Home / About us / Terms of reference

Terms of reference

These terms of reference were last amended in October 2014

  1. Purpose
  2. Background
  3. Objectives
  4. Membership of the Council
  5. Eligibility for nominations, elections and voting
  6. Chair of the Council
  7. Meetings
  8. Review of the Council’s activities
  9. National networks & linkages
  10. Secretariat
  11. Role of the Ministry of Health
  12. Forum participation
  13. Complaint and dispute resolution
  14. Amendments

1. Purpose

The Health & Disability NGO Council represents matters of common interest and works strategically to strengthen the relationship between the Ministry of Health and not-for-profit health and disability Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).


2. Background

In 2002, the Ministry of Health and not-for-profit health and disability NGOs agreed a Framework for Relations between the Ministry of Health and Health and Disability Non-Government Organisations to implement the Statement of Government Intentions for an Improved Community-Government Relationship within the health and disability sector.

The Framework was initiated with a gathering of NGOs referred to as the ‘Community and Voluntary Sector Working Party’. They then became known as the ‘NGO Working Group’ until July 2013, when the elected body of 13 NGO representatives was renamed the ‘NGO Council’ and the wider NGO membership was renamed the ‘NGO Health & Disability Network’.

Membership of the NGO Health & Disability Network is free and open to any non-profit New Zealand health or disability provider that receives Vote Health funding (ie: funding from the Ministry of Health and/or a DHB). Information from the Ministry is shared through the Network as part of the commitment to the Framework, which has a particular focus on communication, capability/capacity building and consultation.

The Framework is consistent with the purpose and principles of the Kia Tutahi Standing Together, The Relationship Accord between the Communities of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Government of New Zealand, which was signed by Prime Minister John Key and the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector in August 2011. In mid-2013, the Director-General of Health affirmed in writing the Ministry’s continued support for the NGO Relationship Framework.

The NGO Council is a key mechanism in the implementation of the Framework. These Terms of Reference set out how the NGO Council operates in order to achieve this.


3. Objectives

The NGO Council has the following three objectives:

  1. Maintain a national strategic policy relationship for not-for-profit health and disability NGOs to engage with government agencies – particularly the Ministry of Health, National Health Board and District Health Boards (DHBs).
  2. To provide platforms and opportunities for not-for-profit health and disability NGOs to engage with the Ministry of Health and establish relationships to facilitate:
    • access and influence across the Ministry of Health’s areas of policy development
    • relationship building within the not-for-profit health and disability sector
    • identification of common issues (positives and negatives) to advocate
    • dissemination of information within the not-for-profit health and disability sector
    • consultation and collaboration on policy development, needs assessment, strategic planning, annual planning, workforce and sector development, infrastructure issues and emerging issues.
  3. Work with the Ministry of Health in organising the NGO-Ministry of Health Forums.


The Health & Disability NGO Council will not:

  • intervene in individual contracts between NGOs and the Ministry of Health and/or DHBs
  • replace other existing one-to-one relationships that NGOs may have with government departments and agencies
  • speak for the wider not-for-profit NGO sector without the specific mandate from the wider group to do so on a particular issue.

4. Membership of the Council

4.1 Membership

The NGO Council comprises 13 NGO representatives elected from each of the following health and disability sub-sectors:

  • Personal Health (2 representatives)
  • Public Health (2 representatives)
  • Mental Health & Addictions (2 representatives)
  • Māori Health (3 representatives)
  • Pacific Island Health (2 representatives)
  • Disability Support Services (2 representatives)
  • Representatives from the Ministry of Health will be invited to attend meetings (see section 11.)

The Framework states that “NGOs include independent community and iwi/Māori organisations operating on a not-for-profit basis, which bring a value to society that is distinct from both government and the market”. The Framework recognises the vital contribution of unpaid workers in society, and the important role of NGOs in helping them to make that contribution through the direct provision of health and disability services (particularly disability support services, mental health services and Māori health services).

On this basis, NGO Council membership is only open to representatives from not-for-profit NGOs. Developments in some sub-sectors (eg: Aged Care) and potential areas of common ground may lead to future changes to this criterion. Any alterations would occur in consultation with the Ministry of Health and the wider voting body.

4.2 Role of members

Members of the NGO Council are expected to bring knowledge specific to the sector they are working in so they are able to contribute to the work of the group. They may also act as a conduit of information to disseminate to their sub-sector networks. The primary conduit of information from the group as a whole is through the NGO Desk.
Members are expected to:

  • contribute and participate in the work programme of the group
  • focus on strategic and regional issues that are common to the sector
  • make a two-year commitment to membership of the Council
  • attend two-monthly meetings on a regular basis.

