Hansard and Journals
Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill — Second Reading
Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill
NICKY WAGNER (National) : I move, That the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill be now read a second time. I thank the members of the Government Administration Committee and its chair, the Hon David Parker, for dealing with this bill so quickly and efficiently. The select committee reported back to the House on 10 September and recommended that the bill, with amendments, proceed. This was good news for the board of governors of Christ’s College and for the school itself, as it cleaned up after the 4 September earthquake.
Christ’s College, which was established in 1855, is one of the oldest schools in New Zealand and has a cluster of beautiful heritage buildings in the centre of Christchurch. Luckily they have sustained only minor to moderate damage. Like many heritage buildings in Christchurch, the damage has been mostly to chimneys and the gable ends of buildings. The school had done substantial earthquake strengthening in the past, and the boarding houses, which have been strengthened to 67 percent of the building code, were undamaged. Several buildings will need further earthquake-strengthening work but that had already been planned, and specialist workmen are now busy restoring some of the most intricate stone and slate work. The school is fully insured and will continue the repairs until all the buildings are restored. The boys, although evacuated after the earthquake, have returned to school and it is now functioning as normally as possible.
The Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Act 1910 to remove difficulties in administering trust funds invested in the college. Over the past 155 years the college has received numerous bequests from various donors. The terms of some of those bequests require that the annual income generated by the funds be applied to specific purposes—for example, the provision of prizes for certain subjects or sports, or the provision of scholarships for pupils who meet those criteria. Accordingly, the school holds the funds on trust, to be applied for those specified purposes.
However, over the years the stated objects of a number of the trusts have become largely redundant. Also, some of the trusts receive income that is either in excess of, or insufficient for, their needs. The board of governors’ submission to the select committee advised that of the 148 mostly small trusts that the board administers, approximately 28 could not be administered because of changed circumstances. In the past, when problems of implementation had occurred the board had engaged directly with the original donors to agree to a variation of purpose. In many cases, variations had been agreed but nowadays many of the original donors have already passed away, and even some of the agreed variations are in need of amendment.
Trustees can apply to the High Court, under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, to approve a new trust purpose in certain circumstances. The new trust purpose must be as close as possible to the original one. The process involves the submission of a trust variation scheme to the Attorney-General, who will report on the scheme to the court. There is also a public notification and objection process. However, the college would need to make a separate application to the High Court for each trust variation, and the board estimates that it would cost approximately $50,000 each time. That is not practical when we consider that many trusts are small. One example is the Balfour Divinity Prize, which was established in 1880, with a bequest of $100 for a gold medal to be awarded to the boy who passed the best examination in divinity in the four Gospels and Acts of the Apostles—in Greek! Other examples of bequests with redundant purposes include the 1919 gift to the college to provide bursaries for the sons of soldiers. They include the sons of those who had fallen or suffered as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and the sons of members of various forces of the British Empire, or who had served in the Great War. Another estate was left in trust to educate orphans from named Christchurch orphanages, which no longer exist. Funds can now no longer be distributed from those trusts and are just accumulating, to the benefit of no one.
The select committee found that the amendment bill was generally consistent with the law related to charitable trusts, and reported that the issues, as described in the preamble, were proved to its satisfaction. Similar problems have been identified by other organisations and have been addressed in legislation such as the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill 2009, which was recently passed in this House. The select committee suggested that the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill use the wording from the Charitable Trusts Act, which has an established body of case law supporting it. It recommended that clause 5, which proposes a new subsection to vary the proposed purposes of charitable trusts in certain circumstances, be rewritten. It also suggested inserting a new subsection 4A in clause 5, which would allow the governing body to use, for another purpose, excess income from trusts that generate more than necessary for the donated purposes. That is consistent with the Charitable Trusts Act.
Finally, the committee was not comfortable with the term “for the benefit of the college”, in case the functions of the college changed over time, and then trust funds could perhaps be applied to non-charitable purposes. The committee therefore recommended amending new section 5(3) in clause 5 to require that trust funds be used for charitable purposes, and that new section 5(4B) require that any new purpose be as close as reasonably possible to the purpose for which the property was given.
The board of governors has always made it clear that the college wishes to and, as a trustee, must ensure that to the fullest extent possible the objects of the trust continue to be met and that the board’s approach to any variation of purpose would be as sympathetic to, and consistent with, the original purpose as possible. The board of governors has also assured the select committee that before exercising this power to vary the original purpose, it will complete a detailed review of the trust to ensure that the original purposes cannot continue to be met fully.
