Is Greenpeace a charity?

June 28th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

New Zealand is fighting to gain charitable status after it was turned down by the Charities Commission for advocating peace and indirectly encouraging illegal activity.

I can’t say I am surprised by the decision. Greenpeace is a multinational lobby group, not a .

Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid said the environmental group had appealed against the commission’s decision to the High Court, where it would be heard in August or September.

“We think it’s worthwhile challenging this decision,” she said. “I think it’s an interesting debate that societies should have … around what is a charity and whether the law from 100 years ago is still relevant today.”

The rejection means Greenpeace could lose income tax exemption, which is granted only to registered charities, although people will still be able to make tax-free donations to the organisation.

McDiarmid said Greenpeace still had income tax exemption pending a court decision, but losing the status was not why it was challenging the commission’s ruling. “That doesn’t make much difference because we’re not a business.”

The commission’s decision in April found Greenpeace’s promotion of “disarmament and peace” was pushed in a political, rather than educational, way.

Highly political I would say.

Charities Commission chief executive Trevor Garrett said organisations that dabbled in political advocacy, but were primarily community-focused, such as Plunket, were safe, but those with an overt political role were not charities.

A sensible distinction.

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42 Responses to “Is Greenpeace a charity?”

  1. Say Goodbye to Hollywood (551 comments) says:

    Years ago (about 25 I guess) I actually supported this group as I thought what they were trying to achieve in regard to the environment was good. However Greenpeace then got hijacked but the loony left and as time went on they changed from an environmental outfit to basically an anti establishment movement. They are very political and they are definitely not a charity.

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  2. big bruv (12,327 comments) says:

    “Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid ”

    How the hell are you supposed to take any organisation seriously when they have an ED whose name is “Bunny”?

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  3. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    I care about doggies and pussy cats, can I be a charity?

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  4. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    I care about dogging and pussy, can I be a charity?

    /crude joke off. Isn’t the english language marvellous.

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  5. m@tt (535 comments) says:

    This sounds similar to the problems that Garth McVicar’s lobby group faced a while back.

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  6. dime (8,746 comments) says:

    when did greenpeace turn so nutty?

    i remember they used to visit our school every year etc maybe 25 years ago!? were they nutjob socialists then?

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  7. gazzmaniac (2,266 comments) says:

    Good call Malcolm

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  8. Chthoniid (1,966 comments) says:

    actually I believe they also lost their status in Canada a few years ago for similar reasons.

    They were regarded as being both too overtly politial and actually working against Canada’s interests (re: forestry)

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  9. Chthoniid (1,966 comments) says:

    (My general rule-of-thumb these days with environmental groups, is that it is far better to give to small, very focused groups with clear aims and objectives. Once environmental groups get too large, they become quasi-political groups, focused more on fund raising and less on their core missions)

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  10. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    Greenpeace is the McDonalds of hippy protestors, tax the bastards.

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  11. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    …actually working against Canada’s interests (re: forestry)

    That sounds like one of the more slippery slopes going around.

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  12. Fletch (5,719 comments) says:

    I agree with Say Goodbye To Hollywood.
    Somewhere along the way they turned into a leftie political group, although I think they were originally formed to protest the proposed nuclear testing at Amchitka which is kind of political anyway.

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  13. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    The Centre for Resource Management Studies has been refused registration as a charity for the same reasons even though we have gone out of our not to be Political in the sense of being lobbyists etc. We focus on education.

    What worries me is that this shift in policy seems to have been an in-house decision without public debate.
    I do wonder how the CRMS gets challended while Environmental Defence Society and Forest and Bird etc do not.

