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Labour Policy - Tall On Rhetoric, Short On Detail

13 September 2005
For Immediate Release

Labour’s Community And Voluntary Sector Policy - Tall On Rhetoric, Short On Detail

The Labour Party’s Community and Voluntary Sector Policy is outstanding, if only for its lack of detail, according to COMVOICES, an independent coalition of Tangata Whenua, and community and voluntary sector organisations.

COMVOICES members said the Labour Party policy did not address the key issues facing the fast growing sector, especially at a time when government recently announced increased reliance on voluntary organisations for provision of child care and protection services.

Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa (ANGOA) National Coordinator Dave Henderson said the Labour Party policy was light on detail.

“Even though Labour has issued this policy, which is more than National has done, there is no hint of how the Labour Party is planning to address the critical sustainability and funding issues facing the sector. There is no hint as to whether they are going to continue to support the Community Sector Taskforce past this year. The Taskforce is a vital mechanism for building a sound and successful sector for the future.

“This is reminiscent of the last election, when Labour put out the Statement of Government Intent (SOGI) which is meant to develop the relationship between Government and the Sector but which has not been fulfilled. Their new policy document takes us no further ahead,” Mr Henderson said.

Iris Pahau, Community Sector Taskforce Development Manager, said the policy was of concern to every New Zealander, whether they were members of a sports or recreational club or ever used a kohanga reo, Citizens Advice Bureau or an iwi-based service provider.

“New Zealand’s community and voluntary sector has been matching overseas trends, with more and more services being provided by Tangata Whenua, and community and voluntary sector organisations. The sector touches every New Zealander and yet it has warranted four bullet points in a policy document.”

New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations’ Executive Director Tina Reid said it was disappointing that the political rhetoric behind the policy seemed to be stuck on the concept of “professionalising” the sector.

“No-one in the Labour Party has yet given us a definition of what this means and yet Ministers continually raise it with us.

“New Zealand’s 60,000 community and voluntary sector organisations are driven by an enormous commitment to the communities that they serve. The majority of these organisations would stack up well against any commercial enterprise,” Ms Reid said.

“A number of our largest community organisations are highly complex operations, dealing with larger workforces of paid staff and volunteers than New Zealand’s largest corporates,” said Ms Reid.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study of ten community and voluntary sector groups showed that if the groups studied were corporate entities, they would operate within the top 5 percent of New Zealand enterprises.

“Even the smallest organisations are impressive in the way they operate. Their operations have tiny margins and no fat and yet they provide enormous benefits to the community,” Ms Reid said.

Philanthropy New Zealand Executive Director Robyn Scott said it was pleasing to see that the Labour Party was prioritising tax issues as there were a number of anomalies in the current regime.

“We want to see more work go into taxation issues that affect the sector to build on some of the progress already made. There are areas which are still muddled, particularly around imputation credits for charities, and this puts disproportionate burden on community organisations,” she said.

Volunteering New Zealand Executive Director Tim Burns hoped Labour’s intent to continue to support the growth of volunteer centres would mean increased funding for existing centres.

“Volunteer centre funding has been static for a number of years so if new centres open, Government financial support for individual centres reduces as they will all be funded from the existing pool. That means less for everyone and more pressure on communities to support us through donations and grants,” he said.

ENDS

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