Code of Conduct
Te Whanonga Tikanga
This Code of Conduct (the Code) sets out the standards of behaviour expected from elected members of South Taranaki District Council in the exercise of their duties.
Its purpose is to:
- enhance the effectiveness of the local authority and the provision of good local government of the South Taranaki District;
- promote effective decision-making and community engagement;
- enhance the credibility and accountability of the local authority to its communities; and
- develop a culture of mutual trust, respect and tolerance between the members of the local authority and between the members and management.
This purpose is given effect through the values, roles, responsibilities and specific behaviours agreed in this Code.
The Code has been adopted in accordance with clause 15 of Schedule 7 of the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA 2002) and applies to all members, including the members of any local boards as well as the members of any community boards that have agreed to adopt it. The Code is designed to deal with the behaviour of members towards:
- each other;
- the chief executive and staff;
- the media; and
- the general public.
It is also concerned with the disclosure of information that members receive in their capacity as elected members and information which impacts on the ability of the local authority to give effect to its statutory responsibilities.
This Code can only be amended (or substituted by a replacement Code) by a vote of at least 75 per cent of members present at a meeting when amendment to the Code is being considered.
The Code should be read in conjunction with the Council’s Standing Orders.
The Code is designed to give effect to the following values:
- Public interest: members will serve the best interests of the people within the South Taranaki District and discharge their duties conscientiously, to the best of their ability.
- Public trust: members, in order to foster community confidence and trust in their Council, will work together constructively and uphold the values of honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency.
- Ethical behaviour: members will not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, will not behave improperly and will avoid the appearance of any such behaviour.
- Objectivity: members will make decisions on merit; including appointments, and recommending individuals for awards or benefits.
- Respect for others: will treat people, including other members, with respect and courtesy, regardless of their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Members will respect the impartiality and integrity of officials.
- Duty to uphold the law: members will comply with all legislative requirements applying to their role, abide by this Code of Conduct, and act in accordance with the trust placed in them by the public.
- Equitable contribution: members will take all reasonable steps to ensure they fulfil the duties and responsibilities of office, including attending meetings and workshops, preparing for meetings, attending civic events, and participating in relevant training seminars.
- Leadership: members will actively promote and support these principles and ensure they are reflected in the way in which the Council operates, including a regular review and assessment of the Council’s collective performance.
These values complement, and work in conjunction with, the principles of s.14 of the LGA 2002 and the governance principles of s.39 of the LGA 2002.
Role and Responsibilities
Good governance requires clarity of roles and respect between those charged with responsibility for the leadership of the Council and those responsible for advice and the implementation of Council decisions. The key roles are:
The role of the governing body includes:
- representing the interests of the people of the South Taranaki District;
- developing and adopting plans, policies and budgets;
- monitoring the performance of the Council against stated goals and objectives set out in its long term plan;
- providing prudent stewardship of the Council’s resources;
- employing and monitoring the performance of the chief executive; and
- ensuring the Council fulfils its responsibilities to be a ‘good employer’ and meets the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
The role of the chief executive includes:
- implementing the decisions of the Council;
- providing advice to all elected members;
- ensuring that all responsibilities delegated to the chief executive are properly performed or exercised;
- ensuring the effective and efficient management of the activities of the local authority;
- maintaining systems to enable effective planning and accurate reporting of the financial and service performance of the local authority;
- providing leadership for the staff of the Council; and
- employing staff on behalf of the Council (including negotiation of the terms of employment for those staff).
Under s.42 of the LGA 2002 the chief executive is the only person directly employed by the Council itself. All concerns about the performance of an individual member of staff must, in the first instance, be referred to the chief executive.
Under s.41A of the LGA 2002 the Mayor has the authority to:
- lead the development of plans, policies and budgets;
- appoint the Deputy Mayor
- establish committees and appoint chairpersons.
The Deputy Mayor
The role of the Deputy Mayor includes:
- chairing meetings and generally perform functions and duties in the Mayor’s absence;
- exercising the powers of office if the Mayor is prevented by illness or there is a vacancy in the office of the Mayor.
