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April 2015

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Lesa Kalapu

Kia ora koutou, talofa lava and warm greetings.

Charities Services was involved in an interesting situation recently after we sent a formal letter to a charity, warning them that some of their activities appeared to be non-charitable and put them at risk of being deregistered.   The letter gave detailed information about the activities that Charities Services considered to be non-charitable, and the reasons for our concern.  Some members of the charity decided to publish our letter (in full) in their ethnic-language community newspaper.   The story was picked up by English-language news media, and was quite widely reported.  As a result, the Department received a number of requests from news media to comment on the situation.

We receive frequent requests from news media to provide information about our progress on investigations or about the information provided to us by charities or complainants, or about the outcome of an investigation, particularly if the charity or its officers are high-profile, or involve issues that are of interest to the public.

News media and members of the public also often make Official Information Act requests for information about our investigations, which, if released, they may decide to publish or share with others.  As a general principle, the Act says that we must release the information requested, unless there is a good reason (specified in the Act) which would prevent us from releasing it.  (Read a bit more about the Official Information Act).

If Charities Services is looking into a charity, we will confirm to news media (if asked) that we are investigating it, but in general, our practice is not to comment publicly on the investigation itself while it is ongoing.  This is because we don’t want to deter anyone from providing relevant information to us, or diminish the effectiveness of our investigation, or unfairly damage the charity’s reputation.

We assess every complaint made to us about a charity, but will generally only open an investigation where there is evidence or information that indicates serious wrongdoing that breaches the Charities Act (or other legislation).

We are also often asked by news media to provide a timeline for our investigations.  However, this is usually much easier said than done!   Investigations are necessarily thorough, and their timing often depends on how quickly the charity responds to our questions.  We work closely with the charity throughout the process, and also give the charity opportunities to respond to us.

Sometimes, we might need to adjust our process part-way through an investigation – for example, if the charity makes changes to its governance or management which bring it back into compliance before our investigation is completed. 

Sometimes, after opening an investigation, we find that a charity’s responses to our initial questions uncover other areas that give us concern, and which take additional time to investigate.

Sometimes, the charity will decide to deregister before we conclude our investigation, meaning that it is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the Charities Act.

Some issues might mean we need to work alongside other government agencies, and that can also add to the duration of an investigation.  We have previously worked on investigations with – for example – the Ministries of Education, Health, and Business Innovation and Employment.  We also frequently work with the Police, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ) and the Serious Fraud Office.   This reflects the seriousness and complexity of some of our investigations, but also sometimes means that an investigation has a lot more ground to cover, so takes longer.  It is always more complex to align several investigating agencies, but is also the best way to approach many investigations, as it allows us to pool our resources and expertise, and make the most efficient and cost-effective use of them.

From time to time, if we have investigated a charity and found serious wrongdoing or other reasons that mean the charity is not qualified to remain registered, we publish our findings on our website, so members of the public – and other charities – can be assured that the charitable sector is being appropriately monitored and regulated. 

Nāku, nā

Lesa's signature


General Manager, Charities Services

A word from Minister Jo Goodhew – charities’ importance to connected neighbourhoods

Minister Jo Goodhew

Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew is encouraging people to make a special effort to get to know their neighbours, and to celebrate the spirit of Neighbours’ Day Aotearoa, held on 28-29 March this year, as a way of helping to build stronger, safer communities.

Charities and community groups touch on almost every aspect of New Zealanders’ lives, and hold a unique and privileged position in our communities. As the focal point for donors, volunteers, and the people and causes that you help, you are uniquely placed to help encourage and support our sense of wellbeing and community, and enable people to feel more connected to others in their community.

Neighbours’ Day Aotearoa was the ideal spark to reinvigorate our sense of neighbourliness and connection to the community, and to think how we can reach out a little further to others and encourage them to do the same. Most of us remember the close community spirit of our neighbourhoods as children, when there was always someone close at hand to share a cuppa or turn to in an emergency. These days however there are challenges to building a sense of community, especially in busy cities where many people may barely know their neighbours. As more people move into the cities and into ‘vertical neighbourhoods’ – high-rise apartments – it’s especially important to break down barriers that can lead to social isolation. Auckland’s Inner City Forum project is a great example of how inner-city residents are working together to address challenges such as identifying how to gain access to apartment-dwellers, and finding shared spaces for inner-city community members to gather.

