Questions & answers for members at NZNO Tai Tokerau Regional Convention

At the NZNO Tai Tokerau Regional Convention in Whangarei on 9 May, Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, Chief Executive Memo Musa and I were invited to be part of a Q&A panel. We were asked ten questions, sourced from NZNO members in the Region and provided to us earlier in the week. 

At NZNO Tai Tokerau Regional Convention: (l-r) NZNO President Grant Brookes, Organiser Odette Shaw, Regional Council Chair Sacha Young, Delegate Tammy Von Keisenberg.
Martin, a delegate at Whangarei Base Hospital, asks a question at the NZNO Tai Tokerau Regional Convention.

The questions reflected some common concerns which have been aired at all six NZNO Regional Conventions held so far, such as the independent review of the DHB MECA, and some local concerns specific to Te Tai Tokerau. After dividing up the questions between us, I prepared these notes to answer six of them.

1. Can the panel tell us a bit about themselves to assist with introductions? This could include their marital status, children, grandchildren, animals, the region they live in and any hobbies. 

Kia ora koutou, thank you for inviting me here today. When I was asked to be part of this panel by your Regional Council, I wrote back and commended them for building member responsiveness and leadership accountability into the convention programme in this way. 

When I speak at meetings, I usually introduce myself with a mihi. I see this as part of whakawhanaungatanga, the establishing of connections by way of whakapapa. Answering this question will be a little bit like that, making connections with you by sharing something else about myself. 

So to answer the question, I am “happily unmarried” to my partner of 22 years, Linda. Together we have two children, Tama (aged 14) and Rosa (aged 11). At our home we have one cat and one rabbit. Although I’m originally from Ōtepoti/Dunedin, I am now a naturalised Wellingtonian. 

2. Can you describe what your role is and how is it different from the others on this panel.

I would like to answer this question in some depth, referring to our core documents. 

The framework for my role as President is defined in Clause 17 of the NZNO Constitution, which says: 

“The President and Kaiwhakahaere shall be the joint heads of NZNO, whose functions shall be to:

  • 17.2.1 Be spokespeople for NZNO where appropriate;
  • 17.2.2 Act in accordance with the position descriptions laid down by the Board of Directors;
  • 17.2.3 Consult with… the other officers of NZNO in furthering the objectives of, Annual and Special General Meetings and the Board of Directors; and
  • 17.2.4 Attend and preside over all Annual and Special General Meetings and meetings of the Board of Directors.”

Those “other officers of NZNO” I need to consult with are the Kaiwhakahaere, Tumu Whakarae, Vice-President and the Chief Executive Officer. So currently that’s the two people here with me on this panel, plus Titihuia Pakeho and Cheryl Hanham. 

The position description which has been laid down by the Board is available on the NZNO website. It describes my role in more detail. For example, it says:

“As joint heads of NZNO the President and the Kaiwhakahaere shall;

  • Be the public face of the Board of Directors and NZNO membership
  • Be spokespeople for the NZNO Board of Directors and NZNO members on matters of policy and strategy, speaking with one voice.
  • Co-chair meetings of the Board of Directors, the Annual General Meeting and any Special General Meetings of NZNO
  • Serve the legitimate collective interests of all NZNO members
  • Have oversight of NZNO’s external relationships
  • Have oversight of NZNO’s membership groups and networks
  • Support the Board in effective governance.”

Over all, I think the three broad areas in my position description are oversight of the membership, managing relationships with external stakeholders and governance. 

My position description also talks about how my role relates to Kerri’s role, as Kaiwhakahaere. It says: “In essence this is a job share situation requiring negotiation between the President and Kaiwhakahaere as to the performance of their shared responsibilities.”

So while Kerri has some additional responsibilities relating to her role as leader of Te Rūnanga, as the joint heads of NZNO our roles are exactly the same. Although we may not look like it, we’re actually interchangeable. 

