Christian Community resisting Government immunisation drive

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand says it will not adjust immunisation targets for the West Coast of the South Island, even though the ever-growing Gloriavale Christian Community refuses have its children immunised.

The group, now numbering over 400, lives communally on the shores of Lake Haupiri, inland from Nelson Creek.

Despite growth at the commune, the overall vaccination rate on the West Coast fell to 79 per cent for eight-month-old babies in the last quarter, the worst figure in the country.

Ministry of Health chief adviser, child and youth health, Pat Tuohy said the ministry was aware of the high decline (opt out) rates on the West Coast and was working with the West Coast District Health Board to help it achieve the immunisation health target.

“There are similar communities throughout New Zealand so it would be unfair to single out the West Coast in terms of removing them from the DHB’s statistical denominator,” he said.

Gloriavale Christian Community is a small Christian group based at Haupiri on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand.

The group was founded in 1969 by Neville Cooper (Hopeful Christian), an Australian-born evangelist who was invited to preach in New Zealand. He founded what became known as the Springbank Christian Community near Christchurch in the South Island. When this community grew too big for its property, the members bought land on the West Coast and shifted there over a period from 1991 to 1995. They named their new property in the Haupiri Valley “Gloriavale” and established the Gloriavale Christian Community. This property is about 60 km inland from Greymouth.

In 1994 Cooper was jailed for five years for sexual assault on several young girls, boys and women. He was released after 18 months.

Known by some outsiders as the “Cooperites”, the group rejects this name and members refer to themselves only as Christians. Members of the community live a fundamentalist Christian life in accordance with the teachings of the New Testament. The community attempts to uphold the example of the first Christian church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41-47) for its principles of sharing and holding all things in common. The group teaches that the only true way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the commands of God.[3]

The community earns its income from several ventures including dairying and the manufacture of gardening products made from sphagnum moss.


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