4.3 Membership changes

In each of the health and disability sub-sectors, appointments will be for a two year term. Members whose term is up may put themselves forward for re-election once (i.e: can serve a maximum of four years continuously), but the position must be contestable every two years. This is to retain some consistency of membership and allow positions to be contestable and open to fresh ideas.

Continuity is important – processes should not allow for a total replacement of members at any one election.

The elected NGO Council will have the mandate to fill any vacancies that arise between normal election opportunities in a manner that they deem appropriate and which is consistent with their Terms of Reference. 


5. Eligibility for nominations, elections and voting

5.1 Overview

Maximum participation in democratic processes - Council elections should enable maximum participation for not-for-profit health and disability NGOs.

The procedure, which the Forum ratified in September, 2004, is that:

  • health and disability sector NGOs eligible to register (in line with the provisions below) will be invited to add their organisation to the list of NGOs wanting to participate in the election
  • those already registered will not need to re-register.
  • registered NGOs are welcome to submit nominations for sub-sectors in which there is a vacancy.

5.2 Criteria to participate in elections

Health and disability NGOs meeting the following broad criteria will generally be eligible to register and vote:

  • independent community and/or iwi/Māori organisations operating on a not-for-profit basis that receive funding through ‘vote health’ (ie: funding from the Ministry of Health and/or at least one district health board)
  • conduct activities consistent with the promotion of health or the delivery of health and disability services in the relevant sector
  • are non-governmental and non-profit
  • are a clearly identified NZ organisation (which may include NZ branches of international NGOs).

5.3 Registration process

NGOs may join the register at any time, where their sub-sector interests will be recorded. Sub-sector interests are recorded for one, but no more than two sub-sectors. Once registered, NGOs remain on the register until they opt off.

Sub-sector registration will be confined to areas where the NGO is receiving ‘vote health’ funding (ie: funding from the Ministry of Health and/or at least one district health board).

5.4 Nomination process

The Council has as its main task the ability to reflect key issues facing the entire not-for-profit health and disability NGO sector and to work strategically on strengthening the sector in its relationship with the Ministry of Health. Consequently, Council members are expected to be a leader within their particular agency and within the sector. Only one representative of an agency is permitted to be on the Council at any given time, no matter which sub-sector they are deemed to represent.

At least two weeks prior to the annual election, there will be a call for nominations to fill vacant positions on the NGO Council.
Any NGO on the register may nominate a person for the NGO Council.

Those accepting nomination for the Council must meet the following criteria:

  • be from an agency that receives ‘vote health’ funding in the category for which they are nominated
  • have their nomination formally supported and endorsed by their agency
  • be prepared to make a two-year commitment to membership of the Council
  • be able to attend two-monthly meetings on a regular basis

Where there are more nominations for a category than there are vacancies, the members will be selected based on votes received from NGOs registered to vote in the relevant sub-sector(s).

5.5 Election and voting process

Prior to the commencement of voting, the Council will make publicly available the list of NGOs registered to vote in each sub-sector and the people nominated for positions within them. Any challenges to registration of an NGO within a sector will be considered and decided on by the current NGO Council membership.

Where an election is necessary, voting will be open for a period of at least two weeks. An electronic ballot of all NGOs registered in each sub-sector will be conducted to determine the Council representatives from that sub-sector. Each agency will be entitled to vote only in the sub-sector(s) for which they are recorded on the register. No agency may vote in more than two (2) sub-sectors.

The election process will normally be completed by 31 October.


6. Chair of the Council

The members of the NGO Council will elect a Chair and a Deputy Chair. This will be done every year after the elections. The Chair and Deputy will have the mandate of the NGO Council, and responsibility to:

  • act as spokesperson for the wider not-for-profit NGO sector and the NGO Council within the terms outlined in section 3
  • co-ordinate planned activities
  • organise and chair NGO Council meetings
  • organise agendas and minutes of NGO Council meetings
  • liaise with the Ministry of Health’s NGO Desk.
  • liaise with other peak bodies to promote and agree a shared approach to common issues.

7. Meetings

7.1 Quorum

The quorum of members of the NGO Council will be six.

Meeting dates should be set well in advance to help ensure maximum attendance and representation from every sub-sector. Where necessary, discussion on a topic directly relevant to an absent subsector may be postponed, or input sought outside of the meeting.

7.2 Attendance

Council members are expected to attend meetings regularly. Failure of an NGO Council member to attend two consecutive meetings without apology or notification will be deemed to indicate they have vacated the position. If members do not attend for two consecutive meetings and/or do not attend a minimum of four meetings in a calendar year, they may be asked to resign from the NGO Council.

