The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Inc. is listed alongside the Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc. (“SPCS”) in The Encyclopedia of New Zealand under its section entitled “Cause Interest Groups“. Both are registered charities with the Charities Commission.
“Forest and Bird”, as it has come to be known in the media, was registered as a charity on 30 June 2008 (Reg. No. 26948) and one of its objectives is identical to that of the SPCS (CC20268) – fund-raising so that it can advance its objectives. SPCS which was registered as a charity on 17 December 2007 also raises funds (see s. 2[g] of SPCS constitution). Both entities are incorporated societies. SPCS was registered as an incorporated society on 25 September 1975 (Reg. No. 217833).
Forest and Bird objectives are aimed at saving society from the negative impact of the degeneration and degradation of the physical and biological environment, with the consequent loss of invaluable species. SPCS objectives are centred on advancing spiritual and moral welfare and alerting the public to the negative impact of the degeneration and degradation of moral and community standards.
The Encyclopedia entry confirms that Forest and Bird is a lobbying group, heavily involved in political advocacy:
“Scenery preservation societies were formed in the 1880s to maintain town belts and urban reserves, and then began lobbying for the preservation of native forest in general. This led to the Scenery Preservation Act 1903, a landmark measure in protecting New Zealand’s heritage.
“In 1923, angered by the destruction of Kapiti Island’s natural ecosystem, Val Sanderson founded what became the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society (later Forest and Bird). Since then the society has lobbied governments to protect endangered animal species and wild places. In 2011 its management team included a lawyer, marketing managers and professional lobbyists. It had 50 branches and 70,000 members and supporters.”
In the financial year ended 28 February 2011, Forest and Bird received grants and sponsorship totalling $1,459,709. It spent $2,248,348 of its gross income of $5,363,055 on salaries and wages. Its total expenses were $5,830,455 (source: www.charities.govt.nz).
The vigorous lobbying work undertaken by Forest and Bird – an environmental charity group – involves some of its officers having to regularly publicly criticise Ministers of the Crown, company officials, regional councillors and other public officials, over their policies, attitudes and actions. Some may well feel targeted and aggrieved to be singled out. Such ‘victims’ often like to remain hidden in anonymity behind their corporation structure or ministry machinery.
Robust debate is entered into by Forest and Bird and great efforts are engaged in to prod the consciences of some of these officials, to spur them into action to save the environment. Protest action is not foreign to Forest and Bird whose members have been known to trespass on private land by ‘nesting’ high in trees and chain themselves to earth-moving equipment to campaign against the logging of native forests. Such zeal is greatly admired by the environmental community and applauded by SPCS members.
Charities such as Forest and Bird must not be allowed to have their wings clipped by those seeking to stifle freedom of expression and who are determined to curtail robust public debate on ‘sensitive’ issues.
The moral and spiritual welfare of our physical and biological environment is worth upholding, as are the community and moral standards that have been the foundation of our society.