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Government Mistakes Undermine Community Charities

8 May 2012

Government Mistakes Undermine Community Charities

Government’s plan to push through law changes that axe the Charities Commission, and establish regulation of charities by the Department of Internal Affairs, are based on several major errors of understanding in Government and especially in Cabinet, says ANGOA Coordinator Dave Henderson.

“For a start, there is a clear lack of understanding in the Cabinet that most charities are set up by ordinary New Zealanders to address a need or issue that they see in their community. This goodwill and initiative by New Zealanders certainly does not require a government department to get involved,” said Mr Henderson.

“Secondly, Government is acting as if the funding it puts into certain charities gives it some kind of ownership of the whole sector,” said Mr Henderson. “In fact, only a minority of charities get funding to provide community services on behalf of government. Most charities receive no direct funding from government, so their responsibility is to their members and their community. The existing Charities Commission has largely recognised this.”

“For those charities that do have contracts with government, research has shown that for every $1 they receive from government they deliver up to $5 worth of benefits, supported by membership subscriptions, community fundraising, and volunteers’ time. Government is not in any way the owner of this effort by communities across New Zealand, and needs to keep its hands off.”

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“The third mistake this government is making is in underestimating the dampening effect its plan would have on initiatives in the community. At a recent major conference on charities four respected world experts on charity law agreed that New Zealand is at risk of making a backward step. There is a global trend to recognise the value of enabling charities and community to do their work with a minimum of government interference, and the existing Charities Commission has been good at that. We cannot count on the Department of Internal Affairs to maintain this insight.”

“Finally, the proposed change is out of step with government’s own policy push around Better Public Services - to reduce the size of the bureaucracy and encourage innovation. The legislation achieves neither.

“Instead Government’s Crown Entities Reform Bill is proposing to axe a small ‘Autonomous Crown Entity’ that is doing its job effectively and efficiently, and Government is ramming through legislation that will give its role to the ever-growing Department of Internal Affairs. It makes no sense,” said Dave Henderson.

“We’ve had pretty much the right level of oversight with the existing Charities Commission. It was set up in 2005 after several years of discussion between community organisations and government. It was designed to do what everyone agreed was needed; establish a register, provide training, and weed out any fraud. The Commission has done that effectively, and additional bureaucracy is not wanted.”

ANGOA is a network of organisations from across the range of NGOs in New Zealand including national, regional and local groups. ANGOA members work in the areas of health, education, recreation and sports, international development, human rights, arts, culture and heritage, social services, family budgeting, hospice care, disability, conservation and the environment, child and youth support, women, mental health, aged care, refugee support, family planning, prisoners and family support, injury prevention, and ethnicity.


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