Greenpeace to appeal loss of charity status

Greenpeace New Zealand will appeal last week's High Court's decision which ruled its political activities means it cannot register as a charity.

Greenpeace had appealed against a 2010 ruling by the Charities Commission which found its promotion of "disarmament and peace" was political rather than educational and while it did not directly advocate illegal acts, its members had acted illegally.

In last week's judgment Justice Paul Heath found the commission was correct in its judgment and turned down the Greenpeace appeal.

However, Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid said it planned to appeal the latest decision and take it to the Court of Appeal.

"I think it's an important debate to have about what constitutes a charity today, that's our primary motivation for doing this, because it's a little unclear," Ms McDiarmid told NZPA.

She said while it would be good if Greenpeace had charitable status the primary issue was creating a discussion around what constituted a charity.

"I think most people in the street would agree that our objective as an environment organisation benefits the community which is one of the tests for being a charity."

She said Greenpeace still had "donee" status which meant people could make tax deductible donations.

"The primary difference is that as a charity you have no income tax on business income, which we don't have anyway.

"There's not a huge financial disadvantage to us."

Justice Heath found Greenpeace's pleas for disarmament and peace could be seen as an independent purpose and its political activities were not necessary to educate members of the public on the key issues of Greenpeace.

Greenpeace's lawyer Davey Salmon argued all of the organisation's primary purposes were charitable and the engagement of charities in political advocacy was more acceptable now in 21st century New Zealand.

Justice Heath dismissed the appeal and made no order as to costs.




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