As a member of the Christchurch vegan and vegetarian community, there are some important and exciting matters I wish to share with you relating to the recent decision to set up an independent organisation and disband our beloved Christchurch Vegetarian Centre (CVC). Admittedly, it wasn’t our intention to take such action but after communications with the New Zealand Vegetarian Society (NZVS), our parent body, the CVC committee decided it was best for the vegan and vegetarian local community if we operated as an independent organisation under the name: Christchurch Vegan Society (CVS).
This decision was not taken lightly but it was unanimous and I will explain those reasons in more detail shortly. I also need to respond to statements made by the NZVS in recent weeks that outline their position and what this means for Christchurch NZVS members. Unfortunately, this correspondence included some inaccuracies which I will clarify in this message.
I wish to assure you that we have always worked in the best interests of our organisation and its community and this position has not changed.
On a more positive note, I believe this change is a healthy one. The newly formed CVS (Christchurch Vegan Society) will be legally and financially independent which means that money raised in Christchurch by the community, stays in Christchurch for the community. It also reflects just how mainstream veganism has become in New Zealand and I strongly believe this is largely due to the work we have done over the years to promote veganism and vegetarianism, including helping the NZVS to adopt some vegan policies and principles.
So what are the key benefits to a new organisation?
Funds raised in Christchurch will remain in Christchurch
We feel a greater sense of pride being independent
Education and promotion
Continuing to educate and promote the benefits of a plant-based diet to the public
Our name and core principles are now in sync
The continuation of our community programmes
We’re more relevant with current consumer attitudes towards veganism
I formed the CVC in 1989 to support local vegetarians and vegans and while it was disbanded for 8 years during my time abroad, it was re-launched in 2002 on my return. At that time it made sense to unite under the banner of a national organisation but as the Vegan Society did not exist yet, the NZVS was the obvious choice. We have since operated an office and have been able to afford employing part time staff to manage the office and some of the general administration duties. We have attracted a huge network of volunteers and been able to organise large-scale annual events such as Expos, Film Festivals and Vegan Camps along with regular stalls, talks, cookery demonstrations and the likes.
Values and the New Zealand Vegetarian Society
We have valued our association with the Auckland-based NZVS and pleased we have been able to influence their policies and principles concerning veganism. We fully understand the importance of brand and consumer opinion and how an organisation is perceived. In our case, while by definition the Christchurch Vegetarian Centre conveyed that we were a ‘vegetarian’ group, we strived to be inclusive and welcoming to vegetarians and vegans so that’s when we decided to make everything we did suitable for vegans. Our focus has always been about what we have in common, rather than what separates us. This has been the case since 2002 and NZVS has never conveyed any concerns or disapproval with our position of being a vegan organisation. So it did come as a shock when they threatened to shut us down if we pursued the idea of changing our name to better reflect who we are.
Our committee and volunteers have always been extremely active fundraisers since NZVS consistently reiterated the need to support ourselves financially. NZVS recently stated that the CVC “received funding from the NZ Vegetarian Society not only in the form of membership funds but also lump sum contributions, since its formation.” We received just $5 from the $40 membership fee for each Christchurch member plus donating to help us to get back us on our feet after the earthquake that destroyed our office. By contrast, our own fundraising programme has successfully raised between $20,000-$45,000 per annum which we needed to offset the operating costs of managing our office, supporting the community and organising our local events. This money raised was always put directly back into our community as we have always been a not for profit organisation. This money was created by the hard work donated by the committee, and our community of volunteers plus money donations from both committee members and members of the vegan and vegetarian community. So any suggestion that we received the bulk of our funds from NZVS is incorrect. We have received very little financial support from the national office over the years.
So why the change now?
Following a committee discussion in March about changing the CVC name to include the word ‘vegan’, we decided to seek feedback from our community before approaching NZVS about it. In hindsight, this was probably premature but as we had undertaken this method of consultation before we didn’t foresee any problems. However we immediately received a letter from NZVS stating if we continued pursing the idea of a name change that they would dissolve the CVC and seize all of the assets in accordance with the Constitution. This unexpected ultimatum raised various concerns and this prompted the question if it was time for the CVC to become an independent organisation so it could protect its future assets. This finally led to a unanimous decision by our committee to close the CVC and start the CVS.
What does this change mean?
As of 30 June, the CVC will cease activities and any assets not already seized, will be given to NZVS as per the rules of our Constitution including all funds. The office will close and any accounts associated with the CVC will either be closed or transferred.
We have formally registered our new group and applied for Charitable Status. Contact details have been updated, Facebook groups renamed and a new website will be launched shortly. We will also be recruiting members and launching various fundraising events as the new organisation will start with no funds or assets. Fortunately, our greatest resource is our people. We have an excellent team, so with the support of our community and people like you, we hope it won’t take too look before we can recover from this massive loss.
Aside from the new name and brand, the CVS will continue to provide exactly the same services, events and activities as we did under the CVC. Everyone, whether vegan, vegetarian or neither will still be welcome. We are the same people and we plan to continue to serve Christchurch’s vegan and vegetarian community the same as we always have done since 2002; providing support, events, resources, social groups, education, and advocacy, as well as organising the Vegan Expo. We will still represent the Vegan Society in Christchurch and have offered to represent the NZVS in Christchurch too if they so wish.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the years and truly hope you will continue to support our efforts in the future. Christchurch remains New Zealand’s most positive and welcoming vegan and vegetarian community and I firmly believe a change of name and legal entity will never change that. If you have any doubts, I encourage you to have some faith and patience in our ability as we find our feet forward. I promise we won’t to let you down and after over 30 years advocating for vegans and vegetarians in New Zealand, most specifically in Christchurch, that has to count for something.
and on behalf of the CVC Committee
PS: To those who have been asking, yes, our news and event newsletters will be returning so you can expect to receive one in your inbox within the next week or so. Thanks for asking!