Hansard and Journals

Hansard (debates)

Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill — First Reading


Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill

First Reading

BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) : I move, That the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time, I intend to move that the bill be considered by the Finance and Expenditure Committee. This is a member’s bill. It is a modest amending bill. It is my first member’s bill in this House, and it is my privilege to introduce it on behalf of the Methodist Church of New Zealand.

The Methodist Church, as every member of the House will well know, is a respected religious institution with a long and proud history in New Zealand dating back to the earliest days of European settlement. The Methodist Church has a vision of its purpose in the community, and an important part of that purpose is the sharing of resources with the poor and disadvantaged in New Zealand. Over the years, the Methodist Church has attracted a number of benevolent contributions. Some of these funds have been preserved in the form of trusts for charitable purposes. As a consequence of its long history, the Methodist Church holds some trusts with purposes that have become obsolete. Of particular note are the numerous trusts held for the benefit of Methodist orphanages and children’s homes. Time has moved on. The Methodist Church now no longer undertakes the care of children in this way, and today there are no Methodist orphanages or children’s homes operating.

The moneys held in these trusts are generally quite small amounts, and they cannot be used unless the purposes of those trusts are varied. It is possible to vary the purposes of a charitable trust on application to the High Court under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. This option, however, is lengthy, expensive, and impractical, given the number of Methodist Church trusts that need to be varied.

The purpose of the legislation is twofold. Firstly, it will provide an alternative process to that provided under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 to vary charitable trusts relating to the Methodist Church. Secondly, it will widen the purposes of children’s trusts to allow those trust funds to be used for the benefit of children across New Zealand. The alternative procedure for varying the purposes of certain trusts proposed by the bill is similar to the procedure under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. The trustees of the trust must prepare a scheme for the application or disposal of the trust property. That scheme must be accompanied by a statement giving full information about the reasons for the proposed application or disposal of the trust property, together with a copy of the trust instrument.

An important difference provided by this bill is that the scheme may then be submitted to a legal adviser or committee appointed by the Methodist Church, instead of to the High Court. Following this, the legal adviser or committee must submit a report to the Conference of the Methodist Church. The conference is the annual gathering of the Methodist Church, where all decisions affecting the operation of the Methodist Church are made. The conference has the power to approve the scheme, subject to there being no objection by the Attorney-General. Importantly, all decision makers under this alternative regime must act in accordance with the rules of law that would apply on any application for variation to the High Court under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. Furthermore, all schemes must be submitted to the Attorney-General. If the Attorney-General objects to the scheme, the Conference of the Methodist Church must not approve it. I have provided advice about this bill to the Attorney-General, the Hon Chris Finlayson. He has provided me with advice from his officials that the bill appears to be consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Further, the bill allows any trustee or other person who holds funds or has properties in trust for the purpose of Methodist orphanages or children’s homes to pay or transfer the whole or part of those funds to the trustees of the Methodist General Purposes Trust Board. That board will have responsibility for the proper application and administration of such funds in accordance with any founding instruments of those trusts. Importantly, where it is impossible, impractical, or inexpedient to give effect to the original purposes of those trusts, the Methodist General Purposes Trust Board will be able to apply those funds to any other purpose for the welfare of children in New Zealand. The alternative regime for varying and widening the purposes of charitable trusts, and the ability to transfer certain funds to the Methodist General Purposes Trust Board, will allow the Methodist Church to more efficiently use funds donated to it for its charitable purposes in the New Zealand community.

There are precedents to this bill. The Methodist Church is not the first religious institution in New Zealand to do this. The Anglican Church successfully promoted the Anglican Church Trusts Act in 1981, the Presbyterian Church successfully promoted the Presbyterian Church Property Amendment Act in 1966, and the Catholic Church successfully promoted the Roman Catholic Bishops Empowering Act of 1997. This is ecumenical legislation. Those Acts dealt with similar problems to those faced by the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill does not go beyond the ambit of those existing private Acts of Parliament. It is not a controversial bill, but it will greatly assist the Methodist Church of New Zealand in its pastoral care. I commend this bill to the House.

CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) : It is a pleasure to follow the previous speaker and speak to the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill. This is a private bill, and it is the first private bill I have spoken to—so there is another thing I can tick off. Just before I start—

Hon Trevor Mallard: What’s the member been doing for 3 years?

CRAIG FOSS: I have been very, very busy, I say to Mr Mallard. [Interruption]

Hon Member: Winning in Tukituki, actually.

CRAIG FOSS: Yes, I have been keeping the Tukituki electorate, visiting the prison, and having chats with my friends in the service.

Chris Tremain: Winning your majority!

CRAIG FOSS: And rebuilding our majority. Those are just some of the things I have been up to. I have not heard, but I think this bill has cross-party support. I guess we will hear whether it has when other speakers rise to speak to it. It would surprise me if we did not have cross-party support.

Of course, it goes without saying that the National Government supports this bill. If it passes its first reading, it will go to the Finance and Expenditure Committee for further examination and review. I guess we will need to have discussions with the sponsor of the bill, Mr Brendon Burns, and I congratulate Mr Burns on sponsoring the bill and, hopefully, getting it through. I am sure we will be working with him. I will offer our cooperation to make sure it goes through the process, firstly, to keep the Methodist Church happy, and, secondly, because it is actually an eminently sensible bill. It is a good clean-up. It fixes a problem. There is an expensive route for the fixing of the problem, as was alluded to, using the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. Of course, it would have to go to the High Court, and with the number of trusts involved, as we all know, at the end of the day the lawyers would be the winners, and the assets the Methodist Church has would be diluted. I commend the House for its motives here. They are good solid motives across parties to help get this bill through.

When speaking this week I have to note, just as an aside, that I think today marks the 30th anniversary of Dame Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister in the UK. I do not know whether she was a Methodist.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I doubt very much whether she was a Methodist.

CRAIG FOSS: She may have been. I mean, other speakers may offer different religions that she may have had, the Iron Maiden. [Interruption] As a colleague of mine notes, she was the woman who put the “Great” back into “Great Britain”. I am pleased to have my name beside hers in Hansard, and it is interesting to note that my mentioning her has provoked a fair bit of comment around the House.

This bill is not contentious, and, as I said earlier, I look forward to working on it with my colleagues around the House who are on the Finance and Expenditure Committee. I commend the previous speaker for his speech earlier. I am sure a certain gentleman would have been very pleased at the way that speech was put together. It was very similar to the speech that I was going to make. I am being quite truthful here. I guess the way to look at this bill is in an economic sense, if you like. We are talking about stranded assets of the church. It is interesting, and it gets one thinking, that when one looks at the explanatory note of the bill, suddenly these words “orphanages” and “children’s homes” come up. I had not considered orphanages and children’s homes for quite some time. I agree with Mr Burns that it is a good thing that we do not have those places any more. Obviously, the need for them is still there, but society has found other ways to tend to that need and hopefully to provide better solutions to some of the unfortunate problems these trusts were originally set up to deal with. We have to acknowledge that the intent with which they were originally set up was mostly for the good of children whom, unfortunately, for whatever reason, circumstances led to be put into an orphanage. I presume that quite a few people in New Zealand working amongst us—possibly even in this House—have been through those orphanages. I thank the Methodist Church for its good work there. I am happy to be helping the church to get this bill through.

I mentioned stranded assets, which simply means that there is value and wealth but it cannot actually be used. This bill is a good way of basically bringing those together to allow the church to extract the value that is already theirs. The funds are on its balance sheet, but with the very many small amounts of funds and the various trustees around the place, they are actually stranded. The church cannot utilise its funds or assets. As we all know, in good times and bad, churches generally find it hard to fund their way through and to do the good work they all do—or intend to do—in our communities. I think we are all grateful for that work. I often wonder where our communities would be if was not for people from the various churches doing good work, or just good solid people overall doing good work.

