Chairperson's Report To Members At The Annual General Meeting Of The New Zealand Council For Civil Liberties Inc Held On 10 November 2010
Another year has passed and it is time to report once again to members. This has been a busy and generally productive year for the Council. The Executive continues to meet on a monthly basis, and all 4 members have attended virtually every meeting.
Access to, and the development of, the Council's website has made us far more accessible to our members, the New Zealand public, and to the media. As a result there have been substantially more enquiries, and we have generally been able to respond effectually to requests made to us. The corollary is that there is an increased amount of time needed to be spent in dealing with these matters, and that is proving to be rather taxing for our small executive. A hint, perhaps, that there is scope for some expansion in the number on the Executive, so local members are invited to consider whether the time is now right to take on such a role.
Auckland Council of Civil Liberties
A particular pleasing aspect of the year has been the increased liaison with the Auckland Council. Their President, Barry Wilson, has been in Wellington on business, and we have been able to meet up with him on a couple of occasions. This is proving to be a useful opportunity to share views and to discuss ways in which we can further enhance our association. Unfortunately, the Canterbury Council is in recess and their involvement with us is mainly in the realm of moral support.
Members are encouraged to visit our website on a regular basis and to look particularly at the Current Issues, Current Submissions and Blogs Sections. There have been several submissions and numerous blog items added to it during the year. The scope for blog items represents a significant opportunity for material to be harnessed and made publically available. Currently, there are a lot of issues where a civil liberty perspective is crying out for an airing. A large number of our members are learned and literate, and our website provides an opportunity to publish appropriate articles and comment. We urge you to take full advantage of it. In this regard we acknowledge the preparation of a detailed Draft about Fluoridation prepared by John Lee, a Life Member and former President of the Council during the 1980s, which is currently being considered by the Executive.
We are particularly indebted to the tireless work of Thomas Beagle, who has been on the Executive for the past year. Thomas has a significant involvement with our website, and is a prolific writer of blogs. In addition, he is the prime mover in a relatively new organisation, Tech Liberty, where the goal is to defend civil liberties in the digital age.
Charitable Status Not Available
The Executive has considered making an application to the Charities Commission for registration as a charity, as that status would enable members to claim taxation relief for their donations. However, the legislation is so dated that there is a real question as to whether the Council would qualify, especially as there are a number of high profile organisations, which had previously been classified as charitable, now finding that that status has been withdrawn. While this matter will be considered in the High Court early next year, the more preferable approach is to update the legislation to provide a more accurate definition of what constitutes a charitable activity in the 21st century. The Green Party has endeavoured to promote an appropriate Bill but as yet there has been little buy-in from the main political parties.
NZ Civil Rights Handbook
We draw your attention to the recent publication of “The New Zealand Civil Rights Handbook”, which has been completely revised, updated and expanded by Tim McBride. Members are invited to obtain and peruse a copy as it is an extensive publication and reasonably priced. The Executive is looking at how the Handbook can be made more widely available, especially to young people, as there is currently a paucity of civics information delivered within the education system.
Finally, we consider that the Council is in good heart and we are looking forward to another interesting year, and to seeing some of you at the Annual General Meeting.