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Public health is most commonly defined “in terms of its aims - to reduce disease andmaintain health of the whole population” (Beaglehole & Bonita 1997). It is a broaddiscipline which has at its core the promotion of wellness and the prevention of disease.In Aotearoa New Zealand, the mix of international and indigenous approaches to healthhave led to the development of a holistic approach to the promotion of health supportedby a range of Government and Not for Profit (NFP) agencies. I use public health in thispaper as an all-embracing term, cutting across “housing, income, deprivation, localsafety and security, transport, communication, children, transitions, old people, training,employment and refugees” (Larner & Craig 2002).My experience of work within this sector, in forming partnerships between Governmentagencies, NFP organisations (NFPO’s) and communities, and in developing newprojects to address social, health and environmental matters has enhanced myunderstanding of issues affecting life in Aotearoa New Zealand. In this paper, I seek tointroduce my understanding of NFPO’s in this country, setting clear limits to the area of the sector I will consider. I will then consider how the Not for Profit sector has developedin this area over the last two decades before presenting my own thoughts around thecurrent situation for this part of the sector.
What is a Not for Profit Organisation?
Wikipedia (2006a) defines a NFPO as “an organization whose primary objective is tosupport some issue or matter of private interest or public concern for non-commercialpurposes”. This definition fails to acknowledge the huge diversity of NFPO’s, rangingfrom hugely commercial operations such as Saudi Aramco, the largest oil corporation inthe world, through to the local chess club. The Free Encyclopedia’s definition of NFPO’sembraces the vast majority of organisations but effectively excludes state ownedcommercial operations, including Genesis Energy, Landcorp and New Zealand Post. Ishall focus on NFPO’s that provide avenues for the advancement of public health andwithin that those that see themselves as advocates and service providers. In doing so Ido not seek to detract from the contribution to wellness, social capital and communitycohesiveness contributed by sporting clubs, women’s groups and others, nor from thetremendous contribution Housing New Zealand Corporation, Accident CompensationCorporation and other NFP Corporations make to this country, but rather to acknowledgemy own limitations in seeking to understand the entirety of this massive sector.Statistics New Zealand uses a United Nations (UN) definition of NFPO. Thesegovernment officials define the NFP sector as consisting of agencies that
are organised to the extent that they can be separately identified
are not for profit and do not distribute any surplus they may generate to thosewho own or control them
are institutionally separate from government
are in control of their own destiny, and
are non-compulsory in both terms of membership and member’s input(Statistics NZ 2005)