Again, I thank the select committee for its thorough and thoughtful work. The bill, as amended, will solve the problems of dealing with numerous small trusts administered by the college. It contains enough checks and balances to protect those trusts, and the Attorney-General still maintains his role as the protector of charities. He will still have general oversight and will be able to inquire into the trusts if he believes that the trustees, at any stage, overstep their powers. The committee has done an excellent job in reshaping this bill. It is good legislation, and I commend it to the House.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) : I am very pleased to support the second reading of the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill, and to note, firstly, how important it is that Christ’s College, one of the great, important façades and institutions of my electorate of Christchurch Central, has come through the quake with only modest damage. It is important to know that an institution like that is up and operating. That is important for Parliament and for the nation to know. Of course even though Christ’s College has had some earthquake strengthening, that was no guarantee that it would come through a force 7.1 quake.
I note that the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which has had $700,000 spent on it in the last 3 or 4 years, is still closed and may be closed for another year. Many other churches, in particular, and other buildings across our city centre have suffered much worse than Christ’s College has.
Christ’s College is an independent school finely led by the headmaster, Simon Leese. The purpose of this bill is to acknowledge that changes are required to the trusts that have been supporting the college from its founding days in the 19th century. There have been changes in the nature of those trusts and this bill acknowledges that. This bill is parallel to another bill that I brought through the House last year for the Methodist Church, which is also headquartered in the Christchurch Central electorate, and which similarly faced trusts that were out of date. The process to take change through the High Court was enormously difficult, complex, and expensive. This bill seeks to assist that issue.
We, the Labour Opposition, support this bill, but I note that through the course of the Government Administration Committee process changes were made, and those changes were quite important. They were on the issue of what the college’s trustees were able to do in introducing new purposes for a trust. There were concerns about that; we wanted to ensure that those purposes would still be charitable purposes. I understand that those changes are recognised and accepted by the Christ’s College Board of Trustees; that is appropriate and was in the legal advice to them. That issue reflects similar concerns about the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Bill. It is a very important principle that when a trust is established, albeit that could have been a century ago or thereabouts, the people setting up that trust have very clear intent about what they want it used for. Although we as a Parliament want to change a trust’s purpose where it is no longer appropriate at all, we do want to generally ensure that the moneys still are directed towards the kind of intent that the people who founded the trusts envisaged a considerable number of decades ago.
So the Labour Opposition supports the second reading of the bill and its progress through Parliament. Thank you.
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) : The Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill, which was brought to the House by MP Nicky Wagner, has had a thorough scrutiny in the Government Administration Committee. I commend my colleagues in that select committee because we gave this bill the scrutiny it needed.
I will tell members why I felt the bill needed a bit of scrutiny. A number of years ago, over a period of years, families throughout Canterbury, South Canterbury, North Canterbury, and, indeed, the length and breadth of New Zealand made bequests to Christ’s College traversing matters such as scholarships for tutelage, for sons and grandsons of soldiers, and for the purposes of a sporting activity such as fives. A number of trusts were set up and kind donations were made into those trusts, but over the years the funds are no longer needed, the activity is no longer appropriate, or the sport is no longer played.
So the proprietors of Christ’s College found themselves in the position of holding on to sums of money for which they had no good purpose. As they told us in the select committee, the sums of money served no use. There is no use having funds accumulating in various accounts for which there is no purpose, so the select committee looked at the provisions of the bill.
There are a number of precedents for the circumstances surrounding this bill: the Methodist Church of New Zealand Trusts Act was recently passed in this House and dealt with the same problem of funds given by bequest for a purpose that no longer exists. There is also the Anglican Church Trusts Act 1981, the Presbyterian Church Property Act 1996, and the Roman Catholic Bishops Empowering Act 1997. So we can see that this is not an uncommon problem, and it was one that we were happy to deal with.
I must credit Nicky Wagner MP for bringing this bill to the House and providing such a good link. I think it is really important for a good local MP to provide a good link between the promoters of a bill and the select committee—and, indeed, this Parliament. Nicky Wagner has done a particularly good job in this instance in keeping the connections going between the promoters and Parliament.
This bill amends the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Act 1910. Members can see, without even my comments prefacing this part of my speech, that the legislation is well and truly out of date. What the bill seeks to do—and I think we have achieved this in the select committee—is to remove difficulties in administering trusts and property that have been invested in the college.
