NZCA Code of Practice
IntroductionThe NZCA's Code of Practice outlines roles, responsibilities, and behavioural expectations of Authority members.
Reviewed and amended: June 2021
The New Zealand Conservation Authority / Te Pou Atawhai Taiao o Aotearoa (Authority) is an independent body, established under the Conservation Act 1987 (Act). It has a major governance function in that it approves statements of general policy for national parks, conservation management strategies and national park management plans. It is also consulted by the Minister of Conservation and Director-General of Conservation and may advise the Minister on matters of national importance for conservation.
The Authority has thirteen members appointed by the Minister of Conservation:
- two appointed after consultation with the Minister of Māori Development
- two appointed after consultation with the Minister of Tourism
- one appointed after consultation with the Minister of Local Government
- one appointed on the nomination of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
- one appointed on the recommendation of the Royal Society Te Apārangi
- one appointed on the recommendation of Forest and Bird
- one appointed on the recommendation of the Federated Mountain Clubs
- four appointed from public nominations
Terms of appointment are usually for three years. Reappointment for a further term is subject to Ministerial approval. The Authority meets six times per year.
This Code of Practice provides a framework for the successful operation of the Authority, and includes:
- Roles of the Authority;
- Responsibilities of Authority members; and
- Key legislative functions.
The Authority is an independent apolitical body that provides trusted and high-quality advice to the Minister of Conservation and the Department of Conservation (Department). It represents the long-term public interest in conservation generally, and national parks in particular by:
- Contributing a strategic perspective to conservation planning, policy development and decision-making as a well-informed voice of the community;
- Exercising powers of approval for statutory management planning documents;
- Exercising powers of recommendation for change in land status;
- Advising on conservation issues of national importance; and
- Advocating for conservation outcomes, including in public forums and through statutory planning processes.
Responsibilities of Authority members
Members are expected to:
- Fulfil their role responsibly, and at all times act in good faith and in the best interest of the Authority, the community, and above all, conservation;
- Conduct themselves in a professional, courteous and respectful manner, working as a team;
- Be collaborative; share information which is relevant to the proper conduct and operation of the Authority’s business;
- Participate fully, frankly and constructively in Authority discussions and bring the benefit of their particular knowledge, skills and abilities to the Authority table;
- Listen carefully and show respect for the views of others;
- Not bring the New Zealand Conservation Authority or the Department into disrepute;
- Attend all Authority meetings, unless there is another unavoidable commitment, in which case apologies must be given to the Chair or servicing staff with as much notice as possible;
- Prepare thoroughly for each meeting by reading all meeting materials and familiarising themselves with the content of all relevant correspondence received by the Authority;
- Respect and adhere to all decisions reached by the Authority even if a minority of members disagree with the decision; and
- Consider continuity and succession of the capabilities necessary for the Authority to perform its role proficiently and to a high standard.
Members will often have diverse connections with community groups, trusts and professional associations. It is expected that members will actively develop new and ongoing relationships with groups so they can contribute the perspectives and concerns sourced from those networks to the Authority table, along with their own knowledge and expertise.
It is important that members do not fulfil their roles with only one interest group or sector in mind – all members should seek to use Authority diversity to achieve the best outcomes for conservation.
Increasing knowledge about conservation
Authority members must have or seek to gain knowledge on relevant issues affecting conservation. All members should make independent attempts to be informed about matters that come before the Authority and contribute their perspectives, as all members have equal rights and responsibilities under the Act.
Engagement with community and Treaty partners
To exercise its role, the Authority needs to build strong relationships with communities, seeking information from and feeding information back to communities of interest. To support individual members’ community links and networks, meetings should be held in different parts of Aotearoa New Zealand to enable community attendance.
Engagement with community and volunteer groups, iwi and mana whenua will enable the Authority to:
- Provide advice to the Department and the Minister about the perspectives, opportunities and concerns raised; and
- Raise the profile of the Authority and promote the role that the Authority plays in achieving enhanced conservation outcomes for the benefit of the New Zealand.
