Q & A’s following Hon. Tracey Martin’s presentation

These questions are the ones received after Tracey’s presentation. Answers to further questions received will be added in the order they are received. We can take further questions on Tracey’s presentation until 29th April 2022.

Q:  Will both of Tracey’s reports be proactively released by Playcentre Aotearoa?

A:  A copy of Tracey’s presentation is be available on the website. Tracey’s two reports are still under consideration by the Board.  Once the Board has had an opportunity to work through all the issues raised both reports, they will consider how they will communicate this to the wider organisation.


Q:  Thank you very much for tonight- it was totally new information to me, I learned a lot tonight!
I’m a co-president at a playcentre, and we have had many discussions over the past 12 months around how we compete with ECE daycare centres in our area. We have spent a fair amount of money (all transparent through xero) into beautifying our space, which has resulted in more members, which brings more funding, and also regular weekend hirings of our space which is big earner for us. We have recognised the workload of parents in running playcentre taking away from their time to play and interact with their children, and as a result we hired a cleaner, and a qualified license support worker most days; these made playcentre more appealing to new mums which in turn increased our member numbers. We have also been creating ‘centre specific practices’, to be used to run our centre alongside to playcentre policies.
My question for you- how do we share all of this with our board of trustees? If they are legally responsible, shouldn’t we be sending them copies of our cbm minutes each term, shouldn’t they have our xero login details, shouldn’t someone be in consultation with us as we create practices that govern our day to day running? We’re a great group of mums doing our best, we’re bright and motivated, but I’m now aware that someone else is responsible for our actions, and I’d hate for our decisions to affect anyone else. How do we have better lines of communication with the board of trustees?

A:  My suggestion here is that you write to the Board with your good news – sounds like your centre has been doing a great job at recognising the areas where they can remove pressures and enhance membership – why not invite the Board to visit sometime, send them photos of your improvements, and celebrate yourself by sharing.  This is also one of those possible opportunities should the organisation move to a conference/AGM – centres such as yours could present in a workshop environment how you identified the pressure points, how you promoted your centre once the beautification work was complete etc.

It would not be practical for the Board to receive 400+ minutes every month and much of what your centre is doing is day-to-day running which is operational and therefore sits with management.  The areas where the Board needs greater oversight will be an area that the Board will be holding information evenings on so they can present/discuss solutions that are hopefully win/win – take the pressure off centres and provide greater confidence for the Board. 

I, if I was a Board member, be interested in what these “practices” are that you are creating and how they interact with the required “practices” to keep the organisation safe.  However you mention “day to day” running which again is a management area so your Centre Advisor should be aware of them and ensure they do not put the organisation at risk, recognising if it is the Board that you need to be in contact with – much of what centres want to discuss is day to day running or management – not governance.  As I suggested – workshops at a conference/AGM on governance and the difference to management would help many in the organisation be able to direct their queries or concerns to the right people.


Q:  I’m interested to know Tracey’s findings when it comes to the two houses, tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti, at a centre governance level. My observation from my Playcentre experience is that centres don’t include their bicultural officer in their leadership team, for instance. It means that the ideals of the two houses are not only not being implemented properly at a higher governance level, but they aren’t being implemented centre by centre either. The leadership team has a huge bearing on the direction of a centre through the questions asked, conversations facilitated, the group agreements they dictate to the rest of membership.  I would argue that we need to be using practices in centre governance that further enshrine Māori voices as partners in te tiriti o Waitangi at Playcentre. I’m really interested in Tracey’s perspective in this. 

A:  I am not across the role of a “bicultural” officer – I have heard of a “culture” officer but bicultural is new to me.  I would also be interested in the ability of many Playcentres to be in a position to fill this role based off their current membership demographic.  However, if this role is about ensuring the centre, its actions and decisions are culturally appropriate then it would make sense to have a person in the leadership team that can bring this perspective. 

It is my view that this role does not hold the treaty relationship – remember the Treaty is between Māori and the Crown, predominately it is around decisions that sit at a governance level.  In the Playcentre instance it is my view that this relationship sits at the Board table where governance sits – where the major decisions for the organisation sits.  As I mentioned in my presentation – under the High Court ruling centre’s do not govern. Centre’s should not be dictating to membership nor should centres be setting their own direction – the High Court created one organisation, that is Playcentre Aotearoa – once the vision and values have been established for the organisation the Board sets the strategic plan (the direction for the organisation and management then set the annual plan that is reported to the Board on a regular basis), sets policy (so that management can then set procedures about how things will be done), and ensures compliance with all laws and regulations.

