement on that very thing on Wednesday. 

Gloriavale is a registered charity - enjoying tax exemptions and other benefits. The Charities Services said it has opened an investigation into this registered charity.

In making its decision, it said it noted the chief Employment Court judge raised concerns across a range of matters.

Should a charity be found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing, they may be de-registered.

Liz Gregory, Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust manager, welcomed the move but was worried it could turn into a box-ticking exercise. 

"Everybody knows what's going on. You've got credible evidence, it's just time to act," she said.

In 2020, despite complaints from leavers alleging abuse, forced separation of families, and unsafe working conditions, Charities Services did not act. 

"We were outraged at the time. We literally could not believe the Charities Services could not see this for what it was," Gregory said.

Last month, Newshub revealed WorkSafe had issued Gloriavale with nine safety warnings in less than a year. 

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said inspectors will be returning in light of the court's ruling. 

"WorkSafe will be visiting very soon. WorkSafe have a broad ability to make sure any work that is being carried out is safe and appropriate."

A WorkSafe spokesperson told Newshub that the visit will take place next week. 

"WorkSafe has been clear with Gloriavale's leadership on the need to improve health and safety measures and worker engagement and participation to assure us they are meeting their requirements under HSWA. WorkSafe's visit will be checking their compliance under HSWA with a particular focus on these two areas." 

Gloriavale. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Labour Inspectorate - criticised in the judgement - said it too will take action and visit Gloriavale.  

"The Labour Inspectorate has always taken the Gloriavale issue seriously," said Stu Lumsden, Labour Inspectorate national manager.

He said the ruling stating three former residents are employees could mean hundreds of others living there now are too, meaning they should be paid wages and given contracts.

"That is a potential. However at the moment, the ruling doesn't cover all the people in Gloriavale," Lumsden said.

Zion Pilgrim was formerly a director of multiple Gloriavale businesses. He said if leaders can't rely on child labour or free labour, everything will change. 

"I don't see any other possible outcome other than a restructure because it has relied on that labour and has relied on free labour."

And he has a message for the leaders: "To start listening to actually take notice."

He said the lives of people there depend on it. 

Pilgrim said he'd been told that ahead of the court releasing its judgement, leaders at Gloriavale had been involved in a "crackdown" to ensure information about the decision didn't circulate among the residents. 

He said leaders had been making sure no one had any illegal cellphones to talk to people on the outside.

But Gloriavale leader Howard Temple told Newshub no one had phones confiscated. 

"I just wanted to pass on to you that no cellphones or communication devices have been taken from anyone," he told Newshub. 

In a statement, Gloriavale's lawyer Scott Wilson said Gloriavale leaders "are reviewing the declaration issued by the Employment Court this morning".

"The leaders are committed to bringing positive change to the community for the benefit of those that live there. They will carefully review the findings of the Employment Court and consider what steps they will take in response to it."

The Employment Court found child labour had helped ensure Gloriavale's businesses succeeded. 

Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers told Newshub she's concerned to hear of children from young ages being worked regularly and for long hours for the benefit of Gloriavale's commercial operations.

"Any form of exploitation of our mokopuna, our children is abhorrent. Our mokopuna, our children need to be treated with dignity, respect and love," she said.

"I understand there is future action pending on the role of the Labour Inspectorate and their role in this situation so while I cannot comment on their actions, I would expect all government agencies to be following best process and ensuring the safety and welfare of children is at the forefront of any consideration."