Court questions political and illegal activity in Greenpeace charity bid

Greenpeace's bid for charity status hinges on whether the environmental activist's political advocacy includes involvement in illegal activities.

A Court of Appeal decision has allowed Greenpeace to challenge a decision to refuse it charity status but says the organisation’s political advocacy needs to be “truly ancillary” to its principal charitable objectives.

The Department of Internal Affairs and the Charities Registration Board, which will now review the decision to decline charity status, also needs to decide whether Greenpeace is involved in illegal activities.

Greenpeace first applied in 2008 for registration as a charity but the then-Charities Commission declined the application in 2010.

There were two reasons for declining to register Greenpeace as a charity. The commission found:

  • Two of Greenpeace’s objectives – promoting “peace” and “disarmament” – were political, not charitable.
  • Greenpeace was involved in illegal activities, such as trespassing; therefore it was not maintained exclusively for charitable purposes as illegal purposes are not charitable.

In its decision, the commission also referred to a number of mission statements on the Greenpeace website, including:

  • We are actively campaigning for international disarmament.
  • We believe greater peace, greater security, greater safety is possible. Reaching out across national boundaries Greenpeace is working with citizens and political leaders around the world to make this happen.

In order to be registered as a charity an organisation must be established and maintained exclusively for charitable purposes. Political purposes are not charitable purposes.

An organisation may, however, be registered as a charity if it has a political purpose so long as the political purpose is ancillary to the charitable purposes of the organisation and is not an independent purpose.

In May last year, the High Court upheld the commission’s decision, but Court of Appeal justices Rhys Harrison, Lynton Stevens and Douglas White have now referred the application back to the Charities Commission’s replacement –the Department of Internal Affairs and the Charities Registration Board for reconsideration.

During the appeal, Greenpeace indicated it would consider making some changes to its objectives, and would look to replacing the objective of promoting disarmament with the aim of promoting peace and “nuclear disarmament and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction”.

The judges listed a number of examples of "direct action" taken from the Greenpeace website, including boarding coal ships; occupying power stations and mines; preventing the delivery of coal to a factory by blocking it with wood fuel; boarding fishing vessels; protesting against whaling ships; disrupting whaling operations and boarding ships carrying genetically engineered food.

The ruling said Greenpeace should now be given the opportunity to provide the department with relevant and current information in light of its new ancillary “political advocacy” role.

“We share the concerns of the Charities Commission and the High Court that the information provided by Greenpeace to date does suggest that its “political advocacy” activities when assessed qualitatively were being pursued by Greenpeace as an independent objective in its own right.

However, it has warned the charities registration board “could well be justified” in reaching the same conclusion as the commission and the High Court, if it is found Greenpeace intends to pursue its political advocacy role to the same extent as its website would indicate.

bcunningham@nbr.co.nz

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21 Comments & Questions

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This case should hinge on the actions of the organisation - not on interpretation of website content.
Otherwise, it would be simple matter of changing a few words while activities continue as before.
Actions have to speak louder than words.
On that basis, Greenpeace is clearly a political outfit undeserving of tax-free charitable status.

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I find it very interesting that Greenpeace has recently amended its website content, downplaying (or removing) its activist activity and recent campaigns against, for example, its mocking of Sealord employees. It's clearly a cunning attempt to hide its true intentions in order to appeal to the DIA's Charities Registration Board during their deliberations.

You would be hard pressed to say that Greenpeace will stop its activist activity, which is designed principally to generate donations and so-called membership.

If they are a charity, then Newmont Mining Corporation should be one, too.

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By the number of agitated respondents here - Greenpeace is achieving their charitable goals!

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To suggest Greenpeace is not a political organisation is absurd.

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Primarily an environmental organisation that uses politics to help the environment. I have no issue with that. It's still a charity.

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Absolute rubbish. It's a multi-national political behemoth that lost sight of its founding principles decades ago. While disarmament may be a noble and worthy cause, directly (broadly) connecting it to the environment is stupid.
Greenpeace is hostile to business and preaches bad science. They dissemble and lie whenever they think it's justified - just like politicians.
If it was up to me I'd put them in prison when they interfere with businesses. But I'll settle for removing their ridiculous charity status and treating them as what they are - a taxable political movement.

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Tax them ,Tax them Tax them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I sense a dislike for Greenpeace with the implication that therefore it should pay tax. The system does not work like that, and it should not work like that. Better to actually look at whether it is a charitable organisation, which, I must note, it clearly is not.

I agree with the outcome for which you so eloquently advocate, and I also dislike the organisation, but I do not think those two things should be linked.

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When it comes to a judgment call on whether or not Green'peace’ is political in nature or not, it is best to review a a few choice quotes in their own words:

“We need to hit them where it hurts most, by any means necessary: through the power of our votes, our taxes, our wallets, and more.”