In terms of how my role differs from the Chief Executive, my position description says: “The role of the President is governance leadership. The President has no authority to direct or constrain the chief executive in the authorised and legitimate performance of her or his management duties. NZNO staff do not report to the President.”

So in summary, the President co-chairs the Board, which appoints the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive controls the staff. In the most general terms, the Board determines “what” needs to be done by NZNO; the Chief Executive and his management team decide “how” to do it. 

Finally, it’s important to stress the limitations on my role. My position description says: “The President… has no authority independent of the authority of the Board as a whole. The President must… seek approval or confirmation of action taken on behalf of the Board”. 

To make the point absolutely clear, it adds: “The President has no authority to unilaterally change any aspect of Board policy”. So in terms of power and authority within NZNO, my role sits underneath the Board of Directors. 

That’s the long answer, describing my role and how it compares. I hope it’s helpful.

3. What is NZNO’s position on climate change and how active are we and where is the accountability?

NZNO developed a position statement on climate change in 2016. This was a result of a policy remit which was passed at the NZNO AGM in 2015. The position statement outlines NZNO’s commitments. These include: 

“NZNO commits to collaboration with other health professions to lobby for government ratification of enforceable climate change treaties, and to meaningful action to reduce New Zealand’s contribution to global warming, including a substantial reduction in gross domestic emissions, an end to fossil-fuel subsides, and a moratorium on deep sea oil drilling and fracking.”

The big news on action to reduce New Zealand’s contribution to global warming, released yesterday, was the unveiling of the government’s Zero Carbon Bill (ZCB). 

In fulfilment of the commitment in our position statement, NZNO participated in the ZCB consultation last year, in collaboration with OraTaiao – the New Zealand Climate & Health Council. Among other things, we called for net zero emissions by 2040, across all greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, the bill contains neither of these goals – and neither are its targets enforceable. 

Launching the ZCB yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern distinguished between “carbon” and “methane”. We all do some biochemistry as part of our undergraduate nursing education, so everyone here probably knows that methane, which accounts for about half of New Zealand’s emissions, is also a carbon-based molecule, just like carbon dioxide. And tonne for tonne, it has approximately 80 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2 over a 20-year timeframe. So the government’s failure to take meaningful action through the ZCB means that NZNO will need to keep working hard in the select committee stage of the bill. 

NZNO also participated in the earlier review of the Emissions Trading Scheme. Although suggesting improvements, we commented that we are “not assured that it is the most effective or equitable tool to either reduce emissions or address climate change”. 

Last year we supported the lobbying efforts of Greenpeace, writing a letter to Jacinda Ardern calling for an end to oil and gas exploration, and we have supported actions on the streets including the People’s Climate March and the recent School Strike For Climate. 

Also in our position statement: 

“Nurses assert our role and responsibility to contribute to the development of national action plans and policies, and to be part of disaster preparedness to mitigate the impact of climate change on health, and to support to calls for humanitarian assistance wherever health is adversely affected by climate change – especially from our Pacific neighbours.”

Here, we walk the talk. In the wake of Cyclone Winston in 2016, NZNO members joined the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team providing surgical services to affected islands. NZNO donated $5,000 and collected an additional $370 to support the Fiji Nurses Association. In 2018, we donated $5,000 to the Tongan Nurses Association assist with recovery after Cyclone Gita. 

“We call for well-designed and resourced public transport and safe walking and cycling routes [here, for example] – developments that, in addition to reducing carbon emissions, would also produce significant health gains. 

“We agree that healthy public policy on sustainable, energy efficient housing and urban planning which, in addition to reducing emissions, have the potential to reduce the burden of disease and save energy costs in our poorest families [as in our submission on the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill].” 

“Nurses also advocate specifically for the introduction and enactment of public policies related to reversing the widening deprivation and income gap in Aotearoa New Zealand, which is inextricably linked to health inequalities. 

“NZNO acknowledges the knowledge, customs and practices of tāngata whenua and indigenous peoples relating to the protection of the environment.

