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Landmark Charity Legislation Passed by Parliament

Landmark Charity Legislation Passed by Parliament

The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB) today celebrates a major event in its 112-year history.

Late this afternoon, Parliament passed the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002 setting out a clear process for new governance and eventually replacing the 1963 Act under which the RNZFB has been running.

The RNZFB is the one of the few charities in New Zealand still to have its own Act and this most recent change allows the organisation to become self-governing - operating under its own Constitution.

"We're excited and thrilled that Parliament has passed the Bill today," says Jonathan Mosen, Chairman, RNZFB Board of Trustees.

"It has taken seven years of consultation, planning and hard work to reach this stage and we couldn't be happier.

A nationwide referendum in September 2001 gained majority support from RNZFB members for the proposed new governance structure. With the Act now in place, the next stage is to seek official ratification of the new Constitution in a special resolution - going out to all 12,500 RNZFB members early next year.

Under the proposed new Constitution, eight of the nine RNZFB Board directors will be elected by and directly accountable to blind and vision-impaired New Zealanders and parents of blind and vision-impaired children.

Supporters of the RNZFB will elect the ninth trustee.

"For members this means they can chose to be part of the governance process within the organisation - not only will they be receiving services they will also have more opportunity to contribute and influence the strategic direction of the organisation through their elected representatives," says Mr Mosen.

"For supporters this means they can feel honoured to be part of an organisation that is truly embracing the notion that blind and vision-impaired people are in the best position to know their own needs and set the direction for the RNZFB."

Once the new Constitution is fully operational, the Foundation will undergo a name change from the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

"While it's only one little word, it makes one enormous difference," says Mr Mosen.

"It signifies that blind people, through electing most of the Board, are ultimately responsible for determining the direction of the organisation."

"It's been a long and eventful journey. The fact that we're here after over half a century of often lively debate about future governance of the RNZFB makes me - and others that have worked on this project - very proud."

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