Other Board matters, including field trips, member meeting fees and expense claims, expenditure policies and use of MS Teams for Board communication.

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11.1 DOC’s health and safety obligations to members

DOC has an obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to keep Board members safe. This includes at meetings and on field trips. A Health and Safety policy is provided here as an appendix, to clarify obligations of DOC and the Board regarding health and safety.

Appendix: Health and Safety policy for Conservation Boards (DOCX, 21K)

11.1.1 Safety in Board meetings 

Conservation Boards are required to publicly notify the time and place of their meetings and make them open to the public unless grounds exist for the Board to exclude the public from all or part of their meetings. A public forum is held during each meeting which gives members of the public the opportunity to interact with the Board.

Members of issue motivated groups have been known to attend, and at times disrupt, Conservation Board meetings. 

Although Conservation Boards are independent of DOC, if a potential threat to a Board meeting is identified, DOC’s Security Team can assist by:

  • Preparing security briefs and providing them to the Police in advance of a scheduled publicly notified meeting
  • Monitoring open-source social media to identify any negative commentary regarding the Conservation Board and any of its upcoming meetings.

 Conservation Board members should:

  • Familiarise themselves with any security information provided by DOC’s Statutory Manager
  • Monitor any potential threats (for example, comments made in the context of members’ informal conversations or on their own social media) and provide any relevant information to the Board Chair, who will liaise with DOC servicing staff where appropriate.

If a security threat arises during a meeting

  • Stay together during the public forum in Board meetings – do not create an opportunity for members of the public to approach a Board member on their own.
  • The Board Chair may require the member of the public to leave the meeting.  If they refuse to leave, the Police may be called to remove them  (s50 LGOIMA). 
  • If a threat or disruption escalates to potential harm during a meeting, the Board Chair should immediately declare the meeting closed, members and DOC staff should withdraw from the meeting as a group and call 111.

More information is available from Worksafe here. 

11.2 Board field trips

Board members report that field trips are one of the most rewarding parts of their role.  They are a way for members to familiarise themselves with DOC’s work and gain a broader knowledge of a Conservation Board’s rohe. They provide opportunities to meet a wider range of DOC staff, discuss issues informally and gain insight into the realities of conservation work. They are also an opportunity to meet with local community conservation groups.  Field trips are an excellent opportunity for members to get to know each other outside meetings, which contributes to everyone working together more effectively to achieve conservation outcomes.

Field trips may have a general purpose, a theme, or a specific purpose.  For example, a Board may visit a national park to gain a better understanding of an issue within its boundaries.  This would lead to a more informed decision when the Board is considering the park's management plan.

Volunteering in the field

There may be other opportunities outside field trips for members to be involved in conservation field work. If Board members are interested in volunteering, DOC servicing staff can supply details and/or liaise on behalf of members who wish to offer their services.

11.2.1 Frequency of field trips

The frequency of field trips will vary depending on budget allocation, work priorities, and the needs and interests of members.  Field trips have a high organisational and logistical cost so should only be arranged if there is certain to be a high level of attendance.

11.2.2 Level of fitness required for field trips

Members are not expected to participate in extreme outdoor experiences, but many areas of land administered by DOC are remote and/or involve difficult terrain.  Some walking will almost always be involved but trips will be planned according to the mobility needs of members. Four-wheel drive vehicle, boat, or (rarely) helicopter travel may also be involved. Any member who feels uncomfortable about any aspect of a field trip this should raise this with DOC servicing staff, as it may be possible to arrange alternative activities, accommodation or transport.

11.2.3 Safety on field trips

DOC has a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of Board members on field trips.  See section 14.1 above for more information on DOC’s health and safety obligations.

Members will receive a briefing to cover any hazards of a field trip , the possible consequences, how these will be managed, and any equipment required. At all times in the field, members will be under the control and management of relevant field staff.

DOC servicing staff will ask members for information about any disabilities or medical requirements, and next of kin details. This information is kept confidential but will be considered when planning trips. Members are responsible for carrying their own medication when going on a field trip.

11.3 Visits to other Conservation Board areas

A Board member may wish to visit another Conservation Board area, but they may only claim expenses for a visit which falls within with the Board’s liaison policy (and has a budget allocation) or has otherwise been preapproved by the Board. See section 3.4.1 of this Manual for more information on Conservation Board liaison.

11.4 Visits to marae

The Board is likely to visit a marae from time to time. Board members should be familiar with the process of a pōwhiri (a ceremony to welcome manuhiri (visitors) onto the marae) and are reminded to dress appropriately, with women asked to wear a long skirt, or a wraparound cloth over trousers. If members are not sure of marae kawa (the appropriate protocols), DOC staff can assist.

As part of every pōwhiri, the Board will sing at least one waiata (song). There are two official DOC waiata that the Board may use (Ko mātou te whānau and Korimako), or other waiata may be chosen.

Appendix: DOC Waiata – Korimako and Ko matou te whanau (DOC, 23K)

11.5 Fees and expense claims

11.5.1 Fees

Fees and allowances are paid in accordance with the Fees and Travelling Allowances Act 1951. Fees for statutory boards are set in accordance with the Cabinet Fees Framework which is reviewed from time to time.

Fees are paid for attendance at scheduled meetings, including any special and committee meetings, workshops, and field trips.  The fee paid is based on an 8-hour working day.  If a member works longer than 8 hours there is no extra payment. Travel time is not generally paid. 

Fees will also be paid to attend other meetings or undertake other board business, with the prior approval of the Conservation Board, or the Chair if notice is short.