The bill sets out some changes. I was quite impressed with the rules in and around the conference. The conference basically sets all the rules and can appoint the trustees or remove them from any of the associated trusts of the church. That is a very good part of the bill. It is quite refreshing. It allows grass-roots members and activists within the Methodist Church and who have an eye on the long-term well-being of the church to have some say in the betterment and use of the assets that were once intended for the good of children. As we see in the bill, many parts of it state that any funds should be used for the process they were originally intended for: for the good and welfare of children, but in a more modern context. As the previous speaker noted, the bill was based on existing legislation. We have seen that already. There have been similar issues in and around the amendments to the Presbyterian Church Property Act in 1996, the Anglican Church Trusts Act 1981, and the Roman Catholic Bishops Empowering Act 1997—all of which dealt with the same issues. I find them interesting, maybe because they are all private Acts. Maybe another member can answer the question of, given that the problems exist for those particular churches, whether they exist for other entities. If they do, I am sure that perhaps there could be a reason for further discussion and discovery of other entities with similar problems. Perhaps that is something this Parliament or one of its committees might seek to address. I think that would be a good point.

The process under the Charitable Trusts Act, which with this bill the church will not have to go through, requires an application to the High Court. As we all know, that process can be lengthy, expensive, and very uneconomic, and, given the number of trusts and the amounts involved, they all attract some fixed costs. At the end of the day, as I said earlier, lawyers would probably do quite well out of those applications to the High Court, which would be to the detriment of the children. I say well done to Mr Burns and his colleagues who have helped put this bill together. The bill also ensures that all the proposed changes are accompanied by a statement setting out the reasons for the proposed change. Again, that is good law, good transparency, and, of course, good accountability, and is a bow to the integrity of those who originally donated funds for good purpose in those times. This bill will allow that process to continue, and that there is always borax or sunlight on any decisions that are made.

The alternative process in the bill allows the funds in the trust to be utilised for their purpose—being the welfare of children of New Zealand—rather than sitting in limbo. Once again, it is another way of pulling out, or de-stranding, stranded assets. It allows the management of trust property to be passed on to one board, therefore ensuring more economic and cost-effective management. To me, particularly as a National Party member, and with my economic and finance add-on, that makes eminent sense. Perhaps there might be a purchase officer or something on that board to make sure that the rules are adhered to and that the members of the church get good value for their funds. Thank you.

Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana) :Kia ora, talofa lava, and warm Pacific greetings. I am really honoured to stand in this House and speak in support of the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill. I particularly acknowledge the hard work put into this bill by the Methodist Church of New Zealand—I thank all the Methodists—and I thank my parliamentary colleague the MP for Christchurch Central, Brendon Burns, for sponsoring it.

I will reiterate how important this bill is. We know that precedents have already been set with the Catholics, Anglicans, and Presbyterians, but the main aims of the bill are to provide an appropriate mechanism for varying charitable trusts of the Methodist Church, where the original objects or purposes are now impossible, impractical, or inexpedient to carry out. By reason of the limited assets of those trusts or reasons of expense, it is desirable to provide an additional means of varying those trusts, other than the means provided by the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. The second—and the most important—aim is to expand “the objects or purposes of trust funds or trust property relating to Methodist orphanages or Methodist children’s homes.” due to changes in policy and law relating to the care of our children and young people.

I thought it was also important to reflect on the context in relation to Methodism in Aotearoa New Zealand. Methodism actually started back in 1822 when the Rev. Samuel Leigh, who was a pioneer for the Methodist Church, came to open the Wesleyan Methodist Mission. From 1973, Māori Methodists have become largely autonomous and, as tangata whenua, the Methodist Church has been very respectful in accommodating the Treaty of Waitangi. In addition to that there has also been the Pasifika part of the Methodist Church, where there is huge and dramatic growth in Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, and Rotuman congregations all round New Zealand. That context in relation to the Methodist Church is very, very important.

The latest census data shows that the fifth-largest Christian denomination in New Zealand is Methodist, and we have 53 Methodist churches all round Aotearoa New Zealand. What is really important is to acknowledge the role of churches and faith institutions. I am very proud to be the interfaith spokesperson for Labour and to honour over 3 million people who in the last census signed up to saying they belong to a faith or denomination. That spirituality is very important in people’s lives, as is the role of the churches and the enormous contribution they make in supporting families and children who are in most need. Churches are the glue that holds communities together. It would be a terrible shame to waste their much-needed resources for this important work on a legal technicality.