The select committee needed—and wished—to tighten up a couple of the aspects of the bill as it was presented to us by the promoters. We recommended replacing the wording in the original bill as presented to the House with words from the Charitable Trusts Act. It was felt that aligning the words of that Act with those in this bill provided certainty to the intention set out in this bill. I think the promoters accepted the suggestion of the select committee to do that and were very happy to have those words put in.
Another concern raised by members of the select committee was that the wording in the bill was a little bit loose. Some of the sums of money sitting in redundant trusts were intended for the benefit of the college, yet if we go back to each individual trust we see that some of those monies were given for quite specific purposes. So it was the select committee’s wish, with the agreement of the promoters, that a new purpose be as close as reasonably possible to that for which the property was given to, or vested in, the college. If the bequest was to advance sporting interests then it was the intention and wish of the select committee that the wording in the bill reflected that. So, in time to come, when the proprietors of Christ’s College decide to use a bequest fund it will be for a purpose as close as possible to that which was intended in the first place.
I was particularly happy as a committee member to see the tightening up of the wording in the bill. We did not want to see a bequest made many years ago by the family of a fallen soldier to go to something quite unrelated to that bequest, because maybe the family would not have liked that. In a bequest associated with the family of a soldier or soldiers—because a number of boys, of course, of Christ’s College fought for our country—I felt that we needed to keep the purpose as close as possible to the original intent.
The bill as returned to the House for its second reading keeps the spirit of the bill introduced to the House by the promoters of the bill and, indeed, by Nicky Wagner, who brought it before us. We have also managed through the select committee process to keep the spirit of bequests as close as possible to the original intention of those people who made the bequests. With those words, I commend this bill to the House.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) : I beg your indulgence, Mr Assistant Speaker Roy, at the start of my contribution and say that on behalf of all members of the House who reside south of the Bombay Hills, we wish you all the best for tomorrow evening in Invercargill. I think I can speak on behalf of most members. [Interruption] There may be a few noises from north of the Bombay Hills, but I hope that things work out well in Invercargill.
Paul Quinn: Until Wellington goes down.
GRANT ROBERTSON: That is right; that is precisely the point. Mr Quinn has totally blown my cover. Here I am, congratulating the member for Invercargill and Paul Quinn blows my cover. I am sorry, Mr Assistant Speaker, this week you can hang on but after that we want the shield back.
It gives me pleasure to rise and speak in the second reading of the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill. The bill was referred to the Government Administration Committee, and the member who has just resumed her seat, Jacqui Dean, reflected on the discussions that took place at the committee. I think it was a good example of a private bill coming to the House. Generally speaking, I think most members think that is fine—the particular organisation needs to be able to do what it needs to do to continue to operate, and we should just let the bill go through and it will be fine. However, I think that what the select committee process drew out was the importance of select committee scrutiny. This is not a bad mark on Christ’s College, at all. The college governors have been entirely cooperative with the committee, but I think it draws out the importance of every bill getting the scrutiny it needs in this House, and not bypassing the process and thinking it does not matter. This certainly was a situation where the select committee, I believe, has added significant value and has ensured some consistency and—
Jacqui Dean: It’s a great select committee.
GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, it is a great select committee, and it is chaired by the Hon David Parker. Mr Gilmore—
Jacqui Dean: Who’s the deputy chair?
GRANT ROBERTSON: The deputy chair is Jacqui Dean. While we are at it, let us name all the members—there are not that many. On this side of the House we are very proud of our chair, David Parker. He led the Government Administration Committee through its often trying and difficult work programme so that it was able to come up with a good result with this bill.
I want to pick up on what Jacqui Dean was saying about the fact that all of us on the committee understood what the preamble of the bill means. For many organisations, including Christ’s College, when they are dealing with trusts that are based in the past and with bequests that are from long ago, it is difficult for them to be always able to continue the exact purposes of those bequests and trusts. We understand that the administrative burden that can fall on organisations when they want to vary a trust can be very hard. A school has education purposes and it would like to see as much money as possible go directly to that; it is certainly not in our interests to put a further administrative burden on those organisations. We can understand why Christ’s College instigated the bill, and why it wants the changes to be made.
Having said that, I point out that when the committee came to analyse the bill a number of concerns were raised about the exact wording. Again, other speakers have referred to this. Firstly, it is a question of any inconsistency between the wording here and the wording in the Charitable Trusts Act. The Charitable Trusts Act does try to operate across a range of very different trusts, but the point is that charitable purposes are what should lie behind any situation where the Act comes into play. Therefore, the committee recommended changing the language so that it is consistent with the Charitable Trusts Act, and the board of governors at Christ’s College was happy to go along with that.
