Foodbank critics welcome liquidation

Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013

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A Wellington foodbank accused of aggressive fundraising tactics is to be put into liquidation - to the relief of other community groups in the city.

A decision to liquidate Wellington Foodbank Service Inc - which is not associated with the foodbank run by Wellington City Mission - was made by Justice Simon France in the High Court at Wellington yesterday, after an investigation by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Downtown Community Ministry director Stephanie McIntyre welcomed the decision, saying:

"It is a tragedy that, over 4 years, generous Wellingtonians have been misled by a renegade service that has extracted a huge amount of donor money while assisting very few needy people. Even the name they chose was in itself misleading."

The foodbank, which used to operate in Willis St, has closed down.

No-one from the charity, launched in 2010, was in court for the hearing. Matthew Ferrier, lawyer for the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, said no defence had been filed for the application.

Ms McIntyre said the DCM, along with the Wellington City Mission and other members of the Wellington Regional Foodbank Coalition, had long held serious concerns about the closed foodbank's activities.

Promotional material for the service had claimed links with her organisation and others, which misled donors into thinking they were associated with it, she said.

It had initially called itself the Wellington City Foodbank Service, but from the outset ignored repeated invitations to join the Wellington Regional Foodbank Coalition, she said.

Wellington City Mission chief executive Michelle Branney said it complained about the similarity in the foodbank's name, but nothing could be done because it was a registered charity.

The mission put a warning on its website that it was not the same organisation as Wellington Foodbank Service.

Shortly after, the mission complained again about the lack of annual reports being posted, she said.

"We had so many people ringing to ask about their money, or about not getting a receipt, and we had to tell them it wasn't us . . . We were sick and tired of fielding those calls."

She said Wellington Foodbank Service had been using high-pressure techniques to raise funds, and people became concerned about where their money was going and what it was being used for.

When annual reports were posted, it looked as if Wellington Foodbank Service had about $200,000 coming in a year, which was a lot of money especially when few results could be seen.

Ms Branney said it had affected the mission's own donations.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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