High Court vindicates Climate Voter groups

11 Sep 2014

 On Monday the High Court released its decision on the Climate Voter website at , in a ruling that accepted core legal arguments made by the Climate Voter groups and was greeted by the groups as a win overall. 

“The ruling confirms that the Electoral Act was not intended to capture normal issues-based advocacy. It upholds the right for websites to promote an issue as long as they do not encourage people to vote for or against a party or type of party,” lawyer Matthew Palmer QC said on behalf of the groups.

In its decision the Court recognised the important role that advocacy groups play in our democracy, agreed that the Electoral Act was not intended to capture non-partisan groups who engage only in issues-based advocacy; and also found that the Electoral Commission was not beyond the jurisdiction of the court, so that its opinion was not immune to review. 

The Electoral Commission had given an opinion that the Climate Voter website was an ‘electoral advertisement’, meaning that a range of legal requirements needed to be met. In the light of the judgment, two particular aspects of the site have been slightly revised, to address issues of concern identified by the judge.

Sixty thousand people have added their support since Climate Voter was launched on July 22 by Forest and Bird, 350 Aotearoa, Greenpeace, Generation Zero, Oxfam New Zealand and WWF-New Zealand. Last week more than 13,000 people tuned in during the live stream of The Great Climate Voter Debate, hosted by TV3’s Sam Hayes.

The two-hour event at Auckland’s Q Theatre gave National, Labour, Green, New Zealand First, Maori and Internet-MANA parties a chance to debate their policies and convince the live audience and online viewers that they are taking real action on climate change.