I encourage all of our people here to please support this bill. I know there is cross-party support for it. Just to end on Brendon Burns’ words: “The alternative regime for varying and widening the purposes of charitable trusts, and the ability to transfer certain funds to the Methodist General Purposes Trust Board, will allow the Methodist Church to more efficiently use funds donated to it for its charitable purposes in the New Zealand community.” Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.

CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier) : I rise tonight to take a call on the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill, and to support Brendon Burns in taking his first bill to the House. I congratulate him on doing that. It is interesting to have a look at the Methodist Church’s trust bill and the Methodist Church. The church has had a long history in this country. It was one of the first churches to land in New Zealand, to form relationships with tangata whenua, to build strong relationships with New Zealand and with Māori, and, over time, to receive significant donations and put together a number of trusts that have been there to provide donations to the community. The principal purpose of a number of these trusts, about which Mr Burns has brought this bill to the House tonight, was to provide care for children through a number of orphanages. I will be interested, as we go through the Committee stage, to learn from Mr Burns how many trusts we are talking about in terms of this bill, how many orphanages are part of the Methodist Church as we go forward, and also how much money remains in these trusts going forward.

Clearly, as a society we have moved on in terms of having orphanages in our communities, as we have now a range of other things across our communities. No longer do we accept that an orphanage is a place for a young child to be held; we have tended to move into a situation where children are fostered into the community, or adopted. In that regard, and moving on from orphanages, we have a situation where the charitable trusts that were set up by the Methodist Church to provide those services are no longer relevant. So there comes a need to change the purpose of those trusts, so that the Methodist Church can direct those funds in a modern context. That will be a challenge, particularly if the purpose of the trust will again be directed to looking after children.

When looking at the likes of orphanages, mental health institutions, and borstals in this country, it is interesting to note how as a society we have moved on from those. Last Monday I had the opportunity to visit a number of homes in Hawke’s Bay that have now taken Kimberley Centre patients. We used to have institutions for our mentally ill or our intellectually disabled; we have now moved to a situation where those people are in our communities. It was amazing to go around those New Zealand care homes in Hastings, and in Riverbend Road in Napier, and to look at the way that these people are being looked after and cared for now, in our communities.

It is interesting to see how communities have moved on. I know that when a number of these homes were first put into the community, members of my own community were fearful of what might happen if people from the Kimberley Centre ended up living beside them as neighbours. But now, 3 or 4 years down the track, the community has embraced those homes and the people there have come on in leaps and bounds. To see the way that a number, particularly patients from the Kimberley Centre, are now involved in the community is absolutely amazing. I look at Rowan House in Napier as an example.

I wanted to spend a fair bit of time talking about charitable trusts, and the amazing thing that has happened in Parliament in the last number of months with the establishment of a charitable trust for parliamentary sporting teams. But that will have to wait for another day, because clearly I am going to run out of time. Charitable trusts are an important part of our community. There is no point having those trusts sitting in abeyance and the funds unable to be used. The Methodist Church has realised there are a number of ways in which it could achieve a change. Going to the High Court is one of the ways, but the church has recognised that through an Act of Parliament it can achieve a change to the purposes of the trust a lot quicker. So we are all here to support the bill and its proceeding through Parliament. Thank you.

KEVIN HAGUE (Green) : I begin by congratulating Brendon Burns on introducing the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill, and also by expressing my support for the remarks just made by Chris Tremain in respect of the Kimberley Centre. What a fantastic development that has been! The Green Party intends to support this bill at least as far as the select committee, but it does so with a sense of significant reluctance. Our reluctance stems not from any hesitation about the need for the Methodist Church to be able to modernise its purposes and other terms of its trusts, but rather because the mechanism being used, bringing legislation before Parliament, exemplifies using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

The church has played a very significant role in New Zealand. I particularly want to make positive comments about its progressive and courageous approach to many social issues, and the great contribution it has made through social services, including many of those provided by the trusts that we are considering today. Some of the biggest contributions made by non-governmental organisations and particularly charitable trusts in New Zealand have been made from longstanding organisations that have built up their public profile, reputation, and the ability to implement long-term interventions. But the very age of these organisations is likely to mean that their founding documents, such as trust deeds, are likely to reflect the different needs and anachronistic world view of an earlier time. It is essential that such organisations should be able to vary these deeds, so that the momentum of their positive work can be carried forward into our own time. It is also essential that there is some kind of objective scrutiny of any such change to ensure that the underlying integrity of the relationship between trusts and the public is not compromised.

