The Environmental Defence Society Inc. [“EDS”] was registered as a charity with the Charities Commission on 18 May 2007 (Reg. No. CC10297).
Its Society’s Rules (amended on 6 May 2003) were first filed with the Charities Commission on 3 November 2011, and the “ojectives” were approved by the Charities Commission Registration Team as constituting “charitable purposes” under the Charities Act 2005. The Rules are available on the Charities Commission website (www.charities.govt.nz)
Section 2 of the ESA Rules – The Objectives – include:
2. (a) “To exercise the Society’s rights under the Resource Management Act 1991 or under any other applicable laws currently in force in New Zealand including (but without limitation) the right to make submissions, lodge appeals (including appeals on a question of law), apply to become a heritage protection authority or apply for a water conservation order; give notice of its intention to appear and call evidence at proceedings, apply for judicial review, apply for declarations or enforcement orders, or exercise any rights or objection.”
The term “charitable purpose”, as it occurs in the Charities Act 2005, would appear to have been interpreted in this case by the Charities Commission, as applicable to all the political-environmental advocacy activities engaged in by EDS ….
… including supporting enforcement agencies to uphold such [envoronmental] standards as set out in law and encourag[ing] constructive debate and discussion in this area.
S. 2(c) empowers the charity EDS to exercise rights under applicable law to lodge appeals at all levels of the NZ Judicial System (Law Court and Tribunals), act in the quasi-judicial role of an envornmental authority, and exercise rights or objections to decisions issued by government agencies.
It is somewhat puzzling that a charitable entity such as EDS which received $144,7123 in government grants in the financial ended 31 March 2011, excists to “exercise its rights” to take legal action over the actions or lack of action of government agencies and/or its officers, and engage in such litigation as a registered charity. However, the wisdom of the Charities Commission, to grant charity status to EDS, given the nature of its objective, is no doubt sound and well-grounded.
EDS arguably engages in a level of “political advocacy” when it seeks to have the law changed or upheld on environmental protection matters. Its officers, some of whom are “contracted consultants” working for EDS, would no dobt see themselves as engaged in the “charitable purpose” of “advocating for the New Zealand environment” when it came to involvement in costly litigation. EDS spent $59,058 in “litigation supprt” in the financial year ended 31 March 2010.
EDS funded six full-time and three part-time “contracted consultants” in 2010/11 at a cost of $364,731. Its total income of $555,191 included $144,736 obtained from government grants, and $114,500 from other grants and sponsorship. Its total expenditure was $583,180.