Gloriavale's bid to bring in foreign workers labelled 'bizarre and extraordinary'

Gloriavale, the Christian commune on the West Coast linked to claims of slave labour, is seeking formal approval to bring in workers from overseas. 

But a group supporting those who leave the community have called the request "extraordinary" and "bizarre". 

Documents obtained by Newshub show Gloriavale's leaders may be looking to recruit teaching staff from India.  

Gloriavale has been at the centre of claims of forced child labour and sexual abuse. 

Despite the claims, it wants recognition as an "accredited employer" which would allow the commune to bring in foreign workers.

David Fisher, an immigration law specialist and founder of Immigration Chambers, told Newshub it will be a tough ask.  

"If Gloriavale, as I understand, the overall institution and organisation came to me for advice as to whether they would be eligible for accreditation, I would be saying, 'Don't bother,'" Fisher said. 

Jeannie Melville, Immigration New Zealand's deputy chief operating officer, told Newshub the department has received an application for accreditation from Gloriavale, which "we are currently following due process to assess". 

Meanwhile, Fisher said officials are obliged to follow procedure but, ultimately, they must be satisfied Gloriavale would not exploit migrant workers.  

"You might not be wrong in saying this might be a futile application." 

Liz Gregory from the Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust said the application was "bizarre". 

"I think it's an extraordinary request from a reasonably problematic organisation, especially given the investigations which are currently underway. 

"There's an active police investigation for slavery, servitude and forced labour." 

Official information obtained by Newshub shows Education Ministry officials raised concerns about the "fragile staffing situation" at Gloriavale's school in May last year.  

And a Public Service Commission worker noted there's a "possibility of teachers coming to the West Coast site from India". 

Gloriavale did not respond to Newshub's questions about its immigration application, or if it still wanted to bring in teachers from India. 

But in a recent media statement, a spokesperson said the community is facing challenges like other parts of society - including labour shortages.  

The spokesperson said Gloriavale Christian School is working with education officials to ensure children are well educated, noting police visited last month to teach children about road safety.  

The Education Ministry said it visited Gloriavale recently and its early childhood education met the required licensing standard. 

But it said Gloriavale's school is still being monitored, after a litany of problems were identified in a review last year.