‘Electing a Board to achieve NZNO’s potential’ – Letter to Kai Tiaki

The 2021 DHB MECA campaign is demonstrating what a great union NZNO can be. The campaign is engaging, united, member driven, transparent and strong. 

Now we need an NZNO Board that mirrors the union at its best. It isn’t what we have at the moment, and this means members are missing out. 

In 2016, delegates at the NZNO AGM voted, “that the NZNO Board meetings agendas and minutes be made available to the membership and staff.” 

In moving that motion, the Nurse Managers Section said, “Board members are elected to ensure resources are used to carry out the mission of the NZNO. Board meeting minutes should be made available in the interests of transparency and engagement.”

Under NZNO’s member driven Constitution, AGM votes are binding on the NZNO Board. Yet the Board is not making its agendas or minutes available on the NZNO website. None have been posted since the departure of the previous Chief Executive in February. 

It is concerning that the Board now appears to believe it can flout the Constitution, disregard the will of the membership and operate in secrecy. 

More concerning still is their failure to release NZNO’s 2020/21 audited financial statements and Annual Report. 

The Acting Chief Executive is constitutionally required to make these available to all member groups at least two months before the NZNO AGM, to give members time to scrutinise the documents and hold the Board to account. That deadline came – and went – on 16 July. 

Members seeking transparency are now being told that the auditors have not yet presented their audit opinion. 

I personally oversaw four annual audits of NZNO’s finances, so I know what they normally involve. Did the Board simply fail to commission the audit on time, or have the auditors perhaps uncovered financial irregularities requiring a longer investigation? 

The lack of transparency from a Board disengaged from its membership seems to be a continuation of the disturbing failures uncovered in last year’s NZNO Governance Review – in areas such as Board ethics and capability – although we can’t know for certain as they have refused calls to release this report, too. 

Thankfully, members will soon have a say about their Board. An election for two leading Board members – the NZNO President and Vice-President – runs from 4 August until 10 September. Seven more Board members are up for election next year.

With great people standing in this election, members can have hope that we will soon have a Board willing and able to achieve NZNO’s full potential. 

Grant Brookes, RN

This article was updated on 19 August 2021, to reflect the letter as published in the August issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand.

Published by grantbrookes

Kia ora! I’m Grant Brookes, a Nurse, Trade Unionist and NZNO past President now living in Wellington, New Zealand with my partner and two children and blogging at unionnursegrant.org. 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 new blog. There’s more about me and my time as President at nznogrant.org.

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