‘Unity, democracy & NZNO renewal’ – Presidential address to NZNO AGM 2018

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Ko Rangi, ko Papa

Ka puta ko Rongo

Ko Tāne Māhuta, ko Tangaroa.

Ko Tūmatauenga, ko Haumietiketike, ko Tāwhirimātea.

Tokona te Rangi ki runga, te Papa ki raro

Ka puta te ira tangata, ki te whaiao, ki te āo mārama.

E Rongo whakairia ake ki runga

Kia tina! 

Hui e! Tāiki e! 

Ko te kupu tuatahi ka tuku ki te Kaihanga. Ko te tika ka mihi anō ki te iwi kāinga me o rātou wāhi tapu. 

E ngā mate, haere, haere, haere. Rātou te hunga mate ki a rātou. Tātou te hunga ora e huihui mai nei, tēnā tātou. 

Ko te wā mō te hui taumata o te Tōpūtanga Taphui Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, ā, ka maumahara ahau ki te whakataukī: He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri. 

Nō reira, e rau rangatira mā, e nga manuhiri tūārangi, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. 


In English: From Rangi and Papa, came Rongo, Tāne Māhuta, Tangaroa, Tūmatauenga, Haumietiketike, and Tāwhirimātea. When Rangi was separated to stay above and Papa below, the human element emerged into the world of light and understanding. So suspend it in the heavens above, Rongo, so it remains fixed there permanently, securely!

With this karakia recounting the beginning of all things, I began our meeting. 

I greeted the tangata whenua, and their sacred places. Greetings to those who have passed on, since we last gathered here together. 

We have mourned the passing of great leaders from our NZNO whānau, this past year. 

Shortly after our 2017 AGM, I joined a group from NZNO at the tangi for NZNO kuia Vera Morgan. ‘Aunty Vera’, as she was affectionately known, began her involvement with our organisation 18 years ago. She was invited into the NZNO whānau by the then Te Rūnanga Chair, Sharon Morunga. During her time with NZNO she worked alongside Rev Leo Te Kira as they jointly developed the NZNO Philosophy – “Me haeretahi tātou mō te hauora me te oranga o ngā iwi katoa o Aotearoa: let us journey together for the health and wellbeing of the people of Aotearoa”.

Two months later, in December, Elsie Boyd passed away aged 95. Elsie had trained at Nelson Hospital, registering in 1945. After years of theatre nursing in Auckland and teaching at the then Post-Graduate School for Nurses in Wellington, she joined the Department of Health where she served successive governments up until her retirement in 1980. 

And in the new year, two other leaders departed from us. 

Brent South, who died in Timaru in February, was instrumental in setting up the NZNO District Nurses Section, and served as its Chair from 1996-2001. His colleagues acknowledged his contribution with the creation of the Brent South Award. The Section later became part of the NZ College of Primary Health Care Nurses. To you I offer my condolences, for the passing of one of your founders. 

And in March, Maureen Laws passed away in Wellington. Maureen completed her nurse training in Christchurch in 1960. Over decades, she made an enormous contribution to NZNO and to our forerunner, the New Zealand Nurses Association. That contribution was recognised by her NZNO Award of Honour in 1991. Maureen continued to serve the profession, as a trustee of the Nursing Education and Research Foundation, up until 2014. 

Those who have gone before, are with us. 

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So I greet those gathered here, among the living. And as I do, I recall the whakataukī: “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri”. “There is strength in unity, defeat in anger and division”. 

To the leaders too many to name, and to guests from afar – greetings, greetings, greetings one and all. 


We come together today on Suffrage Day, and at the end of a turbulent year for our union and our profession. As we start our AGM, I’d like to briefly reflect on these topics. 

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Overshadowing all else in the last year has been, of course, the bargaining in the DHB Sector. The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and rallied against here last year, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action. 

The MECA bargaining sparked a campaign of extraordinary drive and determination, on the part of NZNO members and staff alike. Together, we achieved momentous things. 

But there were problems. As we faced difficult decisions, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. At times there were signs of the “anger and division” our whakataukī warns about. 

What has enabled us to start overcoming the differences – and I stress, we’ve only just begun that process – is the precious treasure we celebrate this Suffrage Day. 

125 years ago today, the Electoral Act of 1893 was signed into law. No longer would some have to depend on others – husbands, fathers, brothers, or sons – to hopefully vote in their best interests. At last, everyone had gained the right to cast their own vote. 

It’s this democracy we celebrate today that has the power to forge unity, out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision. As we continue the democratic process of overcoming differences, strength will grow; “he ora te whakapiri”. 

But healthy democracy is more than simply majority rule. 

We got through the most turbulent times this year because we’re not just trade unionists. As nurses and midwives, we are also professionals. Our collective efforts were not only for ourselves. We were fighting for a better health system, for all. 

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As professionals we proudly uphold principles, like those in the Code of Conduct for Nurses. The Code tells us to “work respectfully with colleagues to best meet health consumers’ needs”. To maintain its standards, we “treat colleagues with respect, working with them in a professional, collaborative and co-operative manner”. We “recognise that others have a right to hold different opinions.” 

Our professionalism therefore reminds us to work respectfully with colleagues, who may be in the minority. It reminds a majority that others have a right to hold different opinions – and to remain collaborative towards them. 

Soon we’ll begin the business of voting on the previous minutes, reports and remits. The AGM also reviews and ratifies the Board’s strategic policy decisions. This happens because AGM delegates in years past added these democratic checks and balances into our Constitution.

So this annual meeting is where, in between the elections for the Board and Officers, members exercise democratic control in this member-run organisation. It’s where we, up here, are accountable to you, our fellow members. 

Finally for me, as your President, today marks the completion of my first three-year term in office and the start of my second. 

Back in 2015, in my first address to an NZNO AGM, I pledged: 

• To “be accessible to members”, online and in your locality 

• To ”make your issues visible… [in] the media”, including on social media 

• To “strengthen NZNO’s bicultural partnership” 

• To support more members “to actively participate in NZNO” 

I can look back with satisfaction at progress that’s been made. But there is also some unfinished business. 

Our issues have become visible, as never before – especially on social media. I hope I played a part. Participation rates in some NZNO activities, like MECA votes, have reached record levels, thanks to online voting. 

Yet barriers still remain to participation by members in some of our NZNO structures and democratic processes. And more work will be required to strengthen our bicultural partnerships. 

Despite this, it is time to turn attention to fulfilling my new commitments to you. 

The events of the last year have revealed a need for change. In seeking a second term as President, therefore, I announced back in March in my candidate statement that I was seeking a mandate to lead NZNO’s renewal, in partnership with the Kaiwhakahaere and in conjunction with the Board and Chief Executive. 

An opportunity for renewal has been provided. The Board has agreed in principle that a review of NZNO’s operational structure will accompany the drafting of our new Strategic Plan. 

My pledge back in March said that “NZNO will be open and responsive to… members”. Having secured a fresh mandate and a second term, it’s that pledge I make again to you now. 

Nō reira e te whānau, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

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