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Charities Commission Annual General Meeting

Charities Commission Annual General Meeting

Thursday 27 November 2008,

Wellington; 2pm Hon Tariana Turia Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector

E ngâ mana, e ngâ reo o tçnei rohe, tçnâ koutou.

E ngâ iwi e huihui nei, i te Kômihana Kaupapa Atawhai, tçnâ koutou kâtoa.

It was Martin Luther King who said “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others’?

This hui, the Annual General Meeting for the Charities Commission, is a very good answer to that question.

I am honoured to be here today and to celebrate and congratulate all involved in Te Komihana Kaupapa Atawhai – the Charities Commission.

In particular I want to recognise the outstanding contribution made 'for others', by your chair, Sid Ashton ; and by the members of your Board – Judith Timpany of Whanganui; Kerry Ayers of Christchurch; Ian Calder from Raumati Beach; Frank Claridge from Auckland; Amohaere Houkamau from Ruatorea and Patrica McKelvey from Waikanae.

I acknowledge too, the leadership demonstrated by Trevor Garrett and the other staff of the Charities Commission, and all those who work at the flax roots – the basis of change in our communities.

In the volumes of papers that have flooded my desk in the seven days since I was sworn in as the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, one set of facts really stood out.

Facts which all of you know and breathe every day:

* As of October 2005 there were 97,000 non-profit organisations including 15,000 charitable trusts; and 1180 tangata whenua governance institutions including marae;

* Over one million volunteers gave more than 270 million hours of unpaid labour to non-profit organisations in 2004; at an estimated value of $3.31 billion.

You might be familiar with the concept that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

If I think about these one million volunteers, and the impact they make, it would seem to me there’s enough light generated in this sector to create a force and a movement which knows no bounds.

This is a movement of care which deserves our utmost respect.

A movement of many thousands of people who work tirelessly to make their communities better places in which to work and enjoy life.

The statistics I have quoted describe what we all know to be the very fabric of Aotearoa – the art of giving, the generosity of spirit which New Zealanders are recognised for across the globe.

And so the role you have in the Charities Commission is a vital one.

You have been charged with the duty of care, to encourage and promote the effective use of charitable resources.

In taking on the responsibility as an autonomous Crown entity, there are of course expectations that you must fulfil in relation to good governance and management.

But an equally important function, in my eyes, is to balance the role of regulator with that of being a supporter of charitable organisations.

I am told that you are well on the way to becoming an authority on charities, and a leader of discussion and debate on charitable matters.

It is with some pleasure that I note that you and I have been on parallel journeys over these last three years.

We came from similar starting points – I was Minister of the Community and Voluntary Sector from 2003 to 2004 - in fact one of my proudest achievements was to launch the Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector in 2003.

Not long after that the Charities Act of 2005 established the Charities Commission – and of course the Foreshore and Seabed Act saw another movement emerge – the Maori Party.

And so, we have been on similar paths in these last three years, establishing our organisations, consolidating our movement.

For the Charities Commission, your focus has necessarily been on the inaugural registration process.

It has been important to get it right – to put in place the right staff and systems to deal with applications for registration as charitable entities.

Registration is crucial for organisations, so they can benefit from the formal recognition that goes with registration - particularly tax-exempt status. The register is also a consistent, robust and reliable source of information about charities for the public.

Members of the public must be sure that the money and time they give is being used for the purposes which they support. The register gives the public assurance about the charitable purposes of registered organisations, and facilitates their public accountability.

The Commission can proudly say that it has now registered over 15,000 charities. The number of applications still to be processed grows smaller every day, and I am advised that most processing will be completed by the end of this year. This will no doubt be welcome news to everyone involved.

As the registration phase draws to an end, I know you will all be looking forward to the next vital steps in your development –the opportunity to start to implement some of the broader functions.

These wider functions include:

* educating and assisting charities in good governance and management; * providing information, stimulating and promoting research; * handling complaints; * inquiring into charities; * monitoring statutory requirements and * ensuring that charities continue to qualify for registration as charitable entities.

From even a quick glance through all the paper work, it is obvious to see that you have achieved a great deal in three years of operation.

And with the wider functions in place, as I have just described, these next three years would appear to be even busier!

You may be aware of the whakatauaki: he aha te mea nui – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the greatest thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

The Community and Voluntary sector demonstrates to Government, the meaning of this phrase in your every day work.

Your role in the Charities Commission is to support charities, through the information and connections you can foster, to deliver better quality services to communities.

And so I was delighted to read in the Commission’s Statement of Intent for 2008 to 2011 that the Board and staff are committed to building strong relationships with the charitable sector and to working co-operatively with other agencies to ensure that services for charities are well integrated and co-ordinated.

This co-operation is crucial for the Commission to find its niche in the sector.

We are at a pivotal turning point in our development as a nation.

The threat of global economic instability creates both challenges and opportunities ahead. This is the time to firmly establish the Commission’s role as a leader and voice in the charitable sector; to advocate on their behalf, to demonstrate leadership, to keep hope alive, and to encourage and promote the spirit of generosity.

I look forward to working with you all, to support the continued success of New Zealand’s charitable organisations and the communities they serve.

Nô reira, tçnâ koutou, tçnâ koutou, tçnâ koutou katoa.

ENDS

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