ActionStation says it accepts no govt money – but who came up with $15,000 of the readies for a grant from Netsafe?

The Taxpayers Union denounced the role it seemed the government would require taxpayers to play in resolving the Ihumatao land dispute.    But the union further claimed that taxpayers had contributed to the funding of an organisation which has been involved in the prolonged protest action at Ihumatao.

This was a reference to ActionStation, which (Stuff reported in August) was working with Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) and hosted its petition, seeking government intervention to resolve the dispute.

The Taxpayers’ Union disclosed in September that Netsafe, in May, had granted $15,000 in taxpayer funding to ActionStation, according to information obtained under the Official Information Act.

It noted:

And it said:

“Taxpayers are unknowingly supporting ActionStation to tell New Zealanders how to have ‘better, safer and more productive conversations online around Māori, refugees, NZ history and Tiriti‘.  But the Government shouldn’t be boosting the bottom line of any political lobby group.

“People on the left would rightfully be outraged if a National government contracted the Maxim Institute to teach sex-ed in schools, or the New Zealand Initiative to draft the Budget. In principle, this cosy payment to ActionStation is no different.”

In his statement yesterday, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said it was cowardly of the PM and Auckland’s mayor to buckle to the pressure from the protesters.

“What rubs salt into the wound is that the campaigners on this issue, a left wing protest group called ActionStation, has received taxpayer funds via publicly funded NetSafe.”

ActionStation describes itself as an independent, crowdfunded, community campaigning organisation with a mission, which is to help everyday New Zealanders

“ … to act together in powerful and coordinated ways to create what we cannot achieve on our own: a society, economy and democracy that serves all of us – everyday people and Papatūānuku, the planet we love.”


“We have a proven model of member-driven, digitally facilitated, multi-issue, rapid response, grassroots campaigning with a focus on shifting public opinion and driving the media agenda in order to influence political decisions so they are better for people and planet.”

OurActionStation says New Zealanders are using it to create and win campaigns that promote peace and human rights, deepen democracy and create a more just, fair and sustainable society.

Hmm.  We get the strong impression it’s in the business of lobbying, politics and politicking.

And who provides the funding?

ActionStation says it

“ … relies entirely on member donations and grants. We receive no government funding. Our lean team works hard to ensure even the smallest contributions go a long way.”

In answer to the question about who provides the funding, the website further insists:

“The short answer is: you do.

“When we say ActionStation is people-powered, this includes our funding.

“We have a strong commitment to being a movement funded by our members and [since being founded] the percentage of our budget funded by member donations has increased every year…

But financial data on the same page show member donations accounted for 72% of income in 2016/16, declining to 43% in 2017/18.

Much of the group’s funding comes from grants – 28% of the total in 2016/17 rising to 57%  in 2017/18.

Financial year Member donations Major donations Grants
2014/15 22% 0% 78%
2015/16 62% 0% 38%
2016/17 66% 6% 28%
2017/18 41% 2% 57%

The website goes on to say:

“Being funded by our members, and independent of government, lottery or political party funding, is essential to our ability to campaign on the issues you care about, whether or not the powers-that-be are happy about it.”

Donations or grants of over $5,000 since 2014 are listed.

The list includes –

  • Netsafe and the Royal Society of New Zealand (Marsden Fund Fast-Start grant MAU1607) via Dr Emily Beausoleil for our Tauiwi Tautoko project;

That brings Netsafe into the picture.

Netsafe, founded in 1998 to help New Zealand internet users stay safe online, describes itself on its website as New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation.

The Netsafe Online Safety Grant supports projects that will help to reduce or lessen harm  caused by harmful digital communications.  Recipients are eligible for up to $100,000 of funding from the grant fund. The funding must be matched by the organisation or individual running the project either financially or by in-kind support, and the project needs to be completed within one year.

Its website provides the answer about how it is funded:

Where does the money come from?

The Ministry of Justice has provided the funding as part of their support of Netsafe’s service under the Harmful Digital Communication Act.

Another question is germane to the funding of ActionStation:

Is there anything Netsafe will not fund?

Netsafe will not fund:

  • Retrospective grants
  • Political organisations
  • Fundraising dinners or events
  • Capital building projects
  • Debt reduction requests
  • Property rental or lease payments.

Further on, Netsafe reiterates that its work is made possible by grants provided by its strategic partners, three of them government departments:

Oh – we note that ActionStation’s more recent 2018/19 accounts show a sharp decline in revenue over 12 months.

Donations generated $258,339 (48%) of the total revenue of $539,529 while grants of $264,684 accounted for 49% of the total.

In the previous year total revenue was $620,272; donations amounted to $388,398;  grants totalled $194,264.

Fair to say, the organisation contributed $705 in taxes in the latest year, up from $327 the previous year, but on the bottom line the net profit of $11,816 in 2017/18 made way for a net loss of $336.


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