KASM fights ruling against charity status

At a time when funding is critical for its current fight against seabed mining off the coast of Taranaki, Kasm (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) will challenge a ruling that denies it charity status.

Kasm chairman Phil McCabe says the decision by the Charities Registration Board in December prevents the community-based action group from accessing funding for its work and denies it tax benefits.

“The issue is that funding is crucial,” says Phil. Kasm still needs to find “40-50k in the next few months” to challenge the bid by Trans-Tasman Resources to mine 50 million tonnes of iron sand a year for 20 years in the South Taranaki Bight. The hearing is due to start about mid-February.

“Having charitable status opens a lot of doors to funding … without it we can’t go asking for money from the pokies in the pubs, and lots of philanthropists will only fund charities.

“Its like anything, if you have the funding you can do good work. When DOC has got the money it does good work, when they don’t stuff starts falling apart.”

Phil says Kasm’s lawyers were drafting up its challenge of the Charities Registration Board’s decision at a time when they could be working “on the TTR stuff”. The challenge has to be lodged this month. Experts in Kasm’s legal fight against TTR also need to get their evidence in by the end of this month.

Phil says the registration board made some odd comments about Kasm not doing charitable work.

“We are informing people, gathering information and sharing it,” says Phil. “It is about protecting the environment for the people for tomorrow. There is no personal gain.”

In the ruling, the board said that while some of Kasm’s advocacy could be classified as charitable, such as protecting the environment, most of its activities were “directed to advocating its point of view on seabed mining”.

Last year Kasm successfully submitted against a similar application by TTR to mine the same area, and it has also thwarted a bid at seabed mining by Chatham Rock Phosphate.

In 2014, Greenpeace won a long-running battle to have its political advocacy recognised as a charitable act, with the Supreme Court ruling that political advocacy should not exclude an organisation from achieving charity status.

Phil says Kasm has the same lawyer used by Greenpeace in its case.

Meanwhile, Phil says Kasm has had a lot of “fun and games” this month with the Environment Protection Agency, which is managing the decision-making process regarding TTR’s bid.

He says more than 500 people had stated in their submissions that they wanted to be heard, including 118 in Raglan, 60-odd in Auckland, 38 in Wanganui, 26 in New Plymouth and 19 in Wellington.

However, hearings will only be held for submitters in New Plymouth and Wellington, which Phil says is “not acceptable or satisfactory” because it meant that many would be unable to attend.

“Last time the bulk of the evidence was heard in Wellington, with hearings for submitters in Hamilton, Patea, Whangarei and New Plymouth.

Phil says he believes there is pressure from the Government to keep costs down, because hearing from some 500 submitters would otherwise take some 20 days.

“This is an added pain in the arse.”

 * Help Kasm fight seabed mining by becoming a member for just $10 a year or by making a donation at kasm.org.nz.

Inger Vos