What is at issue is the process for doing this. In the Green Party’s view, it is appalling that the process provided for in the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 is so expensive and unwieldy that the Methodist Church needed to resort to these lengths to be able to make sensible and obviously required alterations. The Presbyterian, Anglican, and Catholic Churches have already gone down this route of course, and it would now be churlish and unreasonable to require a different standard for the Methodist Church. That is why we support the bill.

We are also conscious that there are a great many other longstanding charitable trusts and non-governmental organisations that may well be faced with similar problems, but for whom this process—taking a bill to Parliament—would be beyond their means. It is not practical to continue to deal with the problem in this way. I urge the Government to add to its legislative agenda the modernisation and streamlining of the 1957 Act. This Act does require streamlining, as opposed to others that do not.

I finish by commenting that when I was investigating this bill I had cause to reflect on the changing nature of the relationship between the State and the community sector. Many community organisations had their origins in charities established to ease the lot of the “deserving poor”, in an age when the Government played no such role. Nowadays non-governmental organisations are more often agents for the delivery of services for which the Government accepts responsibility, or are themselves expressions of community organisation. My concern is that as the Government moves to retrench the role of the State, and implements policies that increase the wealth disparities between rich and poor New Zealanders, we will see reduced funding and support for the vital role played by non-governmental organisations. We will see a wind-back of progress towards full funding of many of the non-governmental organisations working on children’s health and welfare, for example. In general, I predict that we will see, in the words of the McGillicuddy Serious Party, “a great leap backwards”. It seems to me that Government policy is aimed at producing a New Zealand similar to Dickensian England; a poorhouse would go nicely alongside that boot camp—perhaps with a chain gang alongside it. Maybe the Methodist Church should think twice before doing away with the aims and objectives that were appropriate for the 19th century.

TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou. I start by saying that the Māori Party has a particular interest in the commitment demonstrated by Te Haahi Weteriana o Aotearoa towards what it describes as cooperative ventures with other churches, and, indeed, its stand on a couple of issues. In a landmark conference in 1983, I am told, the Methodist Church reaffirmed the priority to the nation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a covenant that established Aotearoa. It was written into its constitution that the Treaty provides the basis of a power-sharing partnership and is to guide the church in its mission in this land.

So it is that when I come to the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill, I think about that commitment to form a close association between mana whenua and the Methodist Church. It is a relationship of goodwill and faith, which we expect to see expressed in the redistribution of trust funds, and the processes are described in this bill.

This bill is very much a statement of the times. It is consistent with other legislative changes that place emphasis on simplicity and clarity, rather than having the overly complex layering of terms and provisions that was a feature of earlier bills. This bill tries to make it easier to amend Methodist trusts that have charitable purposes. This is a solid goal, and it is worth supporting in terms of the support it will be able to provide to communities in order to advance educational aspirations, eliminate poverty, and work towards whānau ora. Making the process easier has been an object of other legislation—private bills, which other members have talked about, that were put forward on behalf of the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican Church. So it would be only right that this bill passes through without too many hitches, as well.

About a year ago I was fortunate to travel up to a very large town called Ruatāhuna, somewhere in the middle of the Urewera Forest, where the Presbyterian Church was to return land to the Tūhoe nation. How that church really got there, in the middle of the Tūhoe nation, is an interesting history that was spoken about that day. Pākehā families, indeed, formed a close relationship with the people up there, who were mainly of the Ringatū faith. So it was a great day of celebration, which, I think, was very much along the lines of this bill, and it set the scene in terms of a different relationship between the hāhi and mana whenua.