“We commit to informing and enacting strategies to increase the environmental sustainability of health care, and to reduce waste.”

According to Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter, “New Zealand’s healthcare sector contributes between 3% and 8% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Hospitals, for example, use about twice as much total energy per square foot as traditional office space”.

NZNO is active at the local level in initiatives to reduce this carbon footprint – for example at Counties Manukau DHB, which has reduced its emissions by 21 percent since 2012. 

“At an organisational level, we commit to undertake steps to reduce and mitigate our contribution to carbon emissions, including stopping investment in fossil fuels.”

In April 2018, the NZNO Board met with Niamh O’Flynn, Executive Director of 350.org, for advice on how we might do this. As a result, the Board is taking steps ourselves, such as moving to paperless Board meetings. We have commissioned an audit of NZNO’s carbon emissions, to identify areas for attention at the organisational level. 

This work is sitting with the Chief Executive. But it has already been decided that when our car fleet comes up for replacement next year, we’ll be looking at hybrid vehicles.

Finally, as you may know, NZNO holds money in reserve to protect against unforeseen events. These investments used to include shares in fossil fuel companies. In 2016, NZNO divested from direct investments in fossil fuels, again as a result of the policy remit passed by members at AGM. 

Climate change is a problem so big that you could say that no matter what an organisation is doing, it’s not enough. But I have outlined here some of the actions on our key commitments. 

4. Is the MECA report being made available to members?

I will give a very brief answer, quoting from an article in the February issue of Kai Tiaki, and then hand over to the Chief Executive. The article is headed, ‘DHB MECA review under way‘, and says: 

“The review’s terms of reference, which were signed off by the board, state the CE will provide the final report to the board “and any other person who, in the opinion of the CE, should receive the report”. 

NZNO president Grant Brookes said there was wide discretion around the review’s release. “I believe that transparency will help build trust and heal divisions. So I will be supportive of its release to members, once any information relating to individuals has been redacted, mindful however that the final decision rests with the CE”.”

5. Why doesn’t NZNO have a union shop where we sell promotional material and clothing at cost/subsidised to members?

This is a long story, and perhaps one without a very satisfactory ending. 

“Creating a rewards programme” was the top proposal in a paper to the Board from the Co-leaders in August 2016, to address issues of volunteer sustainability, member engagement and leadership development. The proposals came out of a meeting of Chairs of Regional Councils, Colleges and Sections and Te Rūnanga held in March 2016. The paper said, “Rewards may include attractive, culturally appropriate NZNO merchandise”. 

In response to this paper, the Board decided to engage a consultant to produce a report on how to improve volunteer sustainability. 

That report was eventually delivered to the Board in February 2018. The minutes of that Board meeting record: “The project scope referred to a rewards programme, remuneration of volunteers and providing budget lines for members working on specific projects. The President has concerns that none of these has been considered except for facility time and is also concerned that the report does not reflect the Terms of Reference that were provided. Therefore the next budget for 2019/20 would need to take into account the monetary requirements relating to the volunteer sustainability report.”

Production of NZNO merchandise has also been requested by the Membership Committee, over a long period. 

The NZNO budget for 2019/20 was approved by the Board in February. However, I am not aware of any definite plans at this stage to produce promotional material and clothing for sale at cost to members. 

6. What do you all do to relax and revive?

Thanks for asking! This is a question which was also asked recently by NZNO Nurse Managers NZNO, in an interview for their quarterly newsletter, Te Wheke. I told them that I recharge by getting out into the “great outdoors” with my family.

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 really rings true for me – “Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing – Mā te taiao kia whakapakari tōu oranga!”.

To maintain my sanity, every now and then I have to get away from wi-fi networks and mobile coverage – preferably under canvas, in the bush or up on the mountain. 

But that doesn’t happen as often as I would like. So sometimes I also need to blow away the cobwebs by getting my glad rags on and hitting the dancefloors down on Courtney Place. 

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