A Gloriavale leader forced out of the secretive West Coast community doubts an unfettered investigation will spark change.
Following allegations of sexual abuse and mismanagement, the Christian Church Community Trust, which administers the running of Gloriavale, has asked two lawyers to hold an independent inquiry.
In a statement to 1 NEWS, Nicholas Davidson QC and Stephanie Grieve said “there is no fetter on that inquiry”.
The pair said the report will go to the trustees “for them to respond as they see fit and it is confidential to them unless they choose to publish in any form”.
Zion Pilgrim grew up in Gloriavale before he became a leader and a trustee.
He told 1 NEWS that his family was kicked out in September last year after he wrote a letter criticising a lack of accountability among leaders and urging change.
Pilgrim said the leaders refused, claiming they’d be “ripping a page out of the bible to make these changes".
“I tried to do what I could to affect positive change there and it was blocked. Now I see I can still affect help from here, even more so maybe.”
Pilgrim believes the independent report should be made public to shine light on what happens among the 600 residents, but doubts the leaders will allow it.
“They will not change, they will not make the fundamental changes that are needed and required by law needed to protect the people.”
He said people are at “imminent risk” of sexual abuse, and it’s wrong that the abusers are dealt with internally, without help from Government agencies.
“If any person can’t ring up police if they have a concern … then they are not actually safe,” Pilgrim said.
“We have a duty of care for those people and I still feel that.”
Four internal trustees as well as three independent trustees administer the Christian Church Community Trust.
Pilgrim believed the independent trustees were not privy to the daily workings of Gloriavale, and operated “purely from a business view point”.
“Really they were very much kept at arm’s length and separate from the internal things of discipline of members and where the families have to be separated or people might have to be put out of the community,” he said.