Relationships with the Department of Conservation
The skills and expertise of the Authority is a positive resource that can work hand in hand with the Department and the Minister in achieving greater conservation outcomes for New Zealand. Strong working relationships between Authority members, the Minister of Conservation and Associate Minister of Conservation, the Department’s senior managers and servicing officers are important to maximize the benefit of these skills. These relationships need to be based on honest and open dialogue, as well as trust and respect.
Authority members should use these relationships as a source of support for: increasing their knowledge of conservation; seeking views of communities, iwi and mana whenua; understanding procedures that apply to decision-making; and engaging with the media. The servicing officers are the first point of contact regarding health and safety implications of Authority activities.
Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi relationships
The Authority has a responsibility to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi. All Authority members need to consider how they are contributing to this outcome.
Members are expected to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and, in particular, acknowledge the spiritual, traditional, cultural and historic associations that all Māori have with the land, waters and indigenous flora and fauna in Aotearoa New Zealand. Māori, as tangata whenua, have a unique relationship with their ancestral lands, waters, wāhi tapu (sacred sites) and taonga (treasures).
It is essential that Authority members are briefed and become knowledgeable about iwi and mana whenua as well as Treaty settlements that have implications for public conservation land. Further information can be found in the factsheet: Section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987.
Authority members must be conscious that Authority meetings and activities (including reasonable travel expenses) are taxpayer-funded. Members must take appropriate measures to ensure that the Authority uses resources economically, effectively and with prudence.
Role of Chair
The Chair of the Authority is appointed by the Minister of Conservation. The Chair has a responsibility to provide effective leadership for the Authority, including through:
- Setting the agenda for all meetings, in consultation with members and servicing staff;
- Presiding over the meetings that they attend (or delegating this responsibility);
- Maintaining an impartial role and summing up the debate on any issue in a balanced way to reflect the views that have been expressed;
- Encouraging participation by all members and working towards achieving a consensus;
- Attempting to resolve any disputes relating to the operation of this Code, and
- Being a public face of the Authority when engaging with the public or media.
Working with Conservation Boards
Aside from the statutory role where the conservation boards (boards) are required to provide the Authority with an annual report, the relationship between the Boards and the Authority is based on information sharing, consultation, advice, and personal contact. This is supported by liaison roles, an Annual Conservation Board Conference, the Conservation Boards newsletter, and varying methods of correspondence.
Conservation Boards should draw to the attention of the Authority matters which they believe may warrant consideration at a national level. The Authority will appoint one of its members to liaise with each Conservation Board and may consult some or all Boards from time to time on matters with national or regional application; members should be approachable, responsive, and commit to attending one to three conservation board meetings in person a year.
Committees may be formed in order to facilitate efficient decision-making on matters that have come before the Authority. Committees should be established according to the Template on committee structure, be task specific, and time bound. This Code of Practice will apply to those committees.
Confidentiality and record keeping
The proceedings and papers of the Authority are subject to the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982 and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987. The Authority must adhere to these Acts, and keep accurate meeting records.
Further information about confidentiality can be found in the Factsheet: When should information be treated as confidential? or sought from the servicing officer.
Conflict of Interest
Authority members should declare any actual or potential conflicts of interest, and take appropriate steps with the guidance of the Conflict of Interest Procedure when the Authority is discussing matters in which members have an interest.
Further information about conflicts of interest can be found in the Factsheet: Conflicts of Interest and in the Conflict of Interest Procedure.
All new Authority members are expected to complete an induction programme aimed at deepening their understanding of the roles of the Authority and the Department. Material for Authority member inductions will include the NZCA factsheets that have been developed by the Department as well as this Code of Practice.
Managing advocacy and speaking to the media
The Authority can only speak with one voice when advocating for conservation outcomes in public processes or speaking to the media. The Authority will need to determine who will speak on its behalf on a particular issue, if not the Chair. Any engagement with the media by Authority members should be with the full knowledge and approval of the Chair. The Authority should strive to reach a consensus on any messages that are released to the public.
