Resolving disputes

Sometimes, disputes can occur between a charity’s members, within its governing and management bodies or between the charity and a third party such as a landlord or supplier. It is important that the officers of a charity resolve internal disputes quickly, because they can harm how a charity operates.

It is important that your charity has set policies and procedures for resolving disputes and complaints. These may be set out in your rules or in a separate policy document. 

If there are no set procedures and the process breaks down, or the written procedures need clarification, one or more of the people involved in the dispute should look for help from outside the charity.

You could consider:

  • approaching your charity’s regional or national body, if there is one
  • approaching a neutral and respected person from your community – for example, a kaumātua or community elder
  • obtaining independent legal advice from a Community Law Centre or by engaging a lawyer
  • approaching an agency that deals with dispute resolution in the area of concern – for example, the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, the Disputes Tribunal or Tenancy Tribunal , or the Health and Disability Commissioner
  • seeking help from a relevant government department or agency – for example, the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Human Rights Commission, or Te Puni Kōkiri, or
  • employing a professional mediator or arbitrator.

You should seek help from an independent professional advisor if the dispute is about contractual or other property rights, which are matters between the charity and a third party. For example:

  • employment issues or claims of unfair dismissal
  • disputes relating to contracts with the charity, including landlord-and-tenant disputes.

You should contact Charities Services if the dispute is related to a breach of the Charities Act 2005 or serious wrongdoing in connection with a Registered Charity. You can find more information about when Charities Service will get involved on the Making a complaint section of our website.