Greenpeace New Zealand charity status appeal for the public good

Press release - September 3, 2012
Auckland, 3 September 2012 - Greenpeace New Zealand says it is appealing the Charities Commission ruling declining it charity status as a matter of principle.

Tomorrow, Greenpeace lawyers will ask the Court of Appeal, in Wellington, to overturn the Charities Commission decision declining it charity status when it applied in 2010. An appeal to the High Court over that ruling was unsuccessful in May last year.

Greenpeace Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid says the appeal has helped start a much needed debate about what it means to be a charity in the 21st Century.

“The Charities Act was passed in 2005, but the courts, to date, have been applying English laws dating back to the 1600s. The public’s idea of charitable work today and what the courts have held so far is too far apart,” she says.

“At the heart of the challenge is whether Greenpeace’s work on nuclear disarmament is too ‘political’ and whether the amount and type of advocacy it does in support of environmental protection is too much to meet the test for a charity. How much is too much, is not clear.

“This appeal raises the question whether New Zealand’s charities law will be in line with the Australian law, which allows charities freedom of expression in political debate as long as it is consistent with their charitable purposes.

“Whether we are successful or not in gaining charitable status, Greenpeace will continue to work in the same manner as we always have. We will always remain non-party political promoting good environmental outcomes supported by nearly 60,000 Kiwis.

“The High Court has upheld a series of decisions refusing organisations charitable status so an appeal to a higher court is needed to challenge the law they have been applying,” says McDiarmid.

Greenpeace supporters continue to be eligible for tax rebates on donations to Greenpeace.

The Court of Appeal is not expected to make a decision tomorrow.