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Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated

21 March 2018

NOTE: Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated (Greenpeace) appealed the decision of the Board, and the appeal was upheld by the High Court(external link). The High Court held Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated (Greenpeace) qualifies for registration.

The role of Te Rātā Atawhai, the independent Charities Registration Board (“the Board”) is to maintain the integrity of the Charities Register by ensuring that entities on the Charities Register qualify for registration. The Board makes its decisions based on the facts before it applying the law including relevant case law. The Board must decline organisations’ applications for registration when they do not advance exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit. A purpose is charitable if it advances public benefit in a way that is analogous to cases that have previously been held to be charitable.

The Board has decided that Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated (“Greenpeace”) does not meet the legal requirements to be registered as a charity and has declined its application.

In 2014 the Supreme Court directed the Board to reconsider Greenpeace’s application in light of Greenpeace’s amended stated purposes and the Court’s decision.  The Board has carried out a full reconsideration of Greenpeace’s application and applied the principles decided in the courts to reach its decision.   

The Board considers Greenpeace does not qualify for registration for two main grounds:

  1. Greenpeace promotes its points of view on the environment and other issues in ways that cannot be found to be for the benefit of the public.
  2. Greenpeace and its members’ involvement in illegal activities amounts to an illegal purpose which disqualifies it from registration.

Promotion of points of view

The Board considers that Greenpeace has an independent purpose to advocate its own particular views about the environment and other issues which does not advance a public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable. 

Although the Supreme Court in Greenpeace held that advocacy can be charitable, it indicated that promoting a cause or advocating a particular viewpoint will not often be charitable. This is because it is not possible to say whether the views promoted are for the public benefit in the way the law recognises as charitable.

The Board considers that Greenpeace’s focus is on advocating its point of view on environmental issues such fossil fuel exploration and the expansion of intensive dairy farming.  Most of Greenpeace’s environmental advocacy cannot be determined to be in the public benefit when all the potential consequences of adopting its views are taken into account.

Greenpeace has the freedom to continue to communicate its views and to influence policy and legislation but the Board has found that Greenpeace’s pursuit of these activities do not qualify as being for the public benefit in a charitable sense.

Illegal purpose

The Supreme Court confirmed that an illegal purpose will disqualify an organisation from being registered as a charity. In some cases, an illegal purpose can be inferred from an organisation’s involvement in illegal activities.  

The Board found that Greenpeace directly coordinates and authorises its members to carry out illegal activities, such as trespass on ships and buildings.  There is no evidence that Greenpeace has any processes in place to discourage its members from carrying out illegal activities.

The Board considers the illegal activities form a pattern of behaviour from which an illegal purpose can be inferred. Greenpeace’s illegal purpose means that it is disqualified from registration as a charity.

The Board’s full decision can be read at the link below.

The Charities Registration Board’s statement regarding the decision can be found here.

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