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  14. gravedodger (1,426 comments) says:

    Yes they were dime just that no one dared to question their standing. Well their cause was good wasn’t it,socialst scum leading the young impressionable minds and we know what happens to bloody lemmings don’t we.
    And OM does the Maxim Institute have charitable status and as for the churches, Destiny does as I understand

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  15. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    Apart from the tax they don’t pay, I’d like to know how much public money finds it’s way into lobby groups like Greenpeace. The last labour governement were experts at quietly funding lobby/advocacy groups where they needed other voices to support their social change agenda

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  16. Fletch (5,719 comments) says:

    I would dig to hear the Amchitka Concert (which apparently launched Greenpeace) with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, but I will have to forgo that, as buying it means the money goes to Greenpeace and I refuse to support them.

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  17. JiveKitty (869 comments) says:

    Greenpeace think they are a charity?

    “I think it’s an interesting debate that societies should have … around what is a charity and whether the law from 100 years ago is still relevant today.” Doesn’t this quote imply they don’t have a case from a legal perspective and they understand this?

    Meh, I hope they lose again. From what I’ve seen, Greenpeace NZ is a terribly run organisation more focused on gaining money for their political goals than educating people.

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  18. Manolo (12,618 comments) says:

    Greenpeace is a socialist/communist front, so it should declare that and not to try to disguise itself as a charity.

    I remember a brief encounter with a street-collector who approached me a year or so ago. I said: “I do not donate to terrorists”. He was taken aback when I explained I would not give money to an organisation which supports echo-terrorism and sabotage (remember the Fonterra incident?). He went away quickly.

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  19. GPT1 (2,042 comments) says:

    Greenpeace has an active political agenda that it hides behind “save the whales”. It is entitled to its politcal views and agenda but it can’t pretend that it is a charity.

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  20. YesWeDid (1,002 comments) says:

    So if Greenpeace are ‘too overtly political’ to be a charity (that seems to be the argument here) then can we also expect ‘Family First’ and the ‘Sensible Sentencing Trust’ to be de-registered as charities as they are also very clearly political lobby groups?

    And what does being multi-national have to do with it? The Red Cross are multi-national and are also registered as a charity here in NZ.

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  21. annie (533 comments) says:

    Are donations to all political lobby groups tax deductible? Maybe it’s time to do away with that, as well.

    I don’t donate to charities that have engaged in any political lobbying, which now means that a very few charities get a lot more than they used to.

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  22. Viking2 (10,703 comments) says:

    Charity is about helping people, not about political ideals nor about saving whales. Charity is about people End of Story.

    Unfortunatley, just like trusts, charities have become vehicles for everything in an attempt to avoid taxation.
    Another good target for Bill.

    Greenpeace is a political group and should be registered as one.

    Clean them out in the next budget Bill.

    P.S. Sensible Sentencing is very much about helping people with injustice. That qualifies in my book.

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  23. KevinH (1,128 comments) says:

    I would agree with the commissions finding in that Greenpeace is not a charitable organisation but is instead a political lobby group with political intent.
    The issue for Greenpeace is that it needs to define whom and what they are because the organisation wears many hats across the political and commercial divide.

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  24. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Malcolm, very good.

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  25. A1kmm (91 comments) says:

    To all the people supporting this – and whatever your opinions of Greenpeace – do you really think it is right for the government to decide whether a particular NGO is ‘beneficial to the community’?

    From the Charities Act 2005 (http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0039/latest/DLM345006.html) “In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, charitable purpose includes every charitable purpose, whether it relates to the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community”.

    Some not for profit organisations exist for the mutual benefit of their members (for example, certain sports clubs), and they are clearly not charities. However, any organisation which aims to benefit the community (whether or not there is controversy whether they actually do) and is not for profit and not for providing direct benefits to its members should be considered a charity. Otherwise, it is unwarranted government interference in an NGO, i.e. tyranny.

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  26. A1kmm (91 comments) says:

    The other point to note is that religious organisations that want to make you believe that a giant man up in the sky is watching your every move and will punish you with eternal damnation if you don’t smote enough gays are charities. Wouldn’t something be very wrong if churches were considered charities, but NGOs which try to support a particular viewpoint weren’t?