The Deputy Mayor may be removed from office by resolution of the Council under schedule 7 of the LGA 2002.
This section of the Code sets out agreed standards of behaviour between members; members and staff; and members and the public.
Relationships between members
Given the importance of relationships to the effective performance of the Council, members will conduct their dealings with each other in a manner that:
- maintains public confidence;
- is open and honest;
- is courteous;
- is focused on issues rather than personalities;
- avoids abuse of meeting procedures, such as a pattern of unnecessary notices of motion and/or repetitious points of order; and
- avoids aggressive, offensive or abusive conduct, including the use of disrespectful or malicious language.
Any failure by members to act in the manner described in s.5.1 represents a breach of this Code.
Please note that nothing in this section of the Code is intended to limit robust debate within the Council as long as it is conducted in a respectful and insightful manner.
Relationships with staff
An important element of good governance involves the relationship between the Council and its chief executive. Members will respect arrangements put in place to facilitate this relationship, and:
- raise any concerns about employees, officers or contracted officials with the chief executive;
- raise any concerns about the performance or behaviour of the chief executive with the Mayor or the chairperson of the Personnel Committee;
- make themselves aware of the obligations that the Council and the chief executive have as employers and observe those requirements at all times, such as the duty to be a good employer;
- treat all employees with courtesy and respect and avoid publicly criticising any employee;
- observe any protocols put in place by the chief executive concerning contact between members and employees;
- avoid doing anything which might compromise, or could be seen as compromising, the impartiality of an employee.
Any failure by members to act in the manner described above represents a breach of this Code.
Please note: Elected members should be aware that failure to observe this portion of the Code may compromise the Council’s obligations to be a good employer and consequently expose the council to civil litigation or affect the risk assessment of Council’s management and governance control processes undertaken as part of the council’s audit.
Relationship with the public
Given that the performance of the Council requires the trust and respect of individual citizens, members will: interact with members of the public in a fair, respectful, equitable and honest manner;
- be available to listen and respond openly and honestly to community concerns;
- consider all points of view or interests when participating in debate and making decisions;
- treat members of the public in a courteous manner; and
- act in a way that upholds the reputation of the local authority.
Any failure by members to act in the manner described above represents a breach of this Code.
Contact with the media
The media play an important part in the operation and efficacy of local democracy. In order to fulfil this role the media needs access to accurate and timely information about the affairs of Council.
From time to time individual members will be approached to comment on a particular issue either on behalf of the Council, or as an elected member in their own right. When responding to the media members must be mindful that operational questions should be referred to the chief executive and policy-related questions referred to the Mayor or the member with the appropriate delegated authority.
When speaking to the media more generally members will abide by the following provisions:
Media contact on behalf of the Council
- the Mayor or chairperson is the first point of contact for an official view on any issue, unless delegations state otherwise. Where the Mayor is absent requests for comment will be referred to the Deputy Mayor or relevant committee chairperson;
- the Mayor may refer any matter to the relevant committee chairperson or to the chief executive for their comment; and
- no other member may comment on behalf of the Council without having first obtained the approval of the Mayor.
Media comment on a member’s own behalf
Elected members are free to express a personal view in the media, at any time, provided the following rules are observed:
- media comments must not state or imply that they represent the views of the Council;
- media comments which are contrary to a Council decision or policy must clearly state that they do not represent the views of the majority of members;
- media comments must observe the other requirements of the Code; for example, comments should not disclose confidential information, criticize, or compromise the impartiality or integrity of staff; and
- media comments must not be misleading and should be accurate within the bounds of reasonableness.
Any failure by members to meet the standards set out above represents a breach of this Code.
Access to information is critical to the effective performance of a local authority and the level of public trust felt by the public.
In the course of their duties members will occasionally receive information that is confidential. This will generally be information that is either commercially sensitive or is personal to a particular individual or organisation. Accordingly, members agree not to use or disclose confidential information for any purpose other than the purpose for which the information was supplied to the member.
Information received in capacity as an elected member
Members will disclose to other members and, where appropriate the chief executive, any information received in their capacity as an elected member that concerns the Council’s ability to give effect to its responsibilities.