My view is that centres should actively seek to have relationships with their local iwi – another good workshop topic around how to do this, how to create these relationships and with whom.


Q:  In your opinion, do you think that the previous board/s contributed to the culture, complaints and otherwise tension between staff, centre members, board members and others? And perhaps these recommendations if implemented earlier may not have lead to such a fractured organisation? Not now as great change has occurred that is probably healing some of that disconnection. I understand they were doing many things to cover these loses (CE, other top roles) but I’m concerned they may have had a part to play in it also.

A:  In my opinion the negativity that has come to a head over the last 12 to 18 months has been there through the whole process of amalgamation.  There is no one person or small group of people who created these circumstances.  In all of the conversations and paperwork I have read I can see multiple people who should have known better do some silly, destructive and harmful (to others mental health) things – this includes parent members, board members (past and present) and staff.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing – if Playcentre had accepted my offer of assistance in 2019 would things have been different?  If Playcentre had followed the advice of the Ministry around the Level 4 qualification would things have been different?  If the CE had not become ill and then the acting CE left without notice would things have been different? The answer to every one of those questions is yes because if you put in something different you get something different out. However looking back now is pointless – the organisation and its members need to look forward, what is possible, how do we do better – that is what needs to be done now.


Q:  Trust Board selection process – Given the significance of the role of a trustee and the liability that comes with this role, it is essential we are establishing a high functioning board. Currently both houses use different processes for recruiting Trustees, which reflects the different ways both houses operate, however neither processes seem to be well executed currently. What are your recommendations around how these processes could be carried out better, while also giving consideration to the different principles and values of each house? 

A:  I do not have a clear picture of the processes of both houses so would not like to comment however I believe a way to  ensure that there are experienced members of the Board (experienced in governance and finance) I would recommend the ability to appoint say two members to the Board for a term different from the elected trustees – I would be suggesting that these members be completely independent e.g. they have no relationship past or present with Playcentre so that they look at each decision completely without bias. 


Q:  Trustee Criteria – Along with the process of recruiting trustees, we also need to get clear on what kind of people and skills we need on our TB and how we attain these leaders. This is obviously fluid need as it will change often, but it would be great to hear your reccommendations of what kinds of qualities you believe Playcentre needs in a Trustee and how we emerge these trustees within our organisation?

A:  See my answer above.  It is also worth noting that government departments use a skills matrix to identify the current skills on their boards and what other skills are required in new members.  I would also point out the need for diversity on a board – this is diversity of thought, gender and ethnic background – the current system appears to entrench only two cultures. 


Q:  Liability and Accountability- If we move to a Trust Deed model instead of a constitution, where does the liability and accountability, across the entire organisation, shift to?

A:  I am not a lawyer but my understanding is it will remain with the Board of Trustees but the deed will be written to provide them with the oversight and decision making powers they need to ensure they can meet the responsibilities they are liable for. 


Q:  Grass roots governance – You talked about the fact there is no place for grass root governance in our organisation any longer. This is part of the essence of what makes our organisation unique. How do we enable our Trustees to execute the needs of our centres without grass roots governance?

A:  I do not understand what the concern here is?  What does grassroots governance mean at a centre level?  I believe a workshop with members needs to be held to clarify what people worry is being “lost”?  What are these “needs” of a centre?  Then the organisation can clearly address these concerns with appropriate systems and procedures.  


Q:  Amalgamation goal – Less Admin More Play. How do you propose we achieve a balance of making less admin for parent members but still create education and governance opportunities for volunteers to grow and have roles and purpose within the organisation? We want to keep our uniqueness as an organisation where the involvement of  parents is still part of the essence of who we are, but how do we achieve this?

A:  The answer to this question will be presented by the Board and the CE over the next few months. 


Q:  Conflicts – You touched on the importance of identifying the conflicts of interest with employees that are also governors or members. How do we navigate this challenge? Often Playcentre employees are grown from parents who were once members or who are life members because of their knowledge and experience within the organisation so by default, they become both employees and ‘governors’. Do you suggest keeping the roles completely separate? Eg You cannot be a rep or Trustee if you are also an employee? You cannot contribute to governance decision making if you are an employee? Should we be looking at having a Trustee Board made up of people that no longer attend Playcentre or work within Playcentre? Or do we just need to develop better processes around disclosing conflicts and managing these?

A:  Yes I believe the roles should be separate.  If you are a staff member then that is the dominant role, in all dealings with Playcentre you are a staff member.  That is the choice people will need to make.