Young Gloriavale women taken to new branch in India

The Gloriavale Christian sect, under scrutiny amid claims of abuse, has sent some young women from its West Coast site to a new branch in India.

TVNZ's Seven Sharp has spent 24 hours getting a snapshot of life at the commune following recent allegations in the media by ex-members of sexual abuse, physical punishment and brainwashing inside the community.

Seven Sharp has confirmed that Gloriavale is starting a second branch in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Gloriavale leader, Neville Cooper, known in the community as Hopeful Christian, and other senior Gloriavale leaders have travelled to Tamil Nadu and have acquired a piece of land, says Seven Sharp reporter Jehan Casinader.

"They brought some Indian parents and children to their site on the West Coast. Those people then returned to India. And they returned with some young women from the Gloriavale community on the West Coast and they've started a new branch over there," Casinader reported.

"They'll be continuing to fund and support that group of people to live a similar lifestyle to that that they have here."

In last night's programme, Fervent Steadfast, one of the 'Shepherds' (leaders) at Gloriavale, acknowledged there have been serious allegations, but said "it doesn't mean they're all true".

It was the first response from the commune to allegations levelled at them by former members, though Fervent Steadfast would not discuss what is true and what isn't.

Police have said they're aware of the allegations in the media and want to fully understand them. And they say anyone who wishes to discuss their experience while living within the community should feel confident in approaching police.

The police turned up while Seven Sharp was at Gloriavale on Wednesday, and yesterday the police described the visit as "a courtesy call". Casinader says the police will be looking for any evidence they can use if there is a further investigation in the future.

Neville Cooper was jailed in the 1990s for multiple sexual assaults at Springbank where the commune started. It moved to the current Gloriavale site near Lake Haupiri on the West Coast in 1991. At Gloriavale he refused to be interviewed, telling Seven Sharp: "I'm not going on. I'm not going onto that. They have had enough of me, they have torn me to bits. So just forget that. 'Cause with a leader, they want to pull a leader down."

Asked by Casinader how he feels about the criticism in the last few weeks, he said: "I told you I'm not going on."