Members who are offered information on the condition that it remains confidential will inform the provider of the information that it is their duty to disclosure the information and will decline the offer if that duty is likely to be compromised.
Any failure by members to act in the manner described above represents a breach of this Code.
Please note: failure to observe these provisions may impede the performance of the Council by inhibiting information flows and undermining public confidence. It may also expose the Council to prosecution under the Privacy Act and/or civil litigation.
Conflicts of Interest
Elected members will maintain a clear separation between their personal interests and their duties as elected members in order to ensure that they are free from bias (whether real or perceived). Members therefore must familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Local Authorities (Members’ Interests) Act 1968 (LAMIA).
Members will not participate in any Council discussion or vote on any matter in which they have a pecuniary interest, other than an interest in common with the general public. This rule also applies where the member’s spouse contracts with the authority or has a pecuniary interest. Members shall make a declaration of interest as soon as practicable after becoming aware of any such interests.
If a member is in any doubt as to whether or not a particular course of action (including a decision to take no action) raises a conflict of interest, then the member should seek guidance from the chief executive immediately. Members may also contact the Office of the Auditor General for guidance as to whether they have a pecuniary interest, and if so, may seek an exemption to allow that member to participate or vote on a particular issue in which they may have a pecuniary interest. The latter must be done before the discussion or vote.
Please note: Failure to observe the requirements of the LAMIA could potentially invalidate the decision made, or the action taken, by the Council. Failure to observe these requirements could also leave the elected member open to prosecution (see Appendix A). In the event of a conviction, elected members can be ousted from office.
Register of Declaration of Interests
Members shall annually make a declaration of interest. These declarations are recorded in a register of Declarations of Interests maintained by the Council. The declaration must include information on the nature and extent of any interest, including:
a) any employment, trade or profession carried on by the member or the members’ spouse for profit or gain;
b) any company, trust, partnership etc for which the member or their spouse is a director, partner or trustee;
c) the address of any land in which the member has a beneficial interest within the jurisdiction of the local authority; and
d) the address of any land owned by the local authority in which the member or their spouse is:
- a tenant; or
- the land is tenanted by a firm in which the member or spouse is a partner, a company of which the member or spouse is a director, or a trust of which the member or spouse is a trustee:
e) any other matters which the public might reasonably regard as likely to influence the member’s actions during the course of their duties as a member (if the member is in any doubt on this, the member should seek guidance from the chief executive)
Please note: Where a member’s circumstances change they must ensure that the register of Declarations of Interests is updated as soon as practicable.
Members will seek to promote the highest standards of ethical conduct.
Accordingly members will:
- claim only for legitimate expenses as determined by the Remuneration Authority and any lawful policy of the Council developed in accordance with that determination;
- not influence, or attempt to influence, any council employee, officer or member in order to benefit their own, or families personal or business interests;
- only use the Council resources (such as facilities, staff, equipment and supplies) in the course of their duties and not in connection with any election campaign or personal interests; and
- not solicit, demand, or request any gift, reward or benefit by virtue of their position and notify the chief executive if any such gifts are accepted. Where a gift to the value of $50 or more is accepted by a member, that member must immediately disclose this to the chief executive for inclusion in the publicly available register of interests.
Any failure by members to comply with the provisions set out in this section represents a breach of this Code.
In accordance with clause 15(5) of Schedule 7 (LGA 2002) any member who is an “undischarged bankrupt” will notify the chief executive prior to the inaugural meeting or as soon as practicable after being declared bankrupt. The member will also provide the chief executive with a brief explanatory statement of the circumstances surrounding the member’s adjudication and the likely outcome of the bankruptcy.
Creating a supportive and inclusive environment
In accordance with the purpose of the Code, members agree to take all reasonable steps in order to participate in activities scheduled to promote a culture of mutual trust, respect and tolerance.
- Attending post-election induction programmes organised by the Council for the purpose of facilitating agreement on the Council’s vision, goals and objectives and the manner and operating style by which members will work.
- Taking part in any assessment of the Council’s overall performance and operating style during the triennium*.
