Westland Milk Products has indefinitely suspended milk collection from dairy farms owned by the Gloriavale Christian Community.
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The suspension begins on June 13, to coincide with the end of the milking season, so there will be no issues around livestock welfare or milk disposal.

But the West Coast dairy company has made it clear that Gloriavale will need to make some changes before it will again take milk under a contract understood to be worth millions of dollars a year.

“Gloriavale would need to demonstrate it can adhere to the standards and values of not only Westland, but the standards and values of the wider New Zealand community as well as our customers before any resumption at a future date,” said Westland Dairy Company chief executive Richard Wyeth.

Gloriavale leaver Faithful Disciple, who suffered a third degree burn working on a boiler attached to the Value Proteins meal plant, has called for all the community’s businesses to be closed until pay and safety issues were addressed.
AIMAN AMERUL MUNER/STUFF Gloriavale leaver Faithful Disciple, who suffered a third degree burn working on a boiler attached to the Value Proteins meal plant, has called for all the community’s businesses to be closed until pay and safety issues were addressed.

The company had earlier said it was “exploring legal avenues” regarding its milk contract.

It provided a written statement about the indefinite suspension, and declined to elaborate on the standards and values it expected Gloriavale to meet.

The decision comes in the wake of an Employment Court finding that Gloriavale businesses, including its three dairy farms, had used child labour and treated workers as volunteers, when they were employees entitled to be paid minimum wage.

The new milking season begins in August, giving Gloriavale leaders time to get their house in order.

The West Coast Christian Community operates as a registered charity and according to its annual statement to Charities Services, its “biological assets” last year included 2960 dairy cows.

Based on Dairy NZ’s industry database, and the average forecast farm gate milk price, Gloriavale’s income from its farms could potentially be somewhere in the region of $10m.

According to regional economic agency Development West Coast, Infometrics estimated the total dairy payout on the West Coast for the year to the end of March was $380m.
SUPPLIED According to regional economic agency Development West Coast, Infometrics estimated the total dairy payout on the West Coast for the year to the end of March was $380m.

Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne said that according to Infometrics estimates, the Lake Brunner area, which includes Gloriavale, last year contributed $27m in GDP, mostly from dairy farming ($16.8m).

However, he said many Gloriavale residents may not be officially recorded as employed, so their jobs would not be accounted for in the GDP data.

“Due to the underreporting of employment in Gloriavale it is difficult to quantify the actual economic contribution. However, there will be a degree of economic flow-through from Gloriavale to the wider West Coast economy.”

Fall out from the Employment Court finding could also have an impact on Gloriavale’s honey, Moo Chews, and health supplement businesses, and has already hit its Value Proteins meal plant.

On Thursday ANZCO Foods gave Value Proteins notice it will cease its “ad hoc arrangements” with the company, removing another key supplier of offal which is processed into meal sold to pet food makers.

Silver Fern Farms recently announced it would discontinue any commercial arrangements with the factory, and Alliance Group is also reviewing its relationship with Value Proteins which has been the scene of serious workplace accidents, and come under scrutiny from WorkSafe.

Gloriavale’s health supplement business is waiting to find out whether it is allowed to retain its government-endorsed Fern Mark licence for exporters.
SCREENSHOT Gloriavale’s health supplement business is waiting to find out whether it is allowed to retain its government-endorsed Fern Mark licence for exporters.

Late last month Gloriavale leaders released a statement apologising for “failing to prevent and protect victims of labour exploitation and sexual abuse,” and shortly after that two leaders, Fervent Stedfast and Faithful Pilgrim, stepped down from their leadership roles.

Following the public apology, Stuff sought more detail about the level and timing of changes leaders planned to make, such as whether all Gloriavale employees would be paid at least minimum wage, including women doing kitchen and laundry work, and whether they would have access to their bank accounts to spend the money as they wished?

A response from Peter Righteous said it was best to answer those questions as time permitted.

“We simply don’t have answers yet on some of the issues which are with our lawyers and under prayerful consideration.

“Our plan is to sent out media releases when we have made decisions or instituted some change in line with our programme of change.”

State agriculture officials are expected to roll out an income replacement program soon.

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