The "cleanest and clearest" way for Greenpeace of New Zealand to settle its disputed charitable status is for it to lodge a fresh application, the Court of Appeal heard on Tuesday.
Counsel for the charities board, Peter Gunn, told Justices Rhys Harrison, Lynton Stevens and Douglas White there was nothing barring the environmental lobby group from making a new application to register as a charity, and that might be the simplest way to settle their dispute.
Greenpeace is challenging a High Court ruling last year upholding the decision of the now-defunct Charities Commission opposing its registration as a charity.
The commission, which has since been replaced by a board in the Department of Internal Affairs, had deemed the environmental group was too political to be granted the tax-exempt status.
"The cleanest and clearest answer here is for Greenpeace to resubmit its application," Gunn told the court in Wellington. "That is the most effective way of going about it."
The bench said it would consider that option, and reserved its decision, leaving costs to fall where they lie.
Gunn said Greenpeace retained a donor tax status from the Inland Revenue Department, which meant donors could claim tax benefits, and the Greenpeace Educational Charitable Trust, a related entity which promotes conservation values, protects the natural environment and educates people, was also a registered charity.
"It's possible for organisations to structure their affairs so as to avoid these sorts of concerns," Gunn said.
Davey Salmon, counsel for Greenpeace, said the sticking point there was that if it lost its charitable status, the IRD might revoke its donor status.