- Taking all reasonable steps to ensure they possess the skills and knowledge to effectively fulfill their Declaration of Office and contribute to the good governance of the South Taranaki District.
*A self assessment template is provided in the Guidance to this Code.
Breaches of the Code
Members must comply with the provisions of this Code (LGA 2002, schedule 5, s. 14(4)). Any member, or the chief executive, who believes that the Code has been breached by the behaviour of a member, may make a complaint to that effect. All complaints will be considered in a manner that is consistent with the following principles.
The following principles will guide any processes for investigating and determining whether or not a breach under this Code has occurred:
- that the approach for investigating and assessing a complaint will be proportionate to the apparent seriousness of the breach complained about;
- that the roles of complaint, investigation, advice and decision-making will be kept separate as appropriate to the nature and complexity of the alleged breach; and
- that the concepts of natural justice and fairness will apply in the determination of any complaints made under this Code. This requires, conditional on the nature of an alleged breach, that affected parties: o have a right to know that an investigation process is underway;
- are given due notice and are provided with an opportunity to be heard;
- have a right to seek appropriate advice and be represented; and
- have their privacy respected.
All complaints made under this Code must be made in writing and forwarded to the chief executive. On receipt of a complaint the chief executive must forward that complaint to an independent investigator for a preliminary assessment to determine whether the issue is sufficiently serious to warrant a full investigation.*
Only members and the chief executive may make a complaint under this Code.
Investigation, advice and decision
The process, following receipt of a complaint, will follow the steps outlined in Appendix B.
An alleged breach under this Code is material if, in the opinion of the independent investigator, it would, if proven, bring a member or the Council into disrepute or, if not addressed, reflect adversely on another member of the Council.
* On behalf of the Council the Chief Executive will, shortly after the start of a triennium, prepare, in consultation with the Mayor or Chairperson, a list of investigators for this purpose of undertaking a preliminary assessment. The Chief Executive may prepare a list specifically for his or her council, prepare a list jointly with neighbouring councils or contract with an agency capable of providing appropriate investigators, such as EquiP.
Penalties and Outcomes
Where a complaint is determined to be material and referred to the Council the nature of any penalty or action will depend on the seriousness of the breach.
In the case of material breaches of this Code the Council, or a committee with delegated authority, may require one of the following:
- a letter of censure to the member;
- a request (made either privately or publicly) for an apology;
- a vote of no confidence in the member;
- removal of certain Council-funded privileges (such as attendance at conferences);
- restricted entry to Council offices, such as no access to staff areas (where restrictions may not previously have existed);
- limitation on any dealings with Council staff so that they are confined to the chief executive only;
- suspension from committees or other bodies; or 8. an invitation for the member to consider resigning from the Council.
A Council or committee may decide that a penalty will not be imposed where a respondent agrees to one or more of the following:
- attend a relevant training course; and/or
- work with a mentor for a period of time; and/or
- participate in voluntary mediation (if the complaint involves a conflict between two members); and/or
- tender an apology.
The process is based on the presumption that the outcome of a complaints process will be made public unless there are grounds, such as those set out in the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (LGOIMA), for not doing so.
In cases where a breach of the Code is found to involve regulatory or legislative requirements, the complaint will be referred to the relevant agency. For example:
- breaches relating to members’ interests (where members may be liable for prosecution by the Auditor-General under the LAMIA);
- breaches which result in the Council suffering financial loss or damage (where the Auditor-General may make a report on the loss or damage under s.30 of the LGA 2002 which may result in the member having to make good the loss or damage); or
- breaches relating to the commission of a criminal offence which will be referred to the Police (which may leave the elected member liable for criminal prosecution).
Once adopted, a Code of Conduct continues in force until amended by the Council. The Code can be amended at any time but cannot be revoked unless the Council replaces it with another Code. Once adopted, amendments to the Code require a resolution supported by 75 per cent of the members of the Council present at a Council meeting where the amendment is considered.
Council may formally review the Code as soon as practicable after the beginning of each triennium. The results of that review will be considered by the Council in regard to potential changes for improving the Code.