Highlights from the ISNZ Governance Seminar 2017

Board members and Governors from Member Schools across New Zealand convened at Dilworth School in Auckland on 10 November to hear from an exciting range of speakers and to network with their peers.

ISNZ acknowledges Dilworth’s support in hosting our event and we appreciate the support from Donald MacLean, Principal of Dilworth School, and his staff.

Our speakers

Shan Wilson, Partner at Simpson Grierson

Employment Law Update

Shan started her presentation with an overview of the confirmed employment law changes and some proposed policy amendments still to be approved by Parliament. Some of the changes discussed include the 90 day trial period, the minimum wage, restored union rights, increased in paid Parental Leave and Fair Pay Agreements.

Shan also delved into how to deal with bullying allegations from staff and shared Worksafe’s recent updates. She engaged the audience sharing some real life employment cases asking delegates to judge them. In some cases delegates’ opinion matched the outcome of the trial but sometimes views differed quite substantially.

Wrapping up her presentation, Shan also shared some insights on staff misconduct on social media and the Vulnerable Children’s Act and vetting staff.


Helen Smith and Hugh Lindo, Partners at Simpson Grierson

Personal liability, legal obligations and rights in the context of increased scrutiny on school Board performance

Helen and Hugh shared some interesting and practical insights on Directors’ personal liability in the context of increased scrutiny on school Board performance.

The presenters provided an overview of the key legislation pieces applicable to Boards of Directors of private charitable trusts and pointed out the importance of keeping your Board’s governing documents updated and fit for purpose. “When was the last time you read your founding document?” Helen Smith asked delegates, and suggested Board Members should ask themselves this question more often.

Also, Helen and Hugh explored key Directors’ duties and penalties under different pieces of legislation like the Health & Safety at Work Act (HSWA) and the Earthquake-prone Buildings Amendment Act 2016. Finally, they summarised their presentation, pointing out how Directors should always act in accordance with their trust deed and with integrity, diligence, honesty and accountability to avoid incurring personal liability.


Fiona Carney, H&S Senior Partner at Simpson Grierson

A practical approach to Health & Safety Governance

Fiona delved into the six key Directors’ due diligence obligations according to the  Health & Safety at Work Act 2015. They are:

  1. Keep up-to-date with health and safety matters
  2. Understand the nature of the business and its hazards and risks
  3. Ensure PCBUs have appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise H&S risks
  4. Ensure there are appropriate reporting and investigation processes in place
  5. Make sure there are appropriate processes to monitor
  6. Verify


Fiona also framed the new legislation in the context of private schools and shared some insights about the relationship between PCBUs, officers and workers explaining key tasks for Boards to perform. Finally she went through some practical frameworks and documents Boards should adopt to ensure adequate compliance with current legislation.


Brent Wheeler, Director, Brent Wheeler Group

Monitoring, reviewing and auditing policy implementation and compliance – The role of the Board

Speaking right after lunch, Brent pitched his presentation as a fun yet practical approach to good governance and what it should look like.

Once he had stated a common definition of good governance to start with, Brent shared his insights around the importance of collaboration and how to achieve a pragmatic monitoring system. Brent suggested to have written frameworks and reports to avoid confusion, but never stop asking questions with a genuine curiosity.

Also, accountability is key according to Brent, and he suggested a simple step toward higher and shared accountability by including a “Who, What, When” column against each action agreed and ratified on Board documents.

Finally, Brent suggested using the “hostile barrister test” to best monitor and audit information provided.


Barney Cumberland, Partner at Simpson Grierson

Topical Tax Issues for private school

Barney wrapped up the day tackling the key tax issues for private schools. He provided a very comprehensive overview on PAYE and employer-provided accommodation, how to make the most of the exemption for charitable organisations, understanding the donation tax incentives and the benefit of tax concessions.

A detailed summary of Barney’s suggestions to Member Schools is available in his slides that he kindly made available for our delegates.

Barney’s presentation and the other presentations of the day are available in the Members only area of our website: http://www.isnz.org.nz/members_only/presentations


Feedback from our attendees:

Delegates enjoyed the seminar, rating it as excellent (47% of respondents) or very good (52% of respondents).

Also, 75% of respondents declared that they will attend the seminar again.

“An opportunity to meet with members of other Boards. An opportunity to focus on some key issues surrounding Governance in schools.”

“Good general overview of issues, but the highlight was the discussion on a few specific issues prompted by questions and networking.”