The other important aspect of this legislation concerns the changes to charitable trust funds and to properties relating to Methodist orphanages or children’s homes. This bill will now make it easier to use that funding in a more appropriate way for the care of children and young people. Over the course of time, care is no longer routinely provided by orphanages or children’s homes, so this bill responds in ways that we hope will achieve the broader outcome of whānau ora.

These dual goals—the capacity to amend Methodist trusts, and the provisions relating to orphanages or children’s homes—allow the church to move with the times and adapt to new processes. We support that, of course, but there is one final rider that we would like to place on this bill. The amendments proposed mean that the trust property is disposed of to another similar organisation with a similar charitable purpose. This is what we will obviously be keeping a keen eye on, in respect of the developments of this bill.

As part of the commitment to Treaty justice, consultation was held with tangata whenua within the church—namely, through the Te Taha Māori arm, which supports the bill. We trust, therefore, that both the parties in the covenant relationship will look carefully at the case when trust funds become freed up for distribution. In particular, we would hope that where the land given was originally from Māori sources, and where it is proposed that this land be disposed of, then the tumuaki of Te Taha Māori will be actively involved in decisions around that land.

We look forward to the select committee debate around this bill, and for assurances around the protocols that will naturally fall out of the bill. To that end, we will support this bill going forward.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) : I rise to take a very brief call to commend the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill to the House, and to acknowledge the member introducing this private bill, Brendon Burns, on behalf of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. Others have spoken in more detail about the contents of the bill, and those contents will be reviewed by the select committee and at the stage of the Committee of the whole House.

At a general level, this bill serves to remind us of several important factors. Firstly, we need to commend the Methodist Church, and other churches that form part of the precedent for this bill, for the work they do in our community. The New Zealand Labour Party strongly supports the work of New Zealand’s churches, in helping the needy and the poor in New Zealand, and we stand alongside those who offer essential services to our community—services that have been supported in very substantive programmes like the Pathways to Partnership funding programme, introduced by the previous Government last year.

I want, also, to stress that there is a long history, a long antecedence, for a bill like this, between the New Zealand Labour Party and churches like the Methodist Church, alongside Presbyterians, Anglicans, Catholics, and others. That history goes to the heart and history of the labour movement and its partnership with Christian socialism and Christian social democracy. Both have the goal to build a more just and fairer society, and to deliver services to those most in need. As a son of a vicar, I guess that that resonates with me still, and is one of the reasons why I am here in this House.

To that extent, I want to mention an argument that was raised by my colleague Kevin Hague in his contribution. The argument was, in effect, to caution the House against providing excessive reliance upon the charitable sector as a pretext for a withdrawal of the reach of the State in supporting those who need support in our society. I would say that that is a fair thing for the House to bear in mind, but, indeed, it need not necessarily be so. It is possible for us to have an active conception of the role of the State in being able to play a positive and meaningful part in the lives of all New Zealanders who need it, but in partnership with community organisations, non-governmental organisations, and churches. It is to that effect that I expect that my colleagues will want to support this bill through its deliberations in the House.

The bill also, of course, offers the potential to save an expensive and time-consuming court process. This will ensure that more of the funds that have been given to the Methodist Church for the purpose of helping ordinary New Zealanders, and particularly those orphan children in New Zealand, will go to the purposes for which they were given, and that has to be a good thing. Thank you.

JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) : I rise to take a brief call on the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill—this private bill—in its first reading. I do so because at heart it seems that most members of the House are very keen to see that the Methodist Church of New Zealand is assisted in the way that this House is able to assist—in a way that can mean that the moneys that have been given benevolently to the church can be used for the purposes, or very close to the purposes, for which they were given.

The bill states that its purpose is to “provide an alternative process for the variation of certain trusts relating to the Methodist Church; and widen the objects or purposes of trust funds and trust properties relating to Methodist orphanages or Methodist children’s homes.” All members of the House, I suspect, will know of orphanages that have been part of their own background. I remember that there was an orphanage in Temuka, and each year we would go with the Jaycees to the annual fireworks display. The Jaycees would provide fireworks for the children at that orphanage. But that orphanage now has a changed purpose, and it is such changed purposes that have resulted in the Methodist Church seeking to use this particular process to change the way it deals with the trust funds and trust properties it has the ability to utilise.

