Greenpeace too political to register as charity, NZ court rules
By Paul McBeth
May 9 (BusinessDesk) – Environmental lobbyist Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc. is too involved in political causes to register as a charity, the High Court has ruled.
Justice Paul Heath turned down an appeal last Friday that Greenpeace could register with the Charities Commission after the body rejected its 2010 application.
Justice Heath said Greenpeace’s political activities can’t be regarded as “merely ancillary” to its charitable purposes and that the commission was correct in disqualifying it for registration over the potentially illegal activities.
Though the pursuit of peace could be “worthy,” that didn’t necessarily make it charitable, he said.
“The commission was correct in holding that non-violent, but potentially illegal activities (such as trespass), designed to put (in the eyes of Greenpeace) objectionable activities into the public spotlight were an independent object disqualifying it from registration as a charitable entry,” Justice Heath said in his judgement.
“In qualitative terms, the charitable purposes of Greenpeace could be met without resort to the type of political activities that deny its right to registration.”
In November last year, Greenpeace claimed its stated objectives of promoting disarmament and peace weren’t central to its goals, and that based on a public benefit test it was a charitable entity.
Justice Heath rejected that assertion, saying “the extent to which Greenpeace relies on its political activities to advance its causes means that the political element cannot be regarded as ‘merely ancillary’ to Greenpeace’s charitable purposes.”
He said Greenpeace viewed itself more as an “advocate rather than an educator,” and cited the commission’s examples of Greenpeace’s non-violent action including a protest over Fonterra Cooperative Group’s increasing use of coal, and a campaign opposing the importation of palm kernel oil that also targeted the dairy exporter.
No order was made as to costs because the issues raised “were of some public importance,” Justice Heath said.