NZCS fears financial success from Conference

Profit could be damaging as Society fights charity-status case

The New Zealand Computer Society is in danger of making money from its 50th birthday celebrations in September.

The four-day conference to mark the anniversary of the start of computing in New Zealand is arousing a gratifying amount of interest and commitment.

Around 200 delegates have registered says CEO Paul Matthews, and he’s hoping those numbers will be bolstered to about 300 by the start date of September 15. This is very encouraging, given that it is outside the main cities and most delegates will need to travel to the conference venue, Rotorua, he says.

Asked about the likely financial outcome, Matthews is cautious. “We may just about reach break-even,” he says.

A financial surplus could be potentially damaging for the Society as it is currently fighting to have its charitable status restored. The Charities Commission de-listed the Society this year following eight months of submissions and counter-submissions. To qualify for charitable status an organisation must exist to serve the public good, and the Commission contends the Society exists for the advancement of the ICT profession. But the Society argues its primary function is education.

Matthews says that the anniversary conference is an educational event, placing it within the allowed purposes of a charitable body and that any surplus will be reinvested for educational purposes.

NZCS is set to appeal the Charities decision at a High Court hearing on November 22, so Matthews is constrained in what he can say on the matter; but much of the argument could revolve around the definition of “education”, he says. It has engaged lawyers Duncan Cotterill, at a discounted rate, to argue its case.

One important point according to Matthews is that increasing the knowledge of members of a profession is still education, even though they are already in paid work. The society’s non-educational activities such as professional networking events are “ancillary” to that purpose in the terms of the Charities Act, he says.

The New Zealand Act is based on UK legislation Matthews says and the British Computer Society is still classified as a charitable organisation, which he believes will be a point in favour of reinstatement for the society.

NZCS has applied to have itself put back on the charities register, pending the November court hearing. Other organisations to have been delisted this year which have filed High Court action include Team New Zealand and Greenpeace.

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Tags New Zealand Computer SocietyNZCSpaul matthews

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