Another area where the committee wanted an amendment was to allow the governing body to use for another purpose excess income from the trusts that generate more than is necessary for their donated purpose. We were comfortable that this was consistent with the Charitable Trusts Act, but we needed to make sure that the language was correct.
The area that I think concerned the committee the most, as Jacqui Dean alluded to, was the more general language about being able to extend a new purpose for the trust for the benefit of the college generally. Again, this is no black mark on the college itself; it was merely trying to create an environment in which it felt it could manage the bequests and the trusts in a way that was beneficial to the college. But we felt that it could spread things too far, particularly around the notion that perhaps the college may be undertaking activities that are not for educational purposes. They may be doing different kinds of activities that support the wider purposes of the college and the board of governors. We wanted to be able to keep some kind of management that was close to the idea of a charitable purpose. That is why we have inserted an amendment that requires trust properties to be used for charitable purposes. This is an area where it would have been easy for the committee to simply let that pass, but we wanted to make sure that these trusts are used, as closely as possible, for the purposes for which they were originally put forward.
So following on from that, the committee is also inserting a requirement for the purpose of the trust to be as close as reasonably possible to the purpose for which the property was given. I do think that is important. Jacqui Dean has alluded to cases involving soldiers who died in the war, where money came from their families, and to trying to make sure there is a way of reflecting that. More broadly, we want to make sure that, particularly, the educational purposes of these trusts are kept in mind.
On this side of the House we are obviously acutely aware that one of our former members, Dr Michael Cullen, has in this House expressed his gratitude to some people who helped him get his scholarship into Christ’s College. Perhaps he did not express his gratitude in a way that noted just how grateful he was, but he certainly did note the people who had paid for his education through Christ’s College. There was a scholarship that had a particular purpose, to allow someone like Michael Cullen, who would not otherwise have been able to afford to attend Christ’s College, to be able to be there, and what great benefit the country has had from that scholarship. I am sure those farmers in the South Canterbury area, whom he alluded to, are very pleased they were able to put him through Christ’s College. It is an important example of the fact that there are a lot of different trusts and scholarships go through Christ’s College, and it is obviously important that in the future, if there is a need to make change, Christ’s College will make that change and it will be as close as possible to the purposes of the original trust.
We are happy to support the bill with those amendments. We think that this has been a good exercise in drawing the attention of the select committee and the House to the fact that we will need to amend private bills from time to time to ensure there is consistency. The governors of Christ’s College have been helpful and have worked with the committee to ensure that we now have a workable situation whereby they can deal with trusts and the property of those trusts and can make changes, but that when they do make those changes it will be done for charitable purposes. Any changes will ensure that the property is used for a purpose that is as close as reasonably possible to the original giving of that trust. For all those reasons the Labour Party is very happy to support the second reading of this bill.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) : I will start, as others have today, with a mihi to the whānau, hapū, and iwi of Sir Archie Taiaroa of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Wairiki, and other iwi, and to the whānau whānui of Hauraki for the loss of Jim Nicholls, who was one of the rangatira of the area in which I live. I recognise those rangatira. What they have brought to this nation is very important to the Green Party.
I turn my attention to the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is to change the trust deed of Christ’s College. It is reasonably innocuous. It hardly caused a flood of submissions; in fact, there was only one, I believe, which was from the college itself. The Green Party voted against the bill at its first reading because we thought the manner of amending the trust deed lacked the checks and balances that other legislation involving trust deeds has upheld. However, the Government Administration Committee recommended that some changes be made to the wording, particularly in relation to new trust purposes. It is important to us that resources created for charitable purposes can be modernised without losing the overarching charitable purpose. We are in favour of the clauses amended as a result of the select committee’s work, notably new section 5(3), inserted by clause 5, which requires that trust property be used for charitable purposes. I think it has been quite well explored.
As we understand it, some major issues have been addressed, so the Green Party is happy to change its vote. That is why the select committee process is valuable. It allows us to do such things and to hear in depth the detail of legislation that can be improved. Then we can review whether we are voting the right way. Select committees provide an opportunity to improve badly drafted legislation and bring it into line with best practice. We all put together bills in haste, and it is great when they are brought into line with best practice.
