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Greenpeace wins charity status battle

Friday 16 Nov 2012 2:14 p.m.

Greenpeace New Zealand has won its legal battle to be considered a charity.

In a decision released on Friday, the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier court ruling backing a Charities Commission decision that Greenpeace could not have charity status because its objectives of promoting peace and disarmament were political.

However, Greenpeace says it will consider replacing its objective of promoting disarmament with "promoting peace and `nuclear disarmament and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction'", which the Court of Appeal judges considered a charitable purpose.

There was such widespread agreement in New Zealand in favour of the elimination of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction that such an objective was not political, the judges said.

The Charities Commission has since been disestablished and Greenpeace will have to apply to the Department of Internal Affairs.

Pleased with the decision, Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid said the case had clarified Greenpeace's objective towards nuclear disarmament, rather than general disarmament.

Having charitable status had only limited financial benefits for Greenpeace, which already had donee status, but the organisation wanted to raise the issue of what was considered a charity in New Zealand, she said.

"The public understanding of what a charity is is probably a little different from the Department of Internal Affairs' legal definition."

The court said Greenpeace also proposes changing its rules to limit its political advocacy to activities that further its charitable objectives.

NZN

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