How did The Animal Welfare Institute of New Zealand (AWINZ), an unincorporated “charitable trust”, manage to gain charity status with the Charities Commission on 28 September 2007?
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) which became part of the Ministry of Primary Industries on 30 April 2012 published a booklet entitled “Animal Welfare in New Zealand” in 2009 (available on-line) which states on page 17:
“MAF enforces the animal welfare legislation and audits the activities of the approved organisations (RNZSPCA and the AWINZ) which assist it in the role. MAF and these organisations investigate complaints made about possible non-compliance with the legislation. While the vast majority of such complaints are dealt with through consultation and education, successful prosecutions against persistent or blatant offenders are undertaken routinely. A number of private sector organisations have signed Memoranda of Understanding with a commitment to collaborate on animal welfare issues, including situations where an animal welfare complaint has been made.”
AWINZ (The Animal Welfare Institute of New Zealand) was first notified by the Hon. Jim Sutton that it had been granted “approved organisation” status under section 121(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, in a letter dated 19 December 1999, before the Act came into effect on 1 January 2000. This decision was first gazetted on 18 January 2001, almost one year after the AWINZ Deed of Trust had been allegedly duly executed on 1 March 2000. Sutton made it clear is his letter of 19 December 1999, that his granting of “approved organisation” status to AWINZ was conditional on it fulfilling certain requirements and the Trust until 30 March 2001 to fulfil these.
AWINZ had no legal status at that time it applied for “approved organisation” status in 1999 as it was at best just a “trading name” at that time. used by an Auckland barrister, Neil Edward Wells, [photo: to right] who rendered services to the Waitakere District Council relating to animal control.
According to its Settlor, Neil Edward Wells, the “charitable trust” named Trust “The Animal Welfare Institute of New Zealand” (AWINZ) – , was first established with the creation of a Deed of Trust on 1st of March 2000. That founding Deed of Trust dated 1st of March 2000 is referred to in the AWINZ “Deed of Trust and Revocation” dated 5th December 2006, first registered on the Charity Commission’s website on 3 November 2007.
“Approved organisation” status under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, was therefore granted to “AWINZ” by the minister based on an application which had been made on 21 November 1999, over four months prior to the trust allegedly being formed. On 1st March 2000 the “charitable trust” AWINZ was established, but it had no legal identity separate from its trustees.
AWINZ has never been incorporated as a charitable trust under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 and has never had any legal status in its own right and could therefore not sue or be sued in its own name.
So then how did Neil Edward Wells gain “approved organisation” status for AWINZ in 2000?
He achieved this by writing to Ministers of the Crown, John Luxton and Jim Sutton, as well as MAF officials, and persuaded them that AWINZ was an actual organisation – a “charitable trust” that was in the process of applying for incorporation with “The Ministry of Commerce” [sic]. When challenged by officials to produce evidence that AWINZ had been incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, Wells misled officials by pretending that the process of application for incorporation was well underway or that documentation proving incorporation had been mis-filed (lost).
On 28 September 2007 the Charities Commission granted AWINZ charitable status. The “Deed of Trust and Revocation” dated 5th December 2006 remains the only ‘documentation’ available on the Charities website, as ‘evidence’ that the Trust was ever established as a “charitable trust”. At various points the 2006 Deed refers misleadingly to the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, and the Trustees’ obligation to comply with this legislation. However, AWINZ has never been incorporated under this Act.
In 2011 AWINZ lost its “approved status” with MAF. All four Trustees (Graham John Coutts, Neil Edward Wells, Wyn Hoadley [Chair] and Tom Didovish) wrote to the Hon. David Carter, Minister of Agriculture on 7th October 2009 stating:
We write to formally request that you, as responsible Minister, revoke the accreditation of The Animal Welfare Trust of New Zealand as an approved organisaton under section 123 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The Trustees have not taken the decision to seek revocation lightly, but we are no longer willing to be subjected to the intrusion to which MAF Assurances and Risk Directorate has subjected AWINZ over the past 16 months or so, nor are we willing to meet the standards that MAF Assurance and Risk now seek to impose ten years after we came into existence.
The Notice of Revocation of AWINZ as an “approved organisation”, issued by Hon. David Carter, was published in the NZ Gazette dated 16 December 2010 (No. 173, p. 4250) and took effect 28 days after this date.
It is clear that this revocation was requested in part because the Trustees of AWINZ did not wish to be subject to the level of scrutiny and accountability of their accounts etc. that they were receiving from the MAF officials and in particular an Auckland private investigator who had for some years accused the Settlor of the Trust of fraud. As an “approved organisation” AWINZ was required to demonstrate a level of transparency and accountability which did not fit well with the Trustees.
AWINZ, a registered charity, continues to submit its unaudited Financial Statements to the Charities Commission. It is not at all clear how its activities could in any way be regarded as charitable and of public benefit.
The AWINZ/Ndeil Wells application for “approved organisation” status was dated 21 November 1999 , The approved status was confirmed when it was gazetted on 18 January 2001 http://www.dia.govt.nz/
Approval from the Minister as attached on the recommendation of MAF http://www.anticorruption.co.
New developments in animal welfare. New Zealand Government Media 19 January 2001