We are pleased to see that the select committee reported issues about the circumstances in which charitable trusts can be varied and a new trust purpose begun. We are pleased that these changes have been accepted by the instigators of the bill. We still have some concerns about the lack of independent oversight of the trust changes, such as churches have had in their deeds when that legislation came through the House. But we recognise that if we want to, we can make suggestions by way of an amendment during the Committee stage of the bill.
We are pleased to be able to support this member’s bill now that it has been tidied up without losing its original intent. We have no problem with varying trust deeds if they are done properly, and we will continue to seek improvement. As a smaller party we cannot be on the all the select committees, but we deeply value their work when they are able to improve a bill.
As the education spokesperson for the Greens, I am much more concerned about the resourcing and development of the public school system and kura kaupapa for the benefit of all than I am about some of the wealthier schools in the country. I am deeply concerned about national standards, public-private partnerships, and special education in the public system.
However, we are focusing on the Christ’s College bill, and the Green Party is happy to say that it can support it at the second reading debate. We look forward to the Committee stage as an opportunity to introduce amendments if we think they are needed. We recognise the effort that the member Nicky Wagner and the select committee have put in to improving this bill. Kia ora koutou.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) : I come to the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill today as the MP for Te Tai Tonga, recognising the changed context between when this bill came before the Government Administration Committee and this point, the second reading. Between then and now—this will be news to members—a massive earthquake struck, which caused damage to the older buildings of this high school.
Grant Robertson: Really? Why didn’t anyone tell us?
RAHUI KATENE: Look, it is just completely missing from the media. I am sorry, but it has happened! Christ’s College is one of New Zealand’s oldest schools, being over 160 years old, and it was clearly distressing to witness the damage that happened when the chimneys tumbled down into the dining hall below. But like so many communities and families affected by the quake, it is not the damage to the bricks and mortar than have stood out in the response to this natural crisis. The spirit of generosity, indeed the expression of manaakitanga, has been very humbling to observe. I make reference to the support that Christ’s College has offered, for example, to ULearn. It has opened additional classrooms to ULearn in order to replace the old Cranmer Centre, which is now no longer able to be used.
The ability of Christ’s College to think outside itself and adapt to circumstances is actually at the foundation of this bill, which is being presented for debate by the local member, Nicky Wagner. Specifically, this legislation enables the trustees to change the purposes of the original trusts. The change is required to remove difficulties in administering trusts vested in Christ’s College that can no longer be applied in accordance with the original intentions of donors. There is, however, a commitment that trust property should still be applied for educational and charitable purposes, or near enough to that. But just as Christ’s College opened its gates to consider the needs of ULearn during the aftermath of the earthquake, in this bill the college has recognised that the purposes and intentions of donors in the earlier days are no longer relevant to modern times. As Nicky Wagner has pointed out, outdated bequests to left-handed rifle shooters, sons of World War I and II soldiers, and pupils from orphanages really no longer fit the times, just as the prizes for sporting events that are no longer run and subjects that are no longer taught no longer fit the times.
The bill allows trustees to vary the purposes of charitable trusts in certain circumstances. It will also allow the governing body to use for another purpose any excess income from trusts that generate more than is necessary for their donated purposes. That is consistent with the Charitable Trusts Act. The college’s board of governors has assured Parliament that before exercising the power to vary the original purpose of a trust, it will complete a detailed review of the trust to ensure for the avoidance of doubt that the original purposes cannot continue to be met fully.
The Māori Party is happy to support the college in updating the framework upon which its bequests and assets have been given over the years. This bill modifies the 1910 Christ’s College (Canterbury) Act, seeking a law change that will enable the school to use the funds it has been privileged to receive in a way that is appropriate for this century, rather than the last. We have read the advice of the Government Administration Committee on the bill, and we are happy to extend our support for the further progress of a bill that is very much along the lines of providing a necessary and useful update.
AARON GILMORE (National) : Unlike some families, in seven generations there has never been a Gilmore to have blessed the grounds of Christ’s College as a student, and I suspect that in the next seven generations there probably will not be one, either. I think that in the 160-year history of Christchurch, Christ’s College has represented all the things that are good and bad in Christchurch. In my own little world, I attended a school on the other side of town called Shirley Boys High School. We had constant battles against Christ’s College on the rugby field and occasionally on the cricket field.
It gives me great pleasure to stand here today and support the further progression through this House of the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill. Christ’s College has an enviable reputation in Canterbury and in New Zealand, and this bill will help to enhance that. I just heard someone say jokingly before that left-handed rifle shooters will no longer receive scholarships. As a left-handed shooter, I am a bit devastated by that, I must say! I believe this bill puts into place in the legislation a tidy-up and a change of intention that I believe the people who made those bequests would be very happy about.