I think it is most appropriate that the member opposite, Brendon Burns, has brought this bill to the House. My thoughts in that respect relate to the work of the Christchurch Methodist Mission—work I feel sure that he, along with his and my colleague Nicky Wagner, will be very aware of. That work is undertaken in the central South Island, in Nelson and Marlborough, and on the West Coast. The Christchurch Methodist Mission employs approximately 200 staff, and it is their good work that can be put to even better effect if—or when—this bill is passed, and when they can sort out their purposes and make them more appropriate to the work they undertake.

I will mention very briefly some of that work. The mission is a registered charitable trust, and, as are many similar trusts in the South Island, is associated with the Christchurch Council of Christian Social Services and New Zealand Christian Council of Social Services. The mission does analysis of social policy, which is important work, but in the community it provides such programmes as HomeLink, which is a home-based, goal-focused social work service that offers positive parenting skills in order to try to strengthen family relationships, behaviour management skills, and communications skills; works with families in partnership; and builds supportive networks. That is such important work, and we should not stand in the way of it continuing.

The mission also has a two-stage group programme called ParentWorks for parents of children aged 0 to 13 years, and another programme called Wise-Up (Walk Tall Tamariki), which is an 8-week life-skills group programme for children aged 6 to 12 years and teaches self-respect, self-control, self-confidence, and self-esteem. As members can tell from hearing of these programmes, it is absolutely imperative that we parliamentarians find any way in which we can assist the mission to carry out its work and that we acknowledge that work.

This main purpose of the bill is to provide an appropriate mechanism for varying charitable trusts of the Methodist Church “where the original objects or purposes are now”—and the following three words are important—“impossible, impracticable, or inexpedient to carry out and by reason of limited assets of those trusts, or reasons of expense, it is desirable to provide an additional means of varying those trusts other than the means provided by the Charitable Trusts Act 1957;”. The second aim of the bill is “to expand the purposes for which trustees hold trust funds or trust property for the purposes of Methodist orphanages or children’s homes due to changes in policy and law relating to the care of children and young persons.” This bill modernises the way the Methodist Church is able to do its work. Therefore, I commend this bill to the House and wholeheartedly support it.

BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) : I thank members for their expressions of support for the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill 2009. I think it is an acknowledgment that we as parliamentarians can sometimes—indeed, often—agree on legislation. Although it is not a major bill it provides a very, very necessary mechanism for the Methodist Church. I thank the Finance and Expenditure Committee chair, Craig Foss, for his comments. I acknowledge his comments that perhaps there may, indeed, be a case for a wider review of trust deeds. I am sure other organisations, like the Methodist Church, have trusts and entities that were established a long time ago for needs that have now passed.

This bill recognises the fact that the days when a church like the Methodist Church provided for orphans and other children have largely passed. I note the comments from Green MP Kevin Hague that perhaps such days may return. Indeed, history is often a repeat of cycles. But we as a Parliament cannot deny the Methodist Church the chance to update a collection of trust deeds, some of which are decades old, and the purposes of which are no longer there. Mr Tremain raised a valid point about how many trust deeds there are and how much money is involved. These are important questions that can be considered at the select committee, and I undertake to provide that information to the committee.

I know that in the meantime there will be considerable relief at Methodist churches across New Zealand that this bill is now introduced. Like similar legislation it has been a long time in gestation; the original bill was in the name of my good friend and predecessor in Christchurch Central, Tim Barnett. The reason for its being in his name was more than, as Jo Goodhew mentioned, the fact that the Christchurch Methodist Mission does very good work in our city; in fact, the Methodist Church of New Zealand is headquartered in Christchurch Central.

The Methodist Church is a part of the New Zealand fabric. Since 1822 it has given care and support to those in need. This bill is a chance for Parliament to assist the Methodist Church to update its trust deeds without the expensive recourse that is required under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. I commend this bill to the House.

  • Bill read a first time.
  • Bill referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee.