Back in 2010, the Charities Commission deregistered Greenpeace as a charity, on the basis that its objects - including promoting peace through nuclear disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction - were "political" rather than charitable. The ruling was subsequently upheld by the High Court, who also took a swipe at its involvement in protests. now, the Court of Appeal has overturned that ruling, and ordered that the Department of Internal Affairs reconsider the application:
The court concluded that the public benefit of nuclear disarmament and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction is now sufficiently well-accepted in New Zealand society that the promotion of peace through these means should be recognised in its own right as a charitable purpose.
During the Court of Appeal hearing Greenpeace indicated it would look at making changes to its objects, such as changing its rules to limit political advocacy to activities that furthered its charitable objects.
Greenpeace's application is to be sent back to be re-considered with the changes in place.
The Charities Commission has since been disestablished and the group's application will now go to the Internal Affairs Department chief executive and the Charities Registration Board, which still has to decide whether Greenpeace's political activities are ancillary to its charitable purposes.
This is good news, and hopefully they'll be registered. but at the same time, the fundamental problem of a definition of "charity" which dates from 1601 remains. Isn't it time we updated that for the 21st century?