The charities' regulator has opened an investigation into the charitable trust behind the West Coast religious community Gloriavale.

It follows a decision by the chief judge of the employment court, released on Tuesday, which found three Gloriavale leavers were employees.

The decision also led the Labour Inspectorate, the employment standards regulator, to issue a statement saying it would be working with the three plaintiffs on possible enforcement action.

In a statement, Charities Services general manager Mike Stone said the regulator, a business unit within the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), had decided to open an investigation into the Christian Church Community Trust in light of the employment court judgment.

"In making our decision, we note that the chief judge said the evidence heard by the employment court raised concerns across a range of matters for several government agencies,” Stone said.

“Charities Services’ investigation will be conducted under our Charities Act mandate and require consultation with other relevant agencies.”

Donee benefits

Being a registered charity in New Zealand comes with tax exemption and donee benefits, but it also comes with obligations for entities to report annually, to advance their charitable purpose and not engage in serious wrongdoing, as defined by the act.

The Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust has previously called for Charities Services to reinvestigate the Gloriavale trust and for the charity to be deregistered on the grounds it has engaged in oppressive behaviour.

Deregistration decisions for serious wrongdoing are made by the independent charities registration board.

Charities Services previously investigated the trust in 2015. It found the trust and trustees may have engaged in conduct amounting to serious wrongdoing under the Charities Act but decided to work with the trust to improve its compliance instead of pursuing deregistration.