Introduction

Guidance for Boards on identifying, declaring and managing conflicts of interest.

On this page:

9.1 Overview

Conservation Boards need representation from people with a range of experience and expertise in conservation matters. Many Board members are affiliated with not-for-profit and other community organisations, or local iwi.  There is potential for a conflict of interest to arise for any Board member during their term.

Board members must not pursue their own interests at the expense of the interests of the Board. Members should not gain an advantage (or be perceived to gain an advantage) from their position as a member of the Board. 

9.2 Identifying interests and conflicts

9.2.1  Interests

Members’ interests can take various forms. They may be financial or non-financial. They may be based around relationships with, or duties to, other people or organisations - not just those of the member, but also their family or close friends. 

An interest may relate to something the member has said or done.  For example, a member may be on public record (including social media) as opposing the use of 1080 for predator control.  This can indicate predetermination or bias on the part of the member.

The mere existence of an interest is not what causes a conflict. The key is to identify whether there is an overlap between the interests of a member, and the Board they serve on, in relation to a matter. Each situation needs to be evaluated at the relevant time, on its own merits.

9.2.2  Conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest arises when a member’s duties, or responsibilities to the Board, are (or might reasonably be perceived to be) affected by some other interest, relationship or duty that may not be in the Board’s best interests. Perceived conflict must be managed in the same way as an actual conflict.

The test for whether there is an actual or perceived conflict is whether the member’s interest creates an incentive for them to act in a way that may not be in the best interests of the Board. 

9.3 Interest and conflict register

Boards should have arrangements in place to manage both perceived and actual conflicts. Boards should maintain an interest register and require their members at the start of the meeting to disclose any interests in matters where they have a conflict of interest.

Members should err on the side of caution when deciding what needs to be disclosed.  If conflicts of interest are not appropriately disclosed, registered and managed, a Board’s decision may be called into question, which would undermine the public’s and stakeholders’ confidence in the Board and its actions.

9.4 Interests and conflicts arising during a meeting

A member may become aware of an actual or potential conflict of interest that they need to declare, when topics or matters arise in the course of a meeting that were not anticipated at the start of the meeting.

In these cases the Board should ensure the conflict of interest process is followed and record the actions taken in the meeting minutes.

9.5 Determining the seriousness of a conflict

Several factors are relevant when assessing a conflict of interest, including:

  • The type or size of the member's interest and the extent to which it could specifically affect, or be affected by, the Board’s decision or activity
  • The magnitude or the potential effect of one interest on the other, concerning the decision or activity being carried out by the Board
  • The nature or extent of the member's current or intended involvement in the Board's decision or activity.

The seriousness of a conflict of interest depends on the full context of the situation and at times a member may need to seek legal advice.

9.6 Managing conflicts of interest

The assessment of how serious a conflict of interest is, will inform the steps needed to mitigate it. It will also be necessary to consider the practicality of any options for avoiding or mitigating a conflict in each situation.

Potential options for managing a conflict of interest include:

  • Withdrawing from discussion or voting on a particular item of business
  • Taking steps to limit influence or decision-making powers (for example, providing advice but not taking part in decision making)
  • Exclusion from a committee or working group dealing with a topic or issue
  • Placing restrictions on access to information
  • Relinquishing the private interest
  • An agreement or direction not to do something (for example, trade in shares held)
  • Imposing additional oversight or review over the person
  • Resignation from the Board or from the conflicting position or organisation
  • Taking no action.

Further information, including examples of conflicts of interest and guidance on how to manage them, can be found in the Quick guide for managing conflicts of interest from the Office of the Auditor-General (download pdf).

 

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