For meetings and board work of less than a full working day, an hourly pro-rata fee applies, which is calculated by dividing the daily fee by 8, then multiplying by the number of hours worked.  It is not usual practice to accumulate short blocks of time over days or weeks into a full working day, except when preparing for meetings: this time can be combined with the actual hours spent in the meeting. Meetings are very seldom 8 hours long, so members generally do not claim for preparation time unless sustained effort has been involved, for example, reading a draft CMS.

Any work other than preparing for or attending meetings must either be approved at a meeting (and minuted) or preapproved by the Chair in consultation with DOC servicing staff.

Fees are paid through DOC’s payroll system (for the avoidance of doubt, members are not employees of the Department). Withholding tax will be deducted at the highest rate from the amount paid unless the member has provided a certificate from IRD that a variation or exemption to this has been granted.

In approved cases, a board member’s fee may be paid via invoice, especially if the fee is to be paid to a third party such as an employer. This will require a GST invoice, which clearly identifies the GST amount and a GST number.

11.5.2  Expense claims

Fair and reasonable expenses are reimbursed by prior agreement with the Board Chair. Members will be provided with a claim form to fill in and file as soon as possible after a board meeting. To meet audit requirements, members are required to sign the claim form, which will then be certified by DOC support staff.

All claims for expenses require an original receipt which includes a GST amount and a GST number. Credit card receipts and statements or photocopies of invoices or receipts will not be accepted for expense claims, but a scan or photograph of the original receipt is acceptable.

DOC's financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June. Members will be reminded in early June to make sure all claims for the financial year are lodged in time to be included in the correct year’s accounts.

11.5.3 ACC levies

Members are responsible for any ACC levies levied against them with respect to Conservation Board activity. These payments cannot be claimed from DOC. Members may wish to talk with an accountant about whether the levies can be claimed as an offset to income from Conservation Board fees.

11.5.4 Accommodation

DOC servicing staff will arrange overnight accommodation if it is required.  This will generally be mid-range hotel or motel accommodation.

Members may also stay in basic accommodation such as huts on field trips, or perhaps on marae (see section 11.4 above).  If members stay on marae (noho marae), DOC will pay a koha on the Board’s behalf.  Members are free to pay an additional koha themselves, but this will not be reimbursed by DOC. See section 11.6.1 below for more information on koha.

11.5.5 Meals

DOC will organise and pay for meals during meetings and field trips (this does not include alcoholic beverages).  Members should advise DOC servicing staff in advance of any food allergies or other dietary requirements.

11.5.6 Travel expenses

As a general guide, DOC will pay or reimburse travel costs if members need to travel for more than half an hour to attend a meeting. Mileage will be reimbursed at the standard IRD rate for travelling to a meeting by car.  A claim form is provided for this.

Because Conservation Boards are regional, it is unlikely members will need to fly to a meeting but if air travel is needed, this should be discussed with DOC servicing staff before booking.

11.5.7 Other expenses

Members can claim other actual and reasonable expenses incurred on Conservation Board business if these are pre-approved by the Chair.  Reimbursement will be administered by DOC servicing staff.

See section 11.5.2 above for information on expense claims.

11.6 Board expenditure

Conservation Boards have the power to make financial contributions to others in limited circumstances, when:

  • An activity a Board intends to provide funding to can be justified, in terms of the Board’s functions and powers and/or
  • There is active participation by at least one Board member (including advocacy in public).

Conservation Boards are empowered to advocate their interests at public forums or in any statutory process (s 6N(2)(a)). Public forums include courts and tribunals, as well as meetings and public discussions. 

Costs may be paid for legal cases and consent hearings that Boards participate in.  These will be decided on a case by case basis, with prior approval required from the Operations Director.

'Active participation' test for Board expenditure

The NZCA and Conservation Boards have at times considered contributing to the costs of a conservation magazine, a play about conservation, a marine protection conference, a video on predation by cats, a computer for a field office and costs to facilitate a discussion of the Māori Customary Use document produced by the NZCA. Only the last example meets the test of “active participation”.

11.6.1 Koha policy

Boards should have a clear policy around koha. Koha is a gift, token or contribution given on occasion, such as a visit by Board members in conjunction with a consultation hui. It is not a ‘transaction’ in the usual sense: for example, there often is no written acknowledgement of receipt.

The Office of the Auditor-General's good practice guide on sensitive expenditure includes an expectation that entities will ensure that:

  • Their policy on koha includes the means of determining the amount of any koha
  • Koha reflects the occasion
  • Koha is not confused with any other payments that an entity makes to an organisation
  • Koha is approved in advance, at an appropriate level of authority.

In general, any koha to be contributed by the Board will be organised by DOC servicing staff, although any member may also contribute individually if they wish. 

11.7 MS Teams

Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) is the default communication platform used across DOC and for Board administration.  MS Teams enables:

  • Secure sharing of documents
  • A secure and efficient way for DOC servicing staff to communicate with Boards
  • Communication between the NZCA liaison and a Conservation Board, and between Board members.

Board members are assigned to a MS Teams communication channel which provides a single place to receive information, agenda and board papers, and communicate with their Board colleagues.

Guidance for the use of MS Teams is contained within the Boards channel, and new members receive training during their induction.

11.8 Gifts and hospitality

The way in which the Board handles gifts and hospitality offered to its members has implications for levels of trust placed in the Board. If a Board member is offered gifts or hospitality, careful judgement is needed. The perception of influence can be as important as the reality.  A gift register should be kept by all Boards.

Appendix: Gift policy and register template (DOC, 19K)

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