New Zealand Law Society - Sea Shepherd NZ registered charity, after Greenpeace wasn't

Sea Shepherd NZ registered charity, after Greenpeace wasn't

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The independent Charities Registration Board has determined that Sea Shepherd New Zealand Trust and Sea Shepherd New Zealand Limited meet registration requirements.

Both the Trust and the Company are now registered charities.

The role of the Board is to maintain the integrity of the Charities Register by ensuring that entities on the Charities Register qualify for registration. A purpose is charitable if it advances a public benefit in a way that is analogous to cases that have previously been held to be charitable.

The Board makes its decisions based on the facts before it, applying the law, including relevant case law, and maintaining consistency of approach with previous Board decisions.

The Board considers that the Trust advances education through, by way of examples, its informative talks at schools, other children’s spaces, Te Papa Tongarewa and in collaboration with Wellington and Auckland City Councils, and through the collection of marine wildlife data for Otago University and the provision of marine mammal medic training.

The Board considers the Company advances education through educational events; specifically, marine conferences and marine conservation forums.

The Board considers the Trust also carries out tangible activities to protect the environment and advance animal welfare. For example, the Trust organises monthly beach clean ups, builds little blue penguin nesting boxes, conducts beached whale rescue operations, and monitors and collects data to support conservation of Hector’s dolphins. The Board considers these activities provide public benefit similar to previous cases on the protection of the environment and advancement of animal welfare.

The Board has not made a determination on whether the Trust’s advocacy for points of view on environmental and animal welfare issues is charitable.  The Board considers that the advocacy is a small part of the Trust’s overall activities and is connected to the Trust’s charitable purposes. For this reason the Board considers that it is merely ancillary to the Trust’s identified charitable purposes.

The Company does not engage in any advocacy and does not undertake activities to protect the environment and advance animal welfare.

The Board notes the Sea Shepherd New Zealand entities are separate entities from the various Sea Shepherd organisations operating in other jurisdictions and in international waters.

The Sea Shepherd New Zealand decisions are distinguishable from the Board’s recent decision on Greenpeace because:

  • Greenpeace’s main focus is to advocate its own particular views on environmental issues that cannot be determined to be for the public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable by the courts;
  • Sea Shepherd New Zealand have a focus on tangible activities and education;
  • There is no evidence that Sea Shepherd New Zealand is involved in illegal activities from which an illegal purpose can be inferred.