Greenpeace is to be allowed to reapply as a charity.
The environmental lobby group had applied to be a charity in 2008, but the Charities Commission rejected its application on the grounds that two of its objectives were political, and not charitable.
The commission had also said that Greenpeace might be involved in illegal activities, like trespassing, which could not be charitable.
After an appeal to the High Court, Justice Paul Heath agreed that Greenpeace should not be registered but made no ruling on any illegal actions. Greenpeace then took the case to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal today ruled that the object of promoting peace through nuclear disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction was a charitable purpose.
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.
The court said the board would also have to consider whether under the changed rules Greenpeace was involved in illegal activities or is likely to be involved them in the future.
Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid said the group was delighted the Court of Appeal recognised that promoting peace and nuclear disarmament was for the public benefit.
She said today's ruling provided more clarity on what it meant to be a charitable organisation promoting causes such as peace and nuclear disarmament in the 21st century.
"We will always remain non-party political promoting good environmental outcomes supported by nearly 60,000 Kiwis."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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