“‘We must break the law to make the laws we need: laws that are supposed to protect society, and protect our future. Until our laws do that, screw being climate lobbyists. Screw being climate activists. It’s not working. We need an army of climate outlaws.’

“The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism.

“If you’re one of those who believe that this is not just necessary but also possible, speak to us. Let’s talk about what that mass civil disobedience is going to look like.

“If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:

“We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.

“And we be many, but you be few.”

They don't sound very charitable do they! In fact, one of their founders, Patrick Moore, laments that the movement he helped launch now has no room for people of all political persuasions and has "taken a sharp turn to the ultra-left, ushering in a mood of extremism and intolerance".

In an analysis that has appeared in various locations on the internet, attributed initially to Oregon Wheat magazine, Moore spelled out his charges against what he terms "eco-extremism". As one who helped invent the game and who knows the players well, his insider critique would seem particularly valuable to those interested in understanding the movement. Some of its features, he writes, include:

* It is anti-human. The human species is characterised as a "cancer" on the face of the Earth. The extremists perpetuate the belief that all human activity is negative, whereas the rest of nature is good.

* It is anti-organisation. Environmental extremists tend to expect the whole world to adopt anarchism as the model for individual behaviour. This is expressed in the dislike of national governments, multinational corporations and large institutions of all kinds.

* It is anti-trade. Eco-extremists not only are opposed to "free trade" but to international trade in general. This is based on the belief that each "bioregion" should be self-sufficient in all its material needs. If it's too cold to grow bananas, too bad.

* It is anti-democratic. This is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of radical environmentalism. The very foundation of our society, liberal representative democracy, is rejected as being too "human-centered". In the name of "speaking for the trees and other species", we are faced with a movement that would usher in an era of eco-fascism. The "planetary police" would "answer to no one but Mother Earth herself".

So no charity status for hard left anti-democratic political activists, please. They are not a charity - they don't know the meaning of the word.

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Tax the evil Greenpeace Corporation until the pips squeak!

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I could understand them being classified as a terrorist organisation, but a charity - no way.

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“It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.”
- Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace

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I wish they would tax Sanitarium - laughable that they are a charity and untaxed.

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Doesn't sanitarium give away all their profits to charity?

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You mean the church? Or the massive marketing budgets - they spend triple that of their competitors.

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I think I can put a few objectives onto my website that show I am totally deserving of being treated as a charity...... nice idea!!
Actions define the organisation... and in my view Greenpeace does not meet the criteria of a charity.

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I was not surprised Greenpeace did not get charitable status, and it will not get charitable status under this review. Regardless of your views of the organisation(or what is on its website), it is an advocacy group lobbying for political change. That does not now, under the Charities Act, did not under the Income Tax Act, and never under the preamble to the Statute of Elizabeth nor under the Pensel heads ever qualify under the defintion of charitable. Also, it would not qualify under the charitable definition of other jurisdictions, including Australia, Canada, USA or the UK.

Greenpeace may want to change the world, but unless the Charities Act definition changes it will not obtain charitable status (ie, income tax exempt on whatever income it actually has, which excludes donations, nor donee status, which allows donees a rebate or tax deduction).

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If Sanitarium foods is a charity then Greenpeace must be right....

Let's apply common sense more often and tax companies and give community groups the support they deserve...

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At least Sanitarium are creating heaps of taxable jobs that help bring income, stability and education opportunities to many Kiwi families... and they're producing healthy foods that create lots of GST for the country to function. And they give away heaps of their earnings in sponsorships - not even close to anything like Greenpeace!

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Greenpeace have been operating outside the law for a long time. A lot of their "informational" material is full of half-truths and sometimes outright deceptions. Why? Because they are dangerous true-believers. They gave up science-based evidence and rational thought processes when swearing their allegiance to the religion of Gaia.

Eventually, they will have spent all the public moral capital of the Rainbow Warrior and then they will be thrown to the wolves as dangerous "eco-terrorists". Whatever they are now, or will be in the future, Greenpeace is not a charity.

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Surely there’s some huge similarities here regarding the legality of the unions and how they operate. They are very much a part of the Labour political landscape yet they form all manner of “charities” “trusts” and “incorporated societies” and have a combined income of over $100 million annually.

The checks and balances are only recently being applied enforcing minimum statutory reporting compliance finally – after six years of continuous failures by the Meat Worker Unions, in particular – yet these productivity hijackers are legally able to operate and hold entire industries/regions to ransom. Why?

Will the government finally squash these parasitic productivity groups if it’s proven the unions have been rorting and “misappropriating” millions of dollars of members' money?

Maybe it’s about time the National government altered the law to make unions responsible for collecting their own membership fees, not the employer. That one step would ensure plenty that are held to ransom by peer pressure would likely resign, especially once they see the money come out of their back pockets to the unions … and for what exactly?

Choke off the unions' annual income automatically given to them, make them collect and account for it themselves, then let’s see how much they can donate to the Labour Party…

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