A foundation opposed to wind farms at a northern Ballarat City town was stripped of its charity status due to unproven claims about the health implications of turbines.
An appeal against the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s decision to downgrade the status of the Waubra Foundation was upheld in Adelaide on Monday.
The commission had stripped the foundation of its status as a “health promotion charity” and its tax-deductible status.
In its judgement on the appeal, the tribunal found “the commissioner considered that the weight of the scientific evidence did not establish that emissions from wind farms have adverse effects on human health”.
The tribunal accepted advocating for further research on wind farms could be “properly characterised” as promoting the prevention of disease. However it also said this did not mean other work undertaken by the foundation, including litigation against wind farms and support for people complaining against wind farms, should also be regarded as this.
Therefore the foundation was not entitled to registration as an “institution whose principal activity was to promote the prevention or the control of diseases in human beings”.
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission general counsel Murray Baird said the decision added to the understanding a health promotion charity.
“We welcome the tribunal’s decision and the clarification that it brings,” he said.
“In clarifying the law, it sharpens the ACNC’s understanding of a health promotion charity, and assists our decision-making.
“The ACNC places great importance on sound judgement and decisions and will use this case to guide considerations about future charity applications.” A group of residents criticised the Waubra Foundation in 2013 for using the town’s name to further their cause.
More than 300 people from the town signed a petition calling on the foundation to change its name, however it fell on deaf ears.
Residents were concerned that anti-wind farm sentiment had damaged the town’s reputation.
Waubra Foundation chief executive Dr Sarah Laurie, who lives in South Australia, said the group would seek legal advice before deciding on an appeal.
“Regardless of any decision the Waubra Foundation may make about appealing this decision, we remain a registered charity with the ACNC for the purposes of ‘advancing health’ and promoting or opposing ‘a change to law, government policy or practice’,” she said.
More information about health promotion charities can be found at acnc.gov.au/HPC.