Anti mining lobby denied charitable status

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining has been denied charitable status and the accompanying tax benefits because it’s considered an advocacy rather than educational group. KASM describes itself as a community-based action group that raises awareness of mining proposals and educates the public. It made submissions against Trans-Tasman Resources’ application for permission to mine in the South Taranaki Bight and NZAX-listed Chatham Rock Phosphate’s bid to mine the Chatham Rise, some 450 kilometres offshore to the east of Christchurch. The group also attended relevant hearings and engaged legal counsel and scientific and economic experts about the proposals.

The Charities Registration Board said in its December 15 decision that it agrees KASM does have a charitable purpose in protecting the environment. But because its main way to achieve this was by advocating for a moratorium on seabed mining applications, the board said it could not decide if the end result was charitable. “Given the potential consequences of preventing seabed mining until all environmental impacts can be understood and mitigated, the board does not consider it can determine a charitable public benefit,” the board said. “Any public benefit is unlikely to be capable of demonstration by evidence.”

 In the year ended March 31, 2016, KASM generated about $25,500 in income, of which $17,200 came from membership and donations. It spent $21,300, with its biggest expenses being legal costs at $8,800 and wages at $8,600. KASM argued it was only opposed to non-essential seabed mining, not all seabed mining, and its advocacy work was ancillary to its main purpose of advancing education. The group also argued relevance from a Supreme Court finding on Greenpeace’s charitable status. In that case, the majority of the bench found political advocacy could be charitable, depending on the goal and its promotion, particularly where environmental objectives were at stake.

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