Update from Te Rātā Atawhai, the Charities Registration Board on the Family First Court of Appeal decision

Published 25 September 2020

The Board has been advised that the Attorney-General has applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court about the Court of Appeal’s decision that Family First (the Society) qualifies for registration under the Charities Act 2005.

In 2017, the Board decided that the Society no longer qualified to be a registered charity.  The Society appealed that decision to the High Court.  In 2018, the High Court confirmed the Board’s decision that the Society no longer qualified to be a registered charity because its purposes are not exclusively charitable. The Society appealed to the Court of Appeal. On 27 August 2020, the Court of Appeal held, in a majority decision, that the Society qualifies for registration.  You can view the Court of Appeal judgment and the earlier Board’s statement on the decision here(external link).

As the decision-maker, the Board does not have an active role in appeals. In this case, the Attorney-General was joined as a party, reflecting the Attorney’s role as the ‘protector of charities’.

The Board understands that the grounds for the Attorney-General’s application for leave to appeal include that the majority of the Court erred in its decision that the Society’s advocacy is charitable when applying the Supreme Court decision in Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated.

Role of the Board

The role of the Board is to maintain the integrity of the Charities Register by ensuring that entities on the Charities Register qualify for registration. The Board makes charities registration decisions based on the facts before it, applying the relevant statutory and case law, and maintaining consistency of its approach with previous decisions.