International Research Fellowship Report Released

Published: Tue 19 Apr 2022 11:47 AM
Sue Barker Charities Law is delighted to announce the release today of the report “What does a world-leading framework of charities law look like?” in fulfilment of the prestigious New Zealand Law Foundation International Research Fellowship Te Karahipi Rangahau ā Taiao, New Zealand’s premier legal research award.
The report makes 70 recommendations, including that the Government’s review of the Charities Act 2005 is transferred to an independent body, such as the New Zealand Law Commission, for an independent, first principles (and ideally multi-disciplinary) review taking into account the wider legal framework applicable to charities.
“Ultimately it comes down to the type of society we want to live in – it is very important that we get this right,” said the report’s author, Sue Barker.
Research indicates that 90% of the world’s population is now living in countries rated as closed, repressed or obstructed: the conflict in Ukraine is being described as the crucible of a new world order. In the face of the forces of autocracy, the important role that charities play in upholding liberal democratic values should not be underestimated: if we care about human rights, climate change, social cohesion, rising inequality, public interest journalism, affordable housing, the rule of law, even democracy itself, it is essential that we get the legal framework for charities right.
Yet, to paraphrase one of the world’s most prolific and influential scholars in this area, Dr Lester Salamon, the charitable sector is an “invisible subcontinent”, poorly understood by policymakers and the public at large, encumbered by unnecessary regulatory limitations, and inadequately utilised as a mechanism for addressing public problems.
The report represents the culmination of two years’ work, building on more than two decades of legal practice in this area. “I am very grateful to the New Zealand Law Foundation for the opportunity to undertake this research,” said Sue. “I hope that the report might help to broaden the discussion about charities in New Zealand, even if just a bit.” Sue also hopes that the report might be taken into account in the Department of Internal Affairs’ review of the Charities Act, which is currently on foot. “The current review tasks the DIA with reviewing itself which is problematic in a number of respects.” The report draws on the experience of comparable jurisdictions and aims to shine light on some of the underlying assumptions and unintended consequences that are causing considerable current difficulty in this area of law.
“This Fellowship means so much to me,” Sue said, “not least because it says that the charitable sector matters, and it is worth taking the time to try to get the legal framework for charities right.”
The report can be accessed here:
Sue Barker is the director of Sue Barker Charities Law, a boutique law firm, based in Wellington, specialising in charities law and public tax law. Since its founding in 2012, the firm has won a number of awards, including Boutique Law Firm of the Year at the New Zealand Law Awards. Sue is a director of the Charity Law Association of Australia and New Zealand, and a member of the Core Reference Group for the review of the Charities Act. Sue is also a co-author of the text, The Law and Practice of Charities in New Zealand (LexisNexis, 2013), and a contributor to Regulating Charities: the Inside Story (Routledge, 2017). In 2016, Sue was made an Honorary National Life Member of the National Council of Women of New Zealand Incorporated for her work assisting the Council with charities law issues. For more information, please visit:

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