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  27. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    The other point to note is that religious organisations that want to make you believe that a giant man up in the sky is watching your every move and will punish you with eternal damnation if you don’t smote enough gays are charities.

    @A1kmm – The church you refer to only exists in your mind, and only to perpetuate the bigoted view you hold. Perhaps you could open your eyes a bit, mm? Back on topic, I’m quite happy for Greenpeace to loose it’s charitable status. Should have happened years ago.

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  28. Sean (294 comments) says:

    @A1kmm – the definition requires there to be a “charitable purpose” – it can be of any nature as defined but must be charitable. The broad definition of charitable, used as a basis for the old English Charitable Uses Statutes, means helping the poor or other activities that result in a general benefit to the community. Pushing an ideology does not fall within that, no matter how much you happen to agree with the ideology. The test is what benefit to the general welfare of the community results. Greenpeace clearly fails generally to improve the welfare of the community and therefore is not a charity.

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  29. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Greenpeace is as much a charity as Friends of the Earth Ltd is.

    Greenpeace has always been political — not just the last 20-25 years or so.

    Early in the 1980s The Press newspaper ran this headline (or something like it): ‘Greenpeace — lights, camera, action’.

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  30. Murray (8,835 comments) says:

    If they’re a charity who do they give money to?

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  31. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    If they’re a charity who do they give money to?

    I think that’s more a ‘foundation’.

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  32. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    I’m with Owen McShane. I think there are many more organisations like Greenpeace that are controlled by leftists and are primarily political in their intent. I think there should be a clean out. Most environmental groups (and Forest and Bird in particular) are no different in political intent to Greenpeace.

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  33. Murray (8,835 comments) says:

    I think its more a tax dodge Stephen.

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  34. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    …do you really think it is right for the government to decide whether a particular NGO is ‘beneficial to the community’?

    If there’s going to be a multitude of taxpayer/government funded taxbreaks for both the charity and donors…who *should* decide who gets the benefits of that?

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  35. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Thee same reasoning should apply to the following organizations who are all registered Charities, but also participate in some form of political advocacy:
    • Age Concern, (Multiple Regional Registrations.)
    • Amnesty International, CC35331 Registered 30/06/2008.
    • Diabetes NZ, (Multiple Regional Registrations).
    • Family First, CC10094 Registered 21/03/2007.
    • The Environmental Defence Society, CC10297, Registered 18/05/2007.
    • The Peace Foundation Disarmament and Security Centre, CC11049, Registered 10/09/2007.
    • The SPCA, (Multiple Regional Registrations).
    • The Voice for Life Charitable Trust, CC41404, Registered 17/07/2009.
    • The Civic Trust, (Multiple Regional Registrations.)
    • World Vision of NZ Trust Board, CC25984, Registered 17/06/2008
    • Women’s Refuge. (Multiple Regional Registrations).

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  36. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    No wonder the eco-socialists have been pushing for donations hard recently.

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  37. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    If you think about it… removal of Greenpeace’s tax-free status is another way for the government to reach our pockets using an eco-guilt mechanism. This status revocation might just be an ETS sweetner for Key & Smith

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  38. southtop (257 comments) says:

    Who owns Greenpeace? As an organisation it turns over millions of Euro each year. Greenspirit founder Patrick Moore (a founding member of Greenpeace and now labelled an ‘eco-judas’ by them) left. He states:

    “It was during my university years that I suddenly realized there was more to life than logic and materialism. I discovered ecology and realized this branch of science was unique. Through ecology it was possible to link rational thought with spiritual wonder, to consider the infinite webs and cycles of life with new eyes. Ecology is holistic as in holy yet it is rooted in objective science and observation. I decided it was a good idea to “save” the earth from nuclear war and pollution. I was reborn as a radical environmental activist. Greenpeace began and I began with it.

