Gloriavale gets $2m a year in tax credits, court hears

Ryan Boswell
Source: 1News

The Employment Court has heard Gloriavale gets more than $2 million a year in Government tax credits.

Charity Christian oversees the administration of the commune’s sharing account, which is used to buy clothing, food and to “care for people”.

She said the money comes directly from members' individual bank accounts, which have been credited with Working for Families payments.

Christian said in the year ending July 2021, $2.2m was donated to the account.

She said it costs between $26 and $27 to feed each person every week, which was “34 per cent of the total budget”.

The court is considering whether Gloriavale residents are classed as employees or volunteers, after a group of leavers lodged a case arguing they are robbed of choice.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer Brian Henry questioned Christian about whether work was compulsory, and how much influence the overseeing shepherds had.

“I wouldn’t call it a requirement to work. We all love the idea of working and teaching our children to work.

“As far as compulsion, I don’t see it as being part of what we do and how we see it,” said Christian.

Brian Henry asked Christian if she was “a servant that just does as they tell them as you feel inspired cause they’ve told you?”

She said she sees the vision that the leadership sees.

Suggestions that parents had no guardianship rights as they had been signed over to the commune’s leadership were disputed by Christian.

The Employment Court is considering whether those living at the West Coast commune of Gloriavale are workers or volunteers.

“The most common encouragement that we had was that families be responsible for their own families and there was no way that we could off-load our responsibilities on to the church or an organisation.

“I remember being told, definitely, your responsibility in the kitchen is not as important as your responsibility to your children and your family,” she said.

Central to the case are documents including the 'Declaration of Commitment', under which members commit to the overseeing shepherds and hand over assets and money to the community.

Christian told the court she never felt any pressure to sign.

“It was my privilege in my mind. I had already made my own personal commitment, my own private commitment.

“So when it first came in the earlier days in Springbank I was keen to be part of that because that’s how I feel and that’s how I believe.”

The community would watch “a lot of movies” to get an understanding of mainstream society, and some were able to travel around New Zealand and the world.

Christian had two daughters living in a commune in India associated with Gloriavale, and she had travelled to America and Canada.

“I thought it was quite stressful and I preferred to be at home where I was looked after and cared for and didn’t have the worries of expenditure and trying to make my own way,” said Christian.