I have had the pleasure of working on similar bills to this one that have been before this House—in particular, the tidying-up of similar trusts relating to Anglican and Catholic societies, which had large numbers of trusts with small amounts of money. This bill in a very similar way goes towards tidying up uncertainties that may exist and applying them to things that make sense. It was good to see the Government Administration Committee put forward some of those tidy-up changes with regard to the Charitable Trusts Act. The same problems existed with regard to the Anglican and Catholic bills that came before the House.
It is also good that this bill has been brought to the House by the wonderful member Nicky Wagner, who I know has spent many years living in the area close to Christ’s College. The land and the issues around the college have been very close to her heart.
I will share a little story about Christ’s College that I remember vividly. I had the misfortune of playing a game of cricket there a number of years ago. It was a two-innings game. In the first innings I was out first ball, which was very embarrassing. But I had the very great fortune—
Hon Member: No kidding.
AARON GILMORE: Yes, that was very embarrassing, but in the second innings of the game I managed to get 100 not out. I always remember that story about Christ’s College and remember what a great school it is. The person who bowled me out with the first ball ended up playing cricket for New Zealand, and he was one of the great players from Christ’s College. The reason I did not get out in the second innings was that he tore a ligament and could not bowl in that innings, so I was very happy about that.
Now I have a 7-year-old son. We constantly drive past Christ’s College, and he always calls it the Harry Potter school. Some members may know the grand hall that exists in Christ’s College. It is very similar to the grand hall that is used in the Harry Pottermovies. The fact that it survived the earthquake, which Rahui mentioned earlier on, is an interesting example of how great that school is and of how well it was built.
The funds discussed in this bill could be applied to the school in future to send students there to get the benefit of the great education that the school provides. I look forward to more good students coming out of that school. It has been pointed out that Dr Michael Cullen was an ex-pupil, as was Robbie Deans, one of the great Cantabrians, who has been lent to Australia to basically ruin his career and blot his copybook before he comes back and takes the Canterbury Crusaders to another Super 15 title, which is what I think will happen.
One of the interesting things about the bequests and changes is that a number of very wealthy former students of Christ’s College have not been touched on. They may be able to donate their own funds in future to this school or to some of the trusts. There are people like Bill Hamilton, the founder of HamiltonJet. He was one of New Zealand’s great business people. That gentleman was an former pupil, and he did a lot of good things not just for the school but also for the community of Christchurch and New Zealand. Another great former pupil of the school is Sam Neill, a famous New Zealand actor. I suspect that he will also donate handsomely to the school, and maybe even to some of the trusts and organisations. That may occur with these changes. The school has had some other great former pupils, like Sir Charles Upham, New Zealand’s only VC & Bar. The spectrum of politics, sport, and business shows us of the breadth of students who have come from this fine institution.
This bill, in terms of where we are in its second reading, goes only to help enhance the quality of students in the future, and not just so that we may have left-handed shooters, or the situation where one scholarship was awarded to the person who came second in the under-15 hurdles, as Mrs Wagner just informed me. I say good on the person who had that scholarship put into an enactment, but this legislation’s tidy-up will mean that many other students will benefit from it for many years to come. I think that is a good thing. Thank you very much.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : It is always privilege to follow a speaker as eloquent as Mr Gilmore. I reassure him, despite what he may think, that the college was not named after him. However, I was impressed at the way in which he managed to work Harry Potter into his speech. I want to recap on what a good job the Government Administration Committee did on this bill—
Grant Robertson: Great committee.
CHRIS HIPKINS: The all-powerful Government Administration Committee is chaired by the Hon David Parker, who did a sterling job. The committee is very ably deputy chaired by Jacqui Dean from the National Party, and she is accompanied by Mr John Hayes, who is always a beacon of light and hope. He is a bit like the Waldorf to Allan Peachey’s Statler; he always brings joy to the room whenever he arrives at the Government Administration Committee.
Aaron Gilmore: That was actually funny.
CHRIS HIPKINS: I thought it was quite good. I enjoyed the hearings on this bill. The Government Administration Committee took it very seriously, as we do all of the legislation referred to us. Not very much gets referred to the all-powerful Government Administration Committee and it is always a privilege to have a piece of legislation that we can actually do something with.
