Aussie lawyer threatens Weekly

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The Gold Coast lawyer behind the cancer trust “ripping off” local donors has threatened the Nelson Weekly with a lawsuit after it exposed the trust’s fundraising tactics.
The threat comes as the Cancer Research Charitable Trust suspends all fundraising in New Zealand and the Department of Internal Affairs launches an urgent review of the trust and its activities.
The Australian-based trust – which was collecting in Nelson last week – was found to have donated less than 5 per cent of the $1.1 million it collected from New Zealanders over four years, with the rest going towards staff and administration costs.
Since the article was published in the Weekly the story has spread nationally and was printed in The New Zealand Herald last week and featured on the national Newstalk ZB talkback programme.
Last week the Weekly received legal threats from Troy Manhire, the executive officer of the trust and a lawyer on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Dozens of locals have also come forward with their stories of donating to the trust, saying they feel “ripped off” and are disgusted by the low amount that the trust donates to cancer research.

In the last financial year not one dollar of the $111,000 collected – some of that from Nelson – was donated to any charity.
Mr Manhire says that donating to cancer research is only a part of the trusts goals, the other being awareness.
He says collectors hand out flyers to those who donate which “reaches thousands” but none of the people who donated money in Nelson last week and spoke to the Weekly, say they received a flyer or any other information.
The Department of Internal Affairs, which oversees registered charities, has launched an urgent review of the trust.
The Serious Fraud Office is also evaluating the matter, and police say they will await the outcome of those probes before acting on a complaint.
On Sunday the trust said it had written to Internal Affairs to advise it had suspended fundraising in New Zealand while it addressed concerns about its practices.
Trustees would also meet this week to consider changing the trust’s name, given its focus had shifted from research grants to public awareness campaigns.
But questions remain over where the trust’s money is being spent. And yesterday fresh details emerged, including that nearly 40 per cent of its funds go offshore.
In a 2007 press release, the trust said funds raised in New Zealand were used exclusively for New Zealand projects, but it has been revealed that nearly 40 per cent of the trust’s money is spent in Australia. Under the Charities Act, a registered charity must state the percentage of its annual income spent overseas. The information is then given to Inland Revenue.
In January, the trust notified Internal Affairs that 38 per cent of its New Zealand-sourced funds were spent overseas. The total amount is not yet known because the trust’s latest financial returns are not yet publicly available.
Mr Manhire, would not go into financial detail yesterday but said the money spent in Australia went towards New Zealand projects.
He gave the production of cancer prevention pamphlets as an example.
The research, writing, design and printing might take place in Australia, but the pamphlets themselves were distributed in New Zealand.
“You’re trying to draw some conclusion that in some way we’ve misled people – that’s not the case,” says Mr Manhire.
Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) chief executive James Austin says he was “very shocked” to hear just how little money went towards research. “They should lose their charitable status.”
Charities which collect cash door-to-door need tighter regulation and commission-based canvassers should be outlawed, professional bodies say.
FINZ, whose membership includes 500 individuals and 157 organisations, say it was concerned if much more than 20 per cent of a charity’s money was spent on costs.
“All the good guys and girls out there – which is 99 per cent of fundraisers – suffer because of cases like this,” Mr Austin says.

Additional reporting, Matthew Backhouse of APNZ.