Board appointments under the Conservation Act and Treaty settlement legislation. How the Conservation Act provides for the removal and replacement of members. Guidance for Boards on co-opting members and electing the Board Chair.

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12.1 Board appointment process

All Board members are appointed by the Minister. The steps and actions involved in appointing Board members under the Conservation Act are set out at s6P which, in many cases, provides that the Minister appoints Board members after giving public notice of a vacancy and after consulting with the NZCA. This ‘standard’ process is set out in section 12.1.1 below. Some members are appointed by the Minister through certain provisions in the Conservation Act that have been added following Treaty settlements.  These are shown at section 12.1.2 below.

Before appointments are made to fill vacancies, DOC staff work with Board Chairs to review and consider a Board’s composition and requirements. A review of a Board’s composition may also take place when there are changes in the focus of the board, or where concerns arise regarding the performance of a Board or an individual Board member.

Members are appointed for a term of up to three years, and may be reappointed (s6R(1)).

12.1.1 Standard Board appointment process

Public notification of Board vacancies is given in accordance with (s6P(4)). Individuals may self-nominate or be nominated by a person, an organisation, or an iwi.

In making Board appointments in accordance with s6P(2), the Minister will have regard to:

  • the particular features of land administered by DOC in the area of the Board’s jurisdiction; and
  • the interests of nature conservation, natural earth and marine sciences, recreation, tourism, and the local community including the tangata whenua of the area.

The Minister will consult with the NZCA and the Minister for Māori Development before making appointments. In addition to the process stipulated in the Act, best practice endorsed by the Public Service Commission is followed in making Board appointments.

Appointments are noted by the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee before being published by notice in the NZ Gazette. The letter of appointment will outline the Minister's expectations for a new appointee’s commitment and conduct while on the Board.

12.1.2 Board membership provided for in the Conservation Act through Treaty settlements

In some cases, Board roles have been created in the Conservation Act as a result of a Treaty settlement, to ensure that people from local iwi will always hold a position on a particular Conservation Board.

This allows local iwi to recommend (or nominate or endorse) an individual for Board membership, who is then appointed by the Minister. These are included in the Conservation Act as specified exceptions to the 'standard' appointment process.

These members do not represent their iwi on the Board, but may contribute the perspective of their iwi to the Board.

Appendix: Conservation Board members appointed through Treaty settlements (DOC, 21K)

12.1.3 Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board

Four Te Hiku (Far North) iwi have completed Treaty settlements and the resulting legislation provides for the establishment of Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board. Each of the four iwi are able to nominate one member to represent their particular iwi on that Board. More information about this Board is available at Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board's own webpage.

The appendix below sets out information about the composition and functions of Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board.

Appendix: Te Hiku o Te Ika Conservation Board (DOC, 17K)

12.2 Election of Board Chair

Board members shall from time to time elect one of their number to be the chairperson for any period they think fit. Usually this is for one year, but s 6S(1) allows for any period of time members think fit. 

12.2.1 Chair's role during elections

Prior to the Board voting for a chairperson, the current Chair vacates their position, so does not formally hold the position of Chair.  Therefore, the Chair cannot exercise a casting vote in the event of a tied result.

A Board member who does not wish to stand as Chair should take the chair while the nomination and election process for the Chair is completed. DOC staff may not preside over the election.

Because only one round of voting is involved with chairperson elections, if voting for the Chair is tied, the tied result is commonly resolved by lot, for example, by tossing a coin.

12.2.2 Deputy Chair

A Board may also elect a deputy chair. Although this is not required by legislation, it can be useful to have a deputy, as that person can stand in at times when the Board’s Chair is absent from a meeting or is conflicted on a matter.  It can also assist with succession planning for a Board.

12.3 Co-opting members

A Conservation Board can co-opt a person onto the Board, or onto a committee of the Board (s 6Q).  This is done by Board resolution. Boards can co-opt anyone for any reason or period of time they consider necessary, but it is expected that this will be for a specific purpose, and a short period of time, being no more than 6 months, unless in exceptional circumstances.

Co-opted members are entitled to attend and speak at meetings but do not have voting rights or the right to move or second motions (s6Q(2)).  In accordance with the Act, the total number of persons on a Board at any one time may not exceed twelve, including co-opted members (s 6P(1)).

The main reason for co-opting a member is to procure specific expertise, for example:

  • To provide a perspective from tangata whenua
  • Expertise needed is not available among the current Board membership
  • A member leaves during their term and the Board considers their performance would be impaired during the time it takes to appoint a replacement.

12.3.1 Co-option process

The Chair and DOC servicing staff will identify any critical gaps in Conservation Board membership, then the Chair will put a proposal of co-option to the Board.  It is likely there will be a list of names of those who may be suitable, for example, people who have previously expressed an interest in appointment, or past Board members.

The Board will discuss the proposal and, if it agrees an appointment is necessary, members will be asked to nominate appropriate persons (names from the list or any new nominations), within a set timeframe – a suggested timeframe is two weeks.

The decision to appoint a person by co-option is then made by formal resolution. As a courtesy, the Board will inform the Minister it has co-opted a member and will outline the reasons for this and the term of the co-option.

The co-opted member will be invited to attend the next meeting and is eligible to claim fees for meeting attendance and expenses, in the same way as other Board members.

12.4 End of term

Board members are appointed for a period of up to 3 years (s 6R(1)) and may be reappointed.  If a member is seeking reappointment, they will follow the appointment process as if they were a new nominee. In keeping with common practice across the public sector, any appointments for more than two terms will be an exception, with discretion exercised based on whether there is a need to retain a member who possesses certain skills or is assisting the Board to complete a piece of work.

There is a separate process provided for in the Act if a Board member resigns, dies or is removed during their term - see section 12.5 below.

12.5 Board members vacating their role before the end of their term

If a member dies, resigns, or is removed from office before the end of their term, the Minister is not obligated to fill the vacancy immediately.  The Minister may wish to leave the role vacant until the next annual appointment round. 

Options when a vacancy is created:

  • The Board may co-opt a member for the period of time until the next appointment round, for example, if a member’s vacancy leaves a skill or representation gap.  Refer to section 12.3 above for information on co-opting members.
  • The Board may request for the vacancy to be filled immediately, by contacting Board servicing staff to communicate the request via the Governance Unit.  If the vacancy is to be filled immediately, the Minister is required to fill the vacancy in the same manner as the appointment to the vacant office was originally made, or run a new process.  This includes Board members appointed on the nomination, recommendation or endorsement of iwi entities, as set out at section 12.1.2 above. 

12.6 Grounds for removal of a Board member

s 6R(2) of the Act lists reasons a Board member may be removed from office by the Minister.  These are:

  • bankruptcy
  • inability to perform the functions of the office
  • neglect of duty
  • misconduct.

DOC servicing staff will generally be alerted to matters that have the potential to trigger any of the reasons above.  Any matters of concern will involve the Operations Director, who will liaise between the Board (usually via the Chair) and other DOC staff as necessary, to resolve or escalate a matter.

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