The annual report will include meeting attendance information for NGO Council members.

7.3 Meeting content

The content of meetings should ensure the objectives of the NGO Council are met. The Terms of Reference for the NGO Council and the Service Agreement with the Ministry of Health provide the parameters for the functions and responsibilities of the NGO Council.
The NGO Council will liaise with the Ministry of Health’s NGO Desk on its work programme and planned meetings.

7.4 Frequency of meetings

The NGO Council will meet for a minimum of five times a year (or when required). Meetings will be face-to-face or, where appropriate, by teleconference when required to advance the work programme.

7.5 Location of meetings

The NGO Council will decide the location of its meetings. In making these decisions, consideration will be given to where members of the NGO Council are based and the respective costs of travel and resources of members.

NGO Council members will have all travel costs incurred in attending meetings reimbursed and, when necessary, may apply for a meeting attendance fee based on the Ministry of Health’s ‘Meeting Attendance Fee Guide’.


8. Review of the Council’s activities

An annual report outlining the NGO Council’s previous year’s work programme will be made available to the wider not-for-profit health and disability NGO sector via the website, at least two weeks prior to the annual elections.

Opportunity to discuss the annual report will be included in the agenda of each national NGO-Ministry of Health Forum.

In between NGO Council meetings, the Chair will provide updates on key decisions and work plans via the website and NGO-Desk newsletter.


9. National Networks & linkages

The NGO Council will raise the profile of not-for-profit health and disability NGOs and build linkages across the health and disability sector. It will work with existing groups within the Ministry of Health and National Health Board, and across other relevant government and non-government agencies, both nationally and locally.

The Ministry of Health will endeavour to keep the NGO Council informed of other key not-for-profit NGO representation on various groups it may convene.


10. Secretariat

The NGO Council Secretariat is contracted by the Chair’s organisation and acts as the contact between members of the NGO Council, the Ministry of Health and the wider not-for-profit health and disability NGO sector. The Secretariat contract will be reviewed every year and/or when there is a change in the Chair.

The role provides planning and administration support for the NGO Council.


11. Role of the Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health is not be a member of the NGO Council, but will attend the NGO Council meetings unless requested not to.

The NGO Secretariat will organise the Forums in conjunction with NGO Council members and the Ministry of Health. Forums will be led by the NGOs through the Council. The Ministry of Health will attend the Forum and invite other personnel from the Ministry of Health to attend when required. This role will be co-ordinated through an NGO relationship manager at the Ministry of Health (known as the NGO Desk).

The Ministry of Health will not have voting rights on motions put forward to the NGO Council or registered NGO voters, including:

  • the election of the NGO Council members
  • any review of the NGO Council discussed in sections 4 to 7.

However, the Ministry of Health may provide advice and suggestions on any matter for the NGO Councils’ consideration.
The Ministry of Health may also:

  • advocate to raise the awareness of NGOs within the Ministry of Health
  • lead and develop the Ministry of Health aspects of implementing the work programme
  • promote The Framework and Relationship Accord within the Ministry of Health.

12. Forum participation

Forum activities and initiatives are open to any government, non-government or non-profit organisation or individual involved in the health and disability sector in New Zealand.


13. Complaint and dispute resolution

13.1 Complaints

Complaints about matters that the NGO Council has some control over will be discussed by the Council in a timely manner, unless there are privacy issues that prevent this from occurring. The principles of natural justice will be applied and affected parties will have an opportunity to state their case in a neutral setting, with support if desired. All efforts will be made to resolve issues in a timely way and in a fair manner.

Complaints about matters that are within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health will be handled according to the Ministry’s complaints policy.

13.2 Disagreements

If there is a significant disagreement between the NGO Council and the Ministry of Health, then both parties will use their best endeavours and act in good faith to settle the dispute by negotiation and discussion.

If the dispute is not settled within 20 working days, the matter will be submitted for mediation by a single mediator agreed to by both parties. The mediator will determine the procedure and timetable for mediation. The cost of the mediation will be shared and both parties will endeavour to reach an outcome that is acceptable to the other.

One party cannot represent the other or speak on the other’s behalf in any statements about the matter of disagreement.


14. Amendments

These Terms of Reference may be amended at any time when a proposal to amend them is passed by a majority vote of NGOs registered to vote in the annual elections. (ie: number of votes for the changes exceeds number of votes opposed).

Terms of Reference agreed by Council on 26 November 2014.

Accepted by majority online vote of wider membership in October 2015.

These Terms of Reference are effective from 1 November 2015.

The term ‘Working Group was replaced by ‘Council’ in August 2013.