We raised a number of concerns throughout the hearings on this legislation. The first concern was whether there was any justification for the wording in the bill being different from the wording in the Charitable Trusts Act. I put that question to the college. The college lawyers, who appeared before the committee several times, could not really give us a good quality reason why it needed to be different from the Charitable Trusts Act. They had drafted the bill in such a way that it did not link to what the Charitable Trusts Act said, and I thought there may have been a reason for that. They were unable to give us that reason, so we thought that in terms of the legal situation it was probably safer to go back to the wording of the Charitable Trusts Act so that if at any point there is a dispute about what this bill is intended to achieve, the courts will have a body of case law already there. There is a strong body of law already around the Charitable Trusts Act, and we wanted to make sure that that was not overridden simply by the minor wording changes that the original draft of the bill contained.
The committee also recommended inserting a new section to allow the governing body to use for another purpose excess income from trusts that generate more than is necessary for the donated purpose. I think that is quite important, and it is consistent with the provisions in the Charitable Trusts Act. We saw no reason why those trusts should continue to grow unnecessarily, simply because the purpose does not require the amount of money that trusts are able to generate, so that was a fairly pragmatic and sensible thing to do.
The committee was concerned about what some of the more redundant trusts involved and whether it would be fair to say they were redundant, and we had robust discussions with the college about this. One trust that was listed in the schedules we were given by the college related to providing financial support to a student experiencing hardship. The committee put some pretty tough questions to the college as to why it needed to change that trust deed. To this day I do not believe that the college could seriously put its hand on its heart and say that there are no students experiencing financial difficulties and therefore it could not dispense that money somehow. The college gave us a variety of reasons, and in the end, after we had quite a long discussion about it, I was satisfied that there was justification for rearranging the trust as part of the wider rearrangement of the trusts it is doing.
We were concerned that the bill as introduced was too general in describing a purpose for a trust as for the benefit of the college. “For the benefit of the college” could have included renovating the grand hall that Aaron Gilmore talked about before and which he likened to the grand hall in the Harry Potter books. We thought that although that would certainly be for the benefit of the college, it would probably be inconsistent with what the money was gifted to the college for in the first place. We wanted to make sure that it was for charitable purposes, not simply for the benefit of the college, and that was one of the changes we made by inserting a requirement for trust property to be used for charitable purposes. Again, I think that was a fairly sensible amendment.
The committee also recommended inserting a requirement for a new purpose of a trust so that it is to be as close as reasonably possible to the purpose for which the property was given. In the case of the example I mentioned before—supporting students who might otherwise be in financial hardship—if there were reasons why the trust as it stood could not practically be used for that purpose, we wanted to make sure that it was applied in such a way that it was as close as possible to that purpose. For example, it could be that a number of very small trust funds could be grouped together and a common purpose found for them that was as consistent as possible with the original trust funds, but accumulating a more substantial sum of money so that it could be a more meaningful grant, and so on. I think that is very sensible. We did not want the college to be able to simply say “Well we don’t think this is important any more so we’re going to focus on our priorities.”, potentially against the wishes of the people who had donated the money.
I think it is really important, when we are talking about bequests and donations, that we show good faith towards the people who make those kinds of donations and bequests. I think that if we create a situation whereby somebody cannot be certain when giving money to any kind of trust that it will be applied to the purpose that they wish it to be, they will be more reluctant to do so. We need to tread very carefully to ensure that we do not create a precedent that allows a college such as Christ’s College to apply the funds in such a way that was never intended by the donor.
We did look at the Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Methodist Churches and at the way in which they had brought similar legislation before the House. We modelled a lot of our discussion around the provisions in that legislation to ensure that it was consistent. I will be interested to look at the Supplementary Order Paper that the Greens will put forward. I understand that they want to put forward a Supplementary Order Paper that strengthens some of the checks and balances in a similar sort of way as the Methodist Church of Australasia in New Zealand Act does. At the moment the bill, even as reported from the select committee, does not contain quite as fulsome a checks and balance process as the legislation regarding the Methodist Church does.
