A board is a group of people who supervise or govern an organisation, company, or facility, or those charged with providing advice or making decisions on a particular issue.
All boards must follow a particular set of rules and are guided in their operations by governing documents. Whatever form the rules take, most will indicate:
- how the board must be established
- the board’s power boundaries
- number of members and length of their terms
- election or appointment of members and procedures to fill vacancies
- what office holders the board must have and how they should be elected or appointed
- office holders’ roles and responsibilities
- procedures for removing board members
- meeting requirements, including meeting rules and procedures.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, there are five common types of governance boards
Private sector (business)
The private sector is profit-driven, and these governance roles are typically well paid. Appointments are made by shareholders, but often led by directors. The appointment process is highly competitive, particularly for businesses that are national in scale or listed on the New Zealand stock exchange.
Private sector board members typically need top-level management experience (director, chairperson, chief executive, etc.), a background in commerce and business, experience working in the relevant field to the board, and a higher education in the relevant field(s) and/or management, commerce, law, accountancy, or finance.
However, the business sector is continuing to diversify and consider how it can future-proof and meet the challenges of tomorrow. This means that private sector boards may be looking for increasingly diverse skills, such as technology, innovation, stakeholder engagement.
Public sector (government)
As the stakeholders for these boards are taxpayers and New Zealanders, public sector boards are driven by public good considerations. There is a requirement for members of public sector boards to work within a legal framework, such as the Crown Entities Act 2004. These are paid roles, but typically not as well paid as private sector board roles.
The Governor-General or a Minister of the Crown are responsible for most of the appointments to public sector board or committee roles. Minister appointments are considered by the Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee, and Cabinet then confirms them.
There are around 29 government agencies that support Ministers with board appointments process and then with the administrative support of those boards. These agencies are referred to as appointing agencies, and combined, they support more than 400 public sector boards. Some of the larger appointing agencies liaise with the appointing agencies to discuss the selection processes and criteria. The appointing agencies manage the nominations, selection, and reporting processes.
Manatū Wāhine, along with the other agencies who manage nominations databases, are often referred to as nominating agencies. We communicate public sector board opportunities to suitably qualified and experienced members of our databases. We work with appointing agencies by nominating these candidates for vacancies or endorsing candidate applications.
Selection and appointment process
The appointing agency goes through a rigorous process to select the best candidate for each public sector board and committee vacancy. There can be over 100 applicants for consideration. The appointing agency will advise you if:
- you have been shortlisted
- you are required to attend an interview
- you are a preferred candidate, and they wish to proceed with reference checks
- your appointment has been confirmed by Cabinet, and you are being offered the role.
The Minister will usually formally announce who has been appointed, and the appointment is published in the New Zealand Gazette (if required by legislation).
Public sector board members typically need experience working in the relevant field(s) and/or a higher education in the relevant field(s) to bring a perspective that is not covered by existing board members, and prior governance experience is often preferred.
Māori - iwi and hapū
Māori boards generally work for the good of iwi and hapū. Roles can be either paid or voluntary, and appointments are made by the iwi or hapū. These boards often govern the commercial arm of the iwi or hapū and manage a range of enterprises and initiatives in education, farming, fisheries, tourism, and healthcare. Businesses and corporations may be set up underneath the commercial arm of the iwi and hapū.
Trust boards are also often set up to carry out significant functions on behalf of the iwi or hapū. Trusts typically manage natural resources, property, land, and grants and funding. A rūnanga is the governing body of an iwi or hapū.
Marae trustees are responsible for the effective management of marae, including the governance of marae properties and assets, and making decisions about using the marae.
Māori board members should have an affiliation to the iwi or hapū, mana among the community, and a knowledge of the tīkanga and the history of the iwi, hapū, and region. Experience in leadership, management, community engagement, and business is also beneficial.
These boards are generally formed to serve the public good. They cover all sectors, including sports, arts, conservation, environment, heritage, health, youth, humanitarian, and more. Sometimes community board members are paid, or their expenses are covered, however often these are unpaid roles. These governance roles can still be challenging and are a good entry point for learning about governance and gaining governance experience. Appointments are usually endorsed by membership at Annual General Meetings/elections.
Community board members need experience with management, education or experience in the relevant field, experience with community engagement and outreach, the ability to manage grants and fundraise, and an understanding and connection to the community/region. Experience working for non-profit organisations and business administration is often preferable.
Community boards may be known as a variety of other names, including committees and governing councils.
Boards of trustees are responsible for the governance of schools around New Zealand, including establishing the school’s charter, and they are also the employer of all school staff. Trustees are elected by the parent community, school staff members, and sometimes students. These roles are voluntary and unpaid.
Board members in the schooling sector typically need a connection to the education setting, an interest in all aspects of the operation of the school, and an understanding of the curriculum. Management, administration, and community engagement experience is also beneficial.
Tertiary education institutions have governing councils of 8 – 12 council members, including teaching staff, and at least one Māori person and one student representative. These roles are paid positions. These positions are appointed by the Minister of Education responsible for tertiary education. The Tertiary Education Commission provides a supporting role to ensure councils are governing effectively and meet the required membership quotas.