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Meeting with the Hon Peter Dunne, Minister for Internal Affairs

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A productive meeting was held with the Minister who fundamentally agreed with the two propositions that ComVoices wanted to discuss: the establishment of a more formal relationship with Government; and the potential for a Social Values Act (SVA) similar to the UK model. The Minister thought that some form of accord or standing agreement could be developed that spelt out the levels of responsibility between the sector and Government.  He said that ComVoices needs to form a good relationship with the Government through the Minister of Finance who is thinking about where we go in the long term.  If we were able to get the Minister’s engagement then we would get traction on our concerns.

Meeting with Marama Fox, Maori Party

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Ms Fox said that the party combines strategically with the Hon Peter Dunne and David Seymour.  On many things the three parties differ, but on the legislation and issues they agree on, they work together and can wield significant influence.  Topics discussed with Marama were: influencing Government, prioritisation to the neediest to prevent people becoming vulnerable and how to make ComVoices heard with Government. At present, Government sees the sector as “Government Providers” working in its own interest.  It does not recognise the sector’s purpose and mission and that perception has to be changed.

Meeting with David Seymour, Leader of ACT NZ

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Views were shared around the funding relationship with government, the British social value act, the relationship with Government, how to build on our shared interests, public advocacy, and the case for sector umbrella groups. While holding only one seat, David said ACT could leverage off that and that in the future, ACT will grow substantially putting it in a better position to make more demands of government. In closing David said he has limited capacity, but we are always welcome to write and we will certainly get a reply.

Meeting with Andrew Little and Poto Williams

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Meeting with Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party and Poto Williams, Community and Voluntary Sector spokesperson

Topics covered in the meeting were the funding relationship with Government, a more formal relationship with government, gender remuneration inequality in the C&V sector and the two current bills affecting the sector – the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill and Public Collections and Solicitations (Disclosure of Payment) Bill.  Poto assured the meeting that the sector can feed its thoughts on current issues and policies to her as the coming year is about developing the relationship and ComVoices has the opportunity to influence Labour’s thinking.

Sticking-Plaster Solution to a Problem with Charities Legislation

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MEDIA RELEASE, issued Friday 3 July 2015.

Government has decided on changes to the tax regime instead of dealing with the real issue, which is a problem with the Charities Act.

The announcement that special tax provisions for charitable providers of community housing will be put through Parliament is like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg and hoping it will go away, says Dave Henderson, Chair of the ComVoices group of community organisations and external relations manager for Hui E! Community Aotearoa.

“It’s ironic that it was National Party MPs who first said there would be problems with the Charities Act, when it was put through Parliament more than 10 years ago”, said Mr Henderson. “Perhaps they don’t remember, but they extracted a promise from the then Labour Government that the Act would be reviewed after 5 years. Under various Ministers since then the review has been postponed, rescheduled, postponed again and then cancelled.”

Now we have an acknowledgement from Ministers that some community housing providers, who have been providing valuable services for years in support of vulnerable people in our communities, within the Charities Act, may lose their charitable status because of the way that Act is being interpreted.

This government has spent large amounts of taxpayer funds on fighting charities in court about the interpretation of the Act, and now a whole lot more is being spent on public servants’ and lawyers’ time, and on Parliament’s time, to create a fix for a situation that should have been addressed 5 years ago.

There is a continuing strong call from across the charitable sector for the Charities Act to be reviewed, but now we have to ask whether this sticking plaster approach is going to be used for Sports, for Health, Disability, etc. Does the government plan to address each sector’s problem with its own special separate piece of  legislation? Why not address the real problem?

“There are some aspects of the proposal government has come up with that are positive for families that need assistance to get into suitable housing, and the Community Housing Aotearoa network has helped create those policies” said Dave Henderson. “That’s great, but it does not solve the underlying issue for charities. Many other groups that also generate value for communities could also be affected.”

Being registered as a charity is increasingly necessary for organisations providing support services in the community, to be able to receive philanthropic funding. If government pushes these changes through there will be significant upheaval in the finances of the organisations affected. There are risks it will undermine the banking arrangements they need to be able to build the necessary houses, and will delay the help that families need.

Contact for further comments:

Dave Henderson: Chair of ComVoices, and External Relations Manager for Hui E! Community Aotearoa
Email:  dave.henderson@huie.org.nz
Mobile:   +64 (0)27 4848 165