Why has the Board downgraded the NZNO AGM? – Letter to Kai Tiaki

The Board of Directors has decided not to hold an NZNO Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Wellington this September, and to press on instead with preparations for a shorter and smaller meeting via Zoom. The reason given is “uncertainty around COVID-19 alert levels and travel restrictions” (‘NZNO plans for online AGM’, June Kai Tiaki).

But if those concerns really were the decisive factors, then surely they would apply to all large NZNO gatherings held in the next few months, wouldn’t they?

In August, Te Rūnanga’s Hui ā-Tau and Indigenous Nurses Conference are going ahead face to face in Tāmaki Makaurau. The Rūnanga’s Hui and Conference usually see NZNO members travel and congregate in even greater numbers than at the NZNO AGM.

Meeting kanohi ki te kanohi is important for tauira, kaimahi hauora and tapuhi kaitiaki. It is a fundamental part of NZNO’s bicultural model. It’s good that it’s been made possible by New Zealand’s early move to COVID-19 alert level 1.

Under the terms of NZNO’s flawed Constitution, the AGM represents a very limited form of democratic control by the NZNO membership.

AGM delegates get to vote on just a handful of matters. They typically do so without consulting the members they represent, and the ballots are cast in secret so no-one ever knows how their “representative” voted.

But on paper, at least, it is still “the highest decision-making authority of NZNO”. It’s where the Board can theoretically be held to account, and where they must present their strategic direction decisions or policies set or altered in the previous year for a vote of ratification.

The NZNO AGM is a place where members can hold the Board to account

More importantly, the mingling and talking at AGM allows delegates from different regions and professional groups to share information and perspectives about what’s really going on in our union, at the national level. The networking during the breaks at this annual two-day event are the only real opportunity for members to do this.

Networking during the breaks allows AGM delegates to share information about what’s really going on in NZNO

So the face to face NZNO AGM is also important.

Why is the Board not allowing it to go ahead, given the certainty around COVID-19 alert levels and travel restrictions which was provided by the Government a week before the last Board meeting?

Is this very limited form of democracy now too much for them? What’s the real reason they’re preventing members from meeting together at an AGM in Wellington, while allowing Rūnanga members to meet together at a Hui in Auckland?

Grant Brookes, RN

The co-editors reply: At its April meeting, the board was presented with five options for holding the annual general meeting and con- ference, given the COVID-19 restrictions then in place and the uncertainty about how long the restrictions would last, particularly those relating to numbers able to attend events. Chief executive Memo Musa’s paper, which contained the five options, also canvassed other considerations, such as penalties incurred when cancelling the venue, flights and accommodation after a certain date. After discussion, the board, including Grant Brookes, endorsed the option to move the AGM and conference online as a basis for planning. (See also Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, June 2020, p6.)
As to the indigenous nurses’ conference and hui â-tau, the co-editors understand the planned venue for the August event, the Millennium Hotel in Auckland, is being used as a quarantine facility and the conference and hui â-tau will not be held at this venue. Decisions are pending as to alternative options for the conference and hui â-tau format and venue.

Published by grantbrookes

Kia ora! I’m Grant Brookes, a Nurse, Trade Unionist and NZNO past President now living in Pōneke Wellington, New Zealand with my partner and two children. Since graduating in 1996, I’ve practised nursing in five cities in three countries. I’ve belonged to four nursing unions – and been a rep in three of them. This is my personal blog. There’s more about me and my time as President at nznogrant.org.

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