Great!  But there’s a few things that need doing first.. .  We’ve put together the resources on this page to help you through the process. If you have any feedback, or additional wisdom to offer, please get in touch

Why bother formalising your group as an Incorporated Society? Why not just be a Facebook, Meet-up or other online group?

There are a bunch of reasons why there are lots of informal groups created online.  They are quick and easy to set up, require no commitment (of the organiser or the participants) and usually don’t require any money to change hands.  There are lots of great groups which help lots of people get into the hills, but they all have a few shortcomings and drawbacks.

They are temporary at best and are somewhat of a benevolent dictatorship; you’re relying on whomever is the ‘admin’ of the group to keep the group going, and to keep it going in the direction that you agree with. If the admin decides to let or push the group in a certain direction, you only have the option to agree with it, or to leave the group.

An Incorporated Society (lets just use the term “club” from now on) is a legal entity which continues on for the benefit of its members; they are set up in such a way that no one person can dictate the direction or actions of the club. In that way, the club doesn’t ‘belong’ to anyone, other than the collective of its membership. Clubs have a longevity and credibility that informal groups just don’t have. Take a look at the Tararua Tramping Club, which marked its 100th anniversary in 2019!  Members (and those who form agreements and arrangements with the club) have the confidence that the club will stick around, and that they can be involved in a democratic process to help guide its direction.

There isn’t any charitable trust fund that is going to give money to a Facebook group, but they can and do give grant money and other funding to clubs to do great things for the members and the community.  As well, clubs become their own separate legal entity, which means clubs can open a bank account in the club’s name, get exemption from income tax, and protect individual club members from any debts incurred by the club. This makes it much easier to keep track of any funds for the club, and prevent any concern of dodgy dealings through personal accounts.

In Summary being an Incorporated Society gives the Club a standing as a separate legal entity, which;

  • Protects every member from any debts incurred by the Club.
  • Enables the Club to open bank accounts, get exemption from tax, apply to pub charities etc.
  • Makes the Club a permanent entity regardless of the members.
  • Legally registers and protects the name of the club so no other club (or company) can use it.

What’s the catch?  There is start up paperwork to do and a one off fee (of $102.22 in 2019). Every year someone in the club has to make sure the club information is correct, and give an annual return (usually club accounts and a declaration) to the Registrar. This is all done online, and is fairly painless, but someone has to do it!  On the plus side, once you are incoporated, there are no annual fees.

People sometimes ask if the club should become a Charity..  Simple answer is   NO

This creates extra work and imposes a few more restrictions on a Club. Take a look at this article from the NZ Goverment’s Charities website. 

But suffice it to say, a club can have a “charitable purpose” without being a “Registered Charity”.  A “charitable purpose” helps ensure certain exemptions from some New Zealand laws which could otherwise effect groups who offer vehicle transport for trips, or gear hire services to name a few. 

Thank you to Phil Glasson who wrote this article and Dan Clearwater who adapted it for Wilderlife.