Generally speaking, the Labour Party is comfortable with this bill. We put some pretty tough questions to the college during the course of the hearings on the bill. I was pretty comfortable that the college answered the concerns and the questions we raised. I acknowledge Nicky Wagner. She sat through all of the committee’s deliberations on this legislation. It was a test of stamina and I was impressed that she had the perseverance. I acknowledge her contribution and that of the other committee members. Overall it is good legislation and I commend it to the House.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) : It is interesting that I have been given an opportunity to speak on the second reading of the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill. I am not from Christchurch and I am certainly not an old boy of Christ’s College. In fact, my schooling probably could not be any more different from what one would have had at Christ’s College. Ruapehu College is a long way from the august, historic grounds of Christ’s College. In fact, I suspect that for the first time ever Ruapehu College and Christ’s College have been mentioned in the same sentence—and it happened in this Parliament. There are certainly no Ruapehu College amendment bills on the books that I am aware of. I doubt whether I will ever have the privilege, unlike my fine colleague Nicky Wagner, of bringing such a bill to the House.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the debate this afternoon has been hearing of Mr Gilmore’s experiences of playing cricket on the hallowed green grounds of Christ’s College, and noting that he made a duck. I once made a duck in an interschool cricket match. It was against Taihape College. I remember it well. It was 45 years ago and it was my first game as the captain of the Ruapehu College first eleven.
Grant Robertson: There were only 10 players.
ALLAN PEACHEY: We always struggled to have 11 players; I can tell Mr Robertson that I think my sister filled in. I remember it well. We arrived at the ground in Taihape and the first thing we had to do was clear the sheep off the paddock. It was on a school day, so classes were in. We had to mop up the droppings, mark our own wicket, get changed behind the tree, and proceed to play the game. But it was very character-building, I am bound to say.
This is a very simple bill. It amends the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Act 1910 to remove difficulties in administering property vested in the college. I suppose we could say it is legislation for pulling things into the 21st century. I have been very impressed during the debate by all the great talk of the Government Administration Committee—is that what it is called?
Grant Robertson: That’s right.
ALLAN PEACHEY: I had never heard of it before. But clearly it plays a very important role in this Parliament, because it gives Chris Hipkins something to do. It gives the young man some purpose in life, so all credit for that to Nicky Wagner. I commend the committee for tightening up the provisions of the proposed bill, and for calling on the wording of the Charities Act. I think it shows the value of having a committee like that, and of the select committee process generally.
I conclude my brief remarks by paying tribute to the member whose name this bill is in. Nicky Wagner is a very fine representative of Christchurch. She works very hard for the people of Christchurch. I have spent time with her in central Christchurch and know how widely recognised and appreciated is the work that she has done. It is to Nicky Wagner’s credit that the bill has come for its second reading. In the great tradition of Ruapehu College I wish Christ’s College well, and commend the bill to the House.
COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) : It is a pleasure to speak during this second reading of the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill, and I must pay my respects to all those who have spoken before me. I also recognise those families in North Canterbury, which is the bottom end of the Kaikōura electorate, who still—to this very day—seek out such colleges to send their children to. No doubt they include families whose bequests have brought about the situation we are now confronted with, with regard to this particular bill. I also thank the Government Administration Committee members for their diligence, and there is no doubt that their advice, which was taken and applied to new section 5(4), inserted by clause 5, of this legislation, is very appropriate. If we just turn our minds back to clause 4, earlier in the legislation, about the purpose, we understand just how important it is to tie in things in a seemly way, and I am quite confident that the integrity of the trustees, principal, and teachers at Christ’s College will ensure that. One has to marvel at the strength of the old boys’ network that emanates out of Christ’s College. No doubt there will be a very strong connection with families to ensure that the provisions of this particular bill will not be abused.
When one thinks about the time that Christ’s College has been in existence, one might think that some 100,000 pupils had gone through that college, but in fact about 13,000 pupils have gone through. Today there are some 660 students at that college: 220 boarders who live there, and no doubt travel from all over the country to get there, and 440 day boys, as they are described. As a college it certainly measures up well with regard to any other schools throughout the country. The school is a product of the Anglican settlement of Canterbury in the 1850s, and in fact when we look around the Parliament building that we have here today, we see that the college dates from the very beginning of our democracy. So there is great history in Christ’s College, and it is one that we are particularly proud of.
When we look at the structure of the philanthropy that has been displayed towards Christ’s College, we understand that the solution we are dealing with here will be sensible and pragmatic. There are 28 trusts. If we consider the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, we find a provision there to seek a variation from the original trust deed, but that would require trustees to go to the High Court for that approval, not just once for all the 28 trusts but for each variation to each trust deed. One would be required, effectively, to seek 28 High Court decisions to get the changes that are necessary. It is with great pleasure that I see Dr Hutchison arriving, and on that basis I have great passion and enthusiasm for the Christ’s College (Canterbury) Amendment Bill to proceed. Thank you very much.
- Bill read a second time.