16 October 2017
NZ Herpetological Society
P.O. Box 303140
Dear Rod Rowlands,
I submitted the below letter to the committee on 14 September 2017 for your response and publication in the October MOKO. To date, I have not heard from you at all.
While you have been a vocal critic of the former committee on a number of issues that were raised and discussed with you over the previous year (2015-2016), I am disappointed that you have used your first issue of MOKO (June 2017) as President to continue your assault on those committee members, including myself, with further commentary that is disrespectful, deceitful and divisive.
The New Zealand Herpetological Society (NZHS) is a democratic organisation and therefore provides for social equality and free but respectful speech, particularly when disseminated to the entire membership. I consider that your report in the June MOKO, and the prevention of my right to respond, demonstrates that you have no respect for the Society, its processes, or the members who volunteer their time to support it.
Here, I respond to your criticisms and misleading statements.
In your Report to MOKO, June 2017, you provide examples of the individual circumstances of members that you consider illustrate ‘the dysfunctional state that has been allowed to develop within the Society’. The former committee achieved numerous positive results in the previous year, creating a new website, updating a wealth of online information, maps and resources, a new logo, facilitated membership involvement with a green gecko translocation in Auckland, provided input and review to the DOC’s Guide to keeping New Zealand Lizards in Captivity, undertook a membership survey to guide our decision making and recommended Job Descriptions for incoming committee to improve the efficiencies of the NZHS moving forward.
Your comment is both misleading and disrespectful to all those who volunteered their time and effort on the committee last year, and who took part in the election process- few of whom are still serving on the current committee. Your examples do not actually demonstrate any development of dysfunctionality at all. The former office holders worked hard to secure nominations for a full committee for the AGM in good faith and took no part in the personal circumstances of nominated individuals that occurred later.
I further argue that any change of individual circumstances of nominated or elected members who resigned or withdrew around the time of the AGM (including my own) are in fact a greater reflection of your own increasingly hostile behaviour that included protracted, cynical criticisms and legal threats aimed at some of those members in the months leading up to the AGM.
From an available nine positions on the committee, you nominated only yourself and one other person. While there is no obligation on you to vote at all, I can only assume that, given your candidacy for President, you intended to chair a committee comprised almost entirely of a group of people that you spent the previous 12 months criticising or slandering. I am therefore not surprised that you continue to need help to fill vacated positions this year.
I note also, that the former ‘dysfunctional’ committee was comprised of the same nine people who continued throughout their elected period, from the 2016 AGM to the 2017 AGM. By comparison, more than half of this years' committee have notified you of their resignation since the AGM, including your Secretary, Treasurer, Editor and Digital / Web person.
In paragraph two of your report, you refer to a non-member being nominated for a committee role. This is factually incorrect and I believe that you knowingly allowed this false statement to be published in the June MOKO, given that you had received contrary evidence on this issue via emails dated 06 June 2017, and as confirmed by your Treasurer, more than two weeks prior to the electronic publication of the June edition on 23 June.
You refer to the elected Secretary*, residing in Australia, as posing 'extreme limitations on functionality’ to the running of the NZHS. All of the Secretary’s functions can be carried out electronically or via occasional post with the single exception of physically emptying the Post Office box, a task which was shared by management committee in the previous year. Indeed this worked satisfactorily, and a positive team environment and willingness to help each other out on the committee enabled flexibility to achieve the Society’s core roles. I note that while committee job descriptions were created a few years earlier (while I was President), they are a guide only and are not set in the constitution. Moreover, and as previously raised by yourself, the Society must increasingly provide for committee members being stationed around the country. It is 2017 and we regularly rely on electronic communication for rapid and effective communication. Therefore residing in Australia does not pose any "extreme limitation" to functionality compared to the current status quo.
As a full member, I expect that the business of the NZHS is transacted and communicated to the membership with honesty and integrity and I consider that your first report to the membership via the June MOKO has been far from this. That you prevented my right to respond respectfully, and against the judgement of your committee, shows that you continue to have no respect for the Society’s decision making processes.
As a Society, the NZHS can only survive if the committee are guided forward with a positive attitude and with a vision for the future that benefits the membership. Positive actions include increasing functionality and material for the new website that the former committee launched, acting on the results of last year's membership survey and actioning resolutions agreed at the May AGM. Much ground work has already been achieved by the former committee and there is a sound basis from which to forge an exciting future ahead. All that is needed is forward thinking guidance.
* The elected Secretary has since resigned
Full Member, NZHS