Charities can be “neighbourly” too, in a broader sense, by maintaining strong networks with other charitable organisations working in the same area, or helping some of the same people. Many charities already work closely together to share resources and expertise, and some also work collaboratively together to provide ‘wrap-around’ services to people and groups in need, or to make their services more widely or easily accessible. It all helps to keep growing a more resilient and connected charitable sector, in which the community, donors and supporters can continue to have trust and confidence.

Minister Jo Goodhew's signature

Minister Jo Goodhew

Get ready card for neighbours

Illustration (left): The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management has developed handy postcards (PDF, 119KB)* that anyone can print out, complete and drop in a neighbour’s letterbox, to help make an introduction.

New reporting standards – helpful videos and booklet for Tier 4 charities

Image of the tier 4 booklet

New reporting standards for charities came into effect on 1 April, and Charities Services is expecting that from now onwards, charities will progressively file Annual Returns that meet the new standards.

If you would like to attend a workshop about the new standards, you can see if there is one near you, and register to attend

Charities Services has also produced three short videos about the new reporting standards for Tier 4 charities — that is, charities with annual operating payments under $125,000.

The videos are based on workshops that began in early March and which will run until early June to help registered charities understand how to apply the new requirements. 

There’s also a handy booklet that you can download and keep by your side while you watch the videos.

The workshops focus on the information you will need to collect so you can report using the new standards at the end of your financial year – they have a very practical basis.

We are developing videos about the standards for Tier 3 (that is charities with annual operating payments between $125,000 and $2,000,000) and they will be on our website soon.  You can find more information about the new reporting standards on our website.

Do you speak “our” language?

Language Line - The Office of Ethnic Communities Logo

More than 800,000 New Zealanders speak a language other than English, and a recent conference hosted by the Office of Ethnic Communities has emphasised the need for government, academia and the private and not-for-profit sectors to work together to develop language use and learning in New Zealand.

Berlinda Chin, Director of the Office of Ethnic Communities, says that many charities work with ethnic and migrant groups, and those for whom English is a second (or third or fourth!) language, so it is timely to begin a dialogue about the future direction of language development in this country.

“With more than one in four New Zealanders being born overseas, and Hindi being the fourth most commonly spoken language after English, Māori and Samoan, it’s vital that we focus on what the government and private sector are doing in this space, to ensure that we streamline our resources effectively and create a clear pathway for the future development of the language framework in New Zealand.”

The Office of Ethnic Communities has published some useful data about who speaks which languages in New Zealand.

Training and development courses for the non-profit sector

Cover of Five Good Ideas booklet

Auckland North Community and Development (ANCAD) – formerly known as North Shore Community and Social Services – offers a range of services to the non-profit sector, including professional development training and resource material to assist organisations with their governance and management, as well as a range of other topics.

They recently published their schedule of training and education courses for 2015, called Five Good Ideas, offering courses designed to assist non-profits with building capability, developing and strengthening leadership, and supporting resilience in a changing environment.

Where can I look for advice about…. legal structures for charities?

Building blocks in the shape of a house

This is the second of a series of (occasional) brief articles we will publish in the Charities newsletter, suggesting places where you can find helpful advice and guidance for your charity on a range of topics.

The Charities Services team is often asked where charities can find information about the “best” legal structure for a registered charity.  A charity doesn’t need to have a formal legal structure to be registered as a charity, but having “legal entity status” can sometimes be beneficial for other reasons.  Examples of structures include:

  • unincorporated groups
  • incorporated societies
  • trusts
  • charitable trust boards
  • companies
  • industrial and provident societies.