The Authority reports annually to the Minister about activities undertaken in the course of a financial year. The Authority’s annual report is a Parliamentary Paper.
The Boards report annually to the Authority about their activities undertaken in the course of a financial year. The Boards receive annual Letters of Expectation from the Minister of Conservation, and submits a work programme to the Minister about how it intends to meet those expectations.
Any member of the Authority may at any time be removed from office by the Minister for bankruptcy, inability to perform the functions of the office, neglect of duty, or misconduct (Section 6F(2) of the Conservation Act 1987).
Any member wishing to raise a concern in respect of the matters described above should, in the first instance, discuss their concern with the Chair. Where the Chair concurs that the matter requires investigation or further action the Chair will discuss the issue with the member in question in the first instance. If this fails to satisfactorily resolve the issue in a reasonable time frame, the Chair will write to the nominating body/Minister/individual outlining the Authority’s concerns about this member’s behaviour and provide the member with a copy of this advice. Where the matter is deemed by the Chair to be having a material impact on the performance or reputation of the Authority, and where the nominating body and the Chair agree that this member should no longer serve on the Authority, the member will be asked to resign and failing the member’s timely resignation, the Chair will recommend to the Minister that the member be removed from office.
If members have these concerns about the Chair, then the members will in the first instance discuss the matters with the Director-General of Conservation. Following this, all steps previously described as being undertaken by the Chair, will instead be undertaken by the Director-General of Conservation.
This Code of Practice should be treated as a living document.
Conservation Act 1987 (section 6B)
(1) The functions of the Authority shall be—
- (a) to advise the Minister on statements of general policy prepared under the Wildlife Act 1953, the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the Reserves Act 1977, the Wild Animal Control Act 1977, the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, and this Act:
- (b) to approve conservation management strategies and conservation management plans, and review and amend such strategies and plans, as required under the Wildlife Act 1953, the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the Reserves Act 1977, the Wild Animal Control Act 1977, the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, the National Parks Act 1980, and this Act:
- (c) to review and report to the Minister or the Director-General on the effectiveness of the Department's administration of general policies prepared under the Wildlife Act 1953, the Marine Reserves Act 1971, the Reserves Act 1977, the Wild Animal Control Act 1977, the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, and this Act:
- (d) to investigate any nature conservation or other conservation matters the Authority considers are of national importance, and to advise the Minister or the Director-General, as appropriate, on such matters:
- (e) to consider and make proposals for the change of status or classification of areas of national and international importance:
- (f) [Repealed]
- (g) to encourage and participate in educational and publicity activities for the purposes of bringing about a better understanding of nature conservation in New Zealand:
- (h) to advise the Minister and the Director-General annually on priorities for the expenditure of money:
- (i) to liaise with the New Zealand Fish and Game Council:
- (j) to exercise such powers and functions as may be delegated to it by the Minister under this Act or any other Act.
(2) The Authority shall have such other functions as are conferred on it by or under this Act or any other Act.
National Parks Act 1980 (section 30)
In addition to the functions specified elsewhere in this Act or in any other Act, the functions of the Authority shall be:
- (a) to prepare and approve statements of general policy for national parks in accordance with section 44:
- (b) to approve management plans and amendments to and reviews of management plans for national parks in accordance with section 48:
- (c) to advise the Minister or the Director-General on the priorities for the expenditure of any money appropriated by Parliament for the purposes of this Act:
- (d) to review and report to the Minister or the Director-General on the effectiveness of the administration of the general policies for national parks:
- (e) to consider and make proposals for the addition of lands to national parks and the establishment of new national parks:
- (f) [Repealed]
- (g) to give advice to the Minister or the Director-General on any other matter relating to any national park
This is not an exhaustive list of New Zealand Conservation Authority functions under the Conservation Act and National Parks Act. The New Zealand Conservation Authority also has functions under other Acts administered by the Department of Conservation as well as Treaty settlement legislation. Departmental staff will be able to advise the Authority about the functions that are relevant to the matters that the Authority is considering.