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Preserving independence critical for charities

Media Release

For Immediate Release

16 October 2006

Preserving independence critical for charities

The right of Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector organisations to advocate on behalf of New Zealanders who use their services is an important part of preserving and upholding democratic processes.

Sector organisations were responding to a media report today that the Charities Commission would be able to regulate charities’ ability to advocate on behalf of their constituents.

“Charities do not exist in isolation. A level of advocacy work by our Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary organisations is a very important part of the way that the Government gets information about communities where many people would remain voiceless and powerless otherwise,” says Dr Jo Lake, national executive officer of Presbyterian Support Services New Zealand.

There are approximately 60,000 Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary organisations in New Zealand, established by people in communities for people in communities.

They deliver vital services across a huge range of sectors, including arts; culture and heritage; sport and recreation; environment and conservation; education and employment; faith communities; social services and housing; law, advocacy and human rights; philanthropy; international development; health, disability; professional associations; Pacific and other ethnic communities.

Such organisations also deliver huge value to local communities. A 2002 study of the ten largest charities in New Zealand showed they return between $3 and $5 worth of services for every $1 they received in funding.

Claire Szabo Larsen, chief executive of the National Association of ESOL Home Tutor Schemes, says that part of the reason that charities are such effective service deliverers is because they understand the communities they work in.

“It is imperative to preserve the independence of those organisations so they can feed information back to the Government. We hope the Charities Commission appreciates that there is a level of advocacy work that must be done by most organisations for our communities to bind together,” she says.

“Preserving the independence of Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary organisations is a key feature of a healthy democracy. We are keen to see open and honest discussion around this issue. The Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector is always keen to develop and maintain a relationship of mutual respect and trust with government agencies,” says Robyn Scott, executive director of Philanthropy New Zealand.

ENDS

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