Here are some good starting places to find information, if your charity is considering what its structure should be:

Characteristics of different organisational legal structures – CommunityNet Aotearoa 

A table comparing the different types of legal structures and their characteristics, including their governing legislation, minimum number of people required, decision-making requirements, the liability of their members/trustees, reporting requirements, what must happen to the entity’s assets if it winds up, who it best suits, and its advantaged and possible disadvantages.

Introduction to different organisational structures – CommunityNet Aotearoa

This resource provides some basic guidance and tips on a range of topics related to organisational structures for community groups. It looks at everything from unincorporated groups to incorporated societies and charitable trust boards, as well as the less common formal structures, such as companies and Māori land trusts. Charities Services and related topics are discussed as well as how to dissolve your organisation and liquidation.

Choosing the right legal structure for your group – Community Law manual

This helpful resource discusses the different structures available to community groups, and also looks at the different arrangements for combining local organisations with larger national parent bodies.  It also explains legislation you may need to know about, and has links to other helpful resources.

A gentle reminder - if a filing fee is owed, your Annual Return won’t be published on the Charities Register until it’s been paid

Computer monitor with an envelope on screen and the words 'invoice'

Have you looked at your charity’s page on the Charities Register recently?

It pays to check your details from time to time, to make sure they are up to date and that your Annual Return, if filed, has been published on the Register and is visible to the public.

If you have filed your Annual Return but not paid the filing fee (which is only payable if your charity has a gross annual income of more than $10,000), you might have noticed that your Annual Return isn’t showing on your Register page as having been filed.

That’s because, since 1 July last year, Annual Returns are not counted as being “complete” unless the fee (if owed) has been paid.  In time, if the fee remains unpaid, your charity may receive a formal Notice saying that it will be removed from the Charities Register.

Helpful tips

  • The simplest and quickest option is to file your Annual Return online and to pay any fee online at the same time.
  • If paying by cheque, write the unique CC (registration) number of your charity on the back of your cheque so we can match it to your Annual Return and publish it on the Charities Register.  (It can cause delays if we receive an anonymous cheque without anything to tell us which charity it belongs to!) 
  • You can find your charity’s CC number on your page on the Charities Register.

When certifying a new officer, how can you be sure they aren’t disqualified?

The Charities Act has a provision in it that allows anyone to certify a new officer, and make a declaration that the officer isn’t disqualified.

The provision was included in the Act after consultation with the sector, with the aim of helping to streamline charities’ administration when applying for registration, or when certifying new officers (who might be in different geographic areas), or when certifying an officer who might be physically unable to complete the form for themselves.

If you certify someone else as an officer, you need to be sure that the person isn’t disqualified before signing the Officer Certification Form, which is published on the public Charities Register. 

Helpful tips

  • We suggest you take along copies of the printed Officer Certification form with you to your charity’s annual meeting, and ask new officers that are elected at the meeting to personally complete and sign a form “on the spot”.  You can then either send the signed forms to Charities Services (they will be published on the Charities Register), or retain the originals for your records and certify the officers (on their behalf) online. 
  • The disqualification factors are noted on the Officer Certification form itself, and on our website.
  • If an officer becomes disqualified after they were certified, you will need to let Charities Services know, and (generally) will need to remove them as an officer.

Beware! Ransomware out to cripple IT systems

The Department of Internal Affairs is warning people to beware of a ransomware email campaign that could cripple your IT systems.

Toni Demetriou, Internal Affairs’ electronic messaging compliance manager, says the emails pretend to offer a person’s CV in an attachment but instead contain ransomware called “Cryptowall 3.0”, which locks up the files on your computer, and holds you to ransom by asking you to pay for them to be unlocked.

This particular campaign asks victims to pay around $665NZD to retrieve your files, and only gives a certain amount of time to make the payment before the files are lost forever.

The best advice to avoid becoming a victim? 

  • Be wary of opening any emails from people/addresses you don’t know
  • If you inadvertently open a suspicious email, NEVER click on any attachments or links included in it
  • Keep your computer systems and antivirus software up to date
  • Routinely back up any important files, and keep backups offline (that is, not connected to your computer or network)
  • Make sure friends, relatives and colleagues know about this threat.