    We sailed the seas saving whales, protesting nuclear testing and nuclear dumping, halting supertankers, saving baby seals, preventing toxic waste discharge and interfering with drift-nets. They were heady times with countless moments of excitement, danger, frustration and victory. Looking back it is hard to believe we accomplished so much, as we raised public awareness about all things environmental. They were the best years of my life (except for all the others).

    Fifteen years of Greenpeace campaigns later I had some new insights. It was time to switch from confrontation to consensus, time to stop fighting and start talking with the people in charge. I became a convert to the idea of sustainable development and the need to consider social and economic issues along with my environmental values. I adopted the round table, consensus approach as the logical next step in the evolution of the movement for sustainability.

    Little did I realize at the time how this would bring me into open and direct conflict with the movement I had helped bring into the world. I now find that many environmental groups have drifted into self-serving cliques with narrow vision and rigid ideology. At the same time that business and government are embracing public participation and inclusiveness, many environmentalists are showing signs of elitism, left-wingism, and downright eco-fascism. The once politically centrist, science-based vision of environmentalism has been largely replaced with extremist rhetoric. Science and logic have been abandoned and the movement is often used to promote other causes such as class struggle and anti-corporatism. The public is left trying to figure out what is reasonable and what is not.

    http://www.greenspirit.com/about.cfm?a=1

    me thinks he has a point

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  39. big bruv (12,327 comments) says:

    Family first is a charity???

    I really must look a bit closer at who is asking for donations outside the supermarket next time, a while back I nearly donated to Barnardos!, bloody good job I noticed the sign on the collection tin.

    Family first is another organisation that will never receive one cent of my hard earned.

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  40. laworder (265 comments) says:

    I dont have a lot of time for Greenpeace, but I do think that A1kmm is right – it is not any place of the government to decide whether a particular NGO is ‘beneficial to the community’? That is up to the individual, if you think an NGO is a pestilential bunch of oxygen thieves, then dont give them any money! Otherwise, as A1kmm says, it is unwarranted government interference in an NGO, i.e. tyranny.

    I do have some sympathy for Greenpeace here though, as I am involved with another NGO that is experiencing the same issues with the Charities Commission – the Sensible Sentencing Trust, as m@tt pointed out earlier on. Public advocacy and lobbying is a perfectly reasonable activity for charities to be involved in and Greenpeace is far from the only charity that does so – see the list that Owen McShane posted earlier. Womens Refuge, SPCA, and the Salvation Army all do extensive political lobbying and have been vocal in calling for law changes, quite right too even if I have sometimes disagreed with their positions. Lobbying is a crucial part of their work, and I for one respect them for it.

    The Charities Commission is way out of line when it suggests that lobbying is inappropriate for any charity.. It is something that these organisations are well within their rights to do in my view, and make them more effective charities in most cases. Merely doing charity work, while laudable, is not as effective as lobbying for changes that address the root causes of the problems that those charities are set up to address. Even if I strongly disagree with some of Greenpeace’s ideas, I do not think that that jutifies the removal of their charitable status.

    Regards
    Peter Jenkins
    Webmaster for Sensible Sentencing Trust

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  41. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    Greenpeace are a multinational corporation, and anyone who can afford to pay their fundraisers a flat rate of $15 an hour ain’t no charity. That’s a self-perpetuating Ponzi scheme right there.

    If I was being inconsistent, I would say “tax the bastards”. But the issue isn’t that Greenpeace are not being taxed, the issue is that so many hardworking business owners are.

    I actually like Greenpeace’s tax exempt status. I think we should extend it to other money-making ventures. :-)

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  42. JiveKitty (869 comments) says:

    “I dont have a lot of time for Greenpeace, but I do think that A1kmm is right – it is not any place of the government to decide whether a particular NGO is ‘beneficial to the community’?”

    See Stephen’s point above. If the government is giving tax breaks to organisations with charitable status and their donors, then surely it must have some way of determining what is a charity and what is not. How would you recommend this is done if not through determining that the primary purpose is to provide benefit to the community rather than the organisation itself?

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