Speech: Charities Services Annual Meeting

  • Jo Goodhew
Community and Voluntary Sector

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Good afternoon everyone. I am delighted to join you at this first full year annual meeting of Charities Services.

Brendon – thank you for the invitation. Members of the Independent Charities Registration Board – Roger, Caren and Kirikaiahi it’s good to see you all again.

As Board members you have responsibility for registering charities to ensure they meet the standards required in order to merit the tax exemptions and registration benefits. That work is a challenging and important service. Thank you.

To the representatives from registered charities and those from the wider charitable sector - this is your meeting.

One where you have the opportunity to ask questions about the operation of the Charities Act 2005, to network with your peers, and to share ideas and develop new ones as you listen to speakers and discuss your own valuable experiences.

Seeing so many of you here is a real plus for the sector.

The valuable work you all do enriches individuals, families and communities throughout New Zealand and this is consistent with the role of Internal Affairs. 

Like you the Department touches the lives of all New Zealanders’ as it strives to ‘serve and connect people, communities and government’.

The past year has been one of consolidation for Charities Services within the Department of Internal Affairs. I am pleased with the progress that has been made and want to acknowledge those achievements today.

Public trust and confidence in the charitable sector is vital.

Stronger and more resilient communities is one of the Department’s focus areas.

Championing and channelling resources to provide communities with the tools they need to get the job done is central to Government’s strategy of moving resources to the front-line to provide effective  joined-up services.

As part of the Service Delivery and Operations Branch, Charities Services is well positioned to harness the strengths of being in a larger team and to share the benefits with you.

Working with Community Operations and the Office of Ethnic Affairs provides new and stronger links within communities and more operational resources. The investigation and monitoring function that Charities Services performs is now truly part of the core regulatory function within the Department.

Charities Services is increasingly working with other government agencies and with the sector, it is continuing to sharpen its focus to enable you to concentrate on your core role rather than administration and compliance.

In May this year the Charities Services call centre moved into the Department’s – this not only saved money, but means people who call about Charities Services can be linked to other community resources.

Charities Services also has a new look which we can see in the banners here today.

This new theme will be carried across to the revitalised website which will be up and running in the New Year.

Many organisations are seeing the benefits of being registered and want to be recognised as a registered charity.  

This sees some 1,500 to 2,000 applications received each year.

The registration backlog was eliminated in December 2012, and the registration team continues to focus on reducing the processing times which will help you all.

However, given the number of annual applications the demands on the team will continue and this remains a priority for Charities Services.

We know charity law is specialist, complex and dynamic. It’s an area of law that fascinates and challenges, and continues to evolve.

To help build understanding I was proud to launch this year, with Dr Donald Poirier and Charities Services their textbook Charities Law in New Zealand. To support people using this great text, it is available to all as a free online download from the Charities Services website.

An associated and important role for Charities Services is to ensure the efficient and effective use of resources.

One of the ways this is achieved is through managing and building the complaints and investigations process.

Priority is now given to those allegations perceived to be of a serious nature and these are put on top of the list for investigations.

We know charities are highly dependent on having the public’s trust and confidence.  Investigating in response to issues raised means the public’s trust and confidence can be maintained.

I am pleased with Charities Services’ emphasis on working collaboratively with other government agencies for example Police, IRD and the Serious Fraud Office. This coordination also contributes to the public having trust and confidence in charities’ good governance and integrity.

Charities Services Education team are making progress putting in place governance and management building blocks.

Over the past year there has been a substantial community and government collaborative partnership to provide an online self-assessment tool for organisations called NZ Navigator.

Congratulations to all those involved in the partnership – the Platform Trust, ANGOA (the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa), The Bishops Action Foundation, Social Development Partners, and the Department of Internal Affairs.

I know you will be hearing more from Marion Blake, ANGOA’s Chair and CEO of the Platform Trust on this great success story.

The new refocused CommunityNet website is currently being tested prior to its launch in the New Year.

Your feedback has directly influenced CommunityNet’s exciting new structure and content.

The site has been tailor-made to meet your changing needs and to ensure on-going relevance.

The website will be Government Web Standard compliant, easier to maintain and cost less to run which in turn frees up valuable Charities Services resources for other priorities.

Both CommunityNet and NZ Navigator contribute to the Government’s Result Area 10, our commitment to have 70 per cent of transactions online by 2017.

I trust they will both provide useful support, enabling you to get on with your core business.

Another area where Charities Services, government and non-government agencies, have worked with the sector is to develop a set of financial reporting standards to ensure the proposed reporting requirements are easy to understand and follow. 

I am pleased with the real progress being made.

The proposed standards are designed to assist charities tell their story in a clear and transparent way using both financial and non-financial information. 

These standards will take effect on 1 April 2015.

I have been advised the External Reporting Board has approved the Tier 3 and 4 reporting standards for charities; these will apply to the bulk of charities whose operating expenditure is less than $2 million per annum.

The feedback we received on these standards is that they will allow clear and understandable financial statements that are easy to prepare. I know charities are already starting to use the templates accompanying the standards. 

This move is also in-line with the way we are enabling people in all walks of life to make easier and simpler transactions with Government.

Some of you will know about my keen interest in exploring ways to encourage the development of social enterprises – organisations with mixed social and commercial objectives.  Social enterprises can contribute to local communities particularly in social, environmental and economic areas.

The Department of Internal Affairs published a report this year on legal structures for social enterprises, and Charities Services has a fact sheet for social enterprises interested in registering as charities.  

I am looking forward to undertaking further work in this area and seeing the social enterprise sector growing in the years ahead.

Charities Services and the Department are working with the social housing unit of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, IRD and Treasury to provide general guidance on charities law, tax law, and housing to community housing groups.  Charities Services will also develop guidelines for community housing providers thinking about registering as charities.

These measures underpin the all-of-government approach to providing affordable quality homes in areas of need.

Charities Services is in a strong position to meet the challenges of the future. The decision to integrate into the Department of Internal Affairs was the right one.

I am pleased with the progress staff are making to serve the public. Congratulations on what you have achieved and the work you are continuing to do. Your job is to support and enable the charity sector to get on with its vital role at all levels within the community.

The charity sector is one I am proud to be associated with.

Despite the current economic times when fundraising is not so easy I believe the sector is a strong one.  With more than 26,000 registered charities in New Zealand the charitable and not-for-profit sector is a thriving and important part of our economy.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today. 

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.