NZNO's Blog

Why does NZNO have a President and Kaiwhakahaere as co-leaders?

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NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku (left) and President Heather Symes

By NZNO President Heather Symes

NZNO has both a President and a Kaiwhakahaere as governance co-leaders. Among other things we chair the Board, and act as its public face and spokespersons when required. As Board members we have oversight of the organisation and its member groups, but we do not involve ourselves in the day-to-day running of the organisation (e.g. advocacy, the MECAs, Pay Equity etc). This work is done by staff and is managed by the Chief Executive.

So why are both a President and Kaiwhakahaere necessary?

Essentially we have these two offices working co-operatively as part of NZNO’s commitment to becoming a bi-cultural organisation and to working under te Tiriti o Waitangi.

It is important we acknowledge and work within te Tiriti so we can address appropriate cultural lenses to our organisation and its activities.  As a nation we cannot expect to move forward in unison unless each te Tiriti partner is aware of and respects the other’s worldview and approaches. We try to operate under te Tiriti in the same way as an organisation.

The Kaiwhakahaere is also the leader of Te Rūnanga (the Māori arm of the organisation) and supports Māori members by representing Te Rūnanga’s views to the Board. The Kaiwhakahaere also advises the organisation on what is culturally appropriate from an indigenous perspective.

The NZNO President has to this point never been indigenous, and brings a different (usually more western) cultural worldview. This means that together we have a rich tapestry and wealth of knowledge. But we are both equally accountable to members and work together to ensure plans going forward are good for members and therefore good for all in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Both positions are democratically elected, but there is a difference in how this is done for each. The President is elected by all paying members and can serve a maximum of two three-year terms. The Kaiwhakahaere is elected by Te Rūnanga at Hui ā tau every three years, but may serve more than two consecutive terms.

This is part and parcel of the bi-cultural approach we work towards under te Tiriti and an acknowledgement that different cultures may approach things like leadership differently.

It is entirely appropriate that the Kaiwhakahaere is elected only by Māori members but it is also important to note that his or her power is not unlimited. The Kaiwhakahaere’s performance is examined at each Hui ā Tau and they must be endorsed on a yearly basis to remain in the position. The President faces no such requirement. 

I hope that makes the co-leadership roles of the Kaiwhakahaere and President a little clearer.

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