Blind Citizens NZ’s 2023 AGM and Conference was held from October 13-14 at the Naumi Auckland Airport Hotel. Approximately 65 attendees participated in-person and online via Zoom or the YouTube livestream. This article provides some highlights of the AGM and Conference. More in-depth details will be available in the Minutes.

The day prior to the AGM and Conference three very separate, informal events happened. Whilst publicised at short notice these events for people to attend in person reflect items topical to the blind community. They are also relevant to Blind Citizens NZ’s ongoing programme of work. Attendance was open to anyone from the blind community to join in-person (not just members of Blind Citizens NZ). Events by topic were held in relation to:

During each of these occasions, participants talked freely within their group, sharing related aspirations, experiences and areas that Blind Citizens NZ might potentially address. For many attendees the opportunity also provided much-valued peer-support. There were ‘report-back’ opportunities during the AGM and Conference during which outcomes could be shared. Some reporting back influenced resolutions for the Board to action.

Blind Citizens NZ continues to build knowledge as it progresses on its Te Tiriti o Waitangi journey. The Board’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi Advisory Group comprises John Puhara, Daniel and Harete Phillips, Victor West, Maria Stevens, Joseph and Francis Twomey, and Sharleen Tongalea. Working alongside Te Huia Bill Hamilton, the Tiriti o

Waitangi Advisory Group’s work influenced tikanga for Blind Citizens NZ’s AGM and Conference. This influence was evident throughout the AGM and Conference and will continue to be developed moving forward.

Immediately following the Conference opening by Paula Tesoriero, Chief Executive Whaikaha | Ministry of Disabled People, we enjoyed a performance by the Kapa Haka Group from Mangere Bridge School. This group of tamariki | young people aged 8-12 led by Matua Jordan Kaie gave an outstanding performance. Description from Audio Described Aotearoa highlighted what the group was wearing, facial expressions, along with body movements and actions for each of the songs performed.

  • Blind Citizens NZ’s Guide Dog Handler Special Interest Network, bringing together current and aspiring Guide Dog Handlers.
  • Braille – an opportunity for users and readers of Braille to discuss the potential for a Braille Special Interest Network.
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi – members of the Board’s Advisory Group talked about the work they are doing in relation to Blind Citizens NZ’s journey to being more inclusive of everyone.

Guest presenters spoke to the theme ‘Challenging Others, Challenging Ourselves’, each bringing their thinking and experiences to the forefront, while relating these back to the purpose of their presentation. Presenters were:

  • Paul Hutcheson, mediator and facilitator;
  • Prudence Walker – Kaihautū Tika Hauātanga Disability Rights Commissioner;
  • Joy Lanini – National Manager Connections and Funding, Your Way | Kia Roha;
  • Ben O’Meara – one of six Deputy Chief Executives to the Chief Executive Whaikaha | responsible of Policy, Strategy and Partnerships;
  • Robbie Francis-Watene – Co-founder of the Lucy Foundation.
  • Clive Lansink – Chair RNZFB Board of Directors.

Award presentations are always a highlight, and this year was no different…

Beamish Memorial Medal and Bar: This is the first time in Blind Citizens NZ’s history that the Beamish Memorial Medal has been awarded to anyone a second time. A second presentation of this award will be known as the Beamish Memorial Medal and Bar.

Presentation of the Beamish Memorial Medal and Bar was made to each of Mary Schnackenberg and Clive Lansink. This recognises the respective continued outstanding contributions to society by Mary and Clive in their particular fields of service to the community.

Extra Touch Award: Metlink Public Transport | Ngā Waka

Tūmatanu is the recipient of the Extra Touch Award. This recognises their work across the disability community and with Blind Citizens NZ in particular to improve accessibility of public transport. Advocacy with Metlink Public Transport has occurred at both a national and with Wellington Branch. Following many years of advocacy Metlink are introducing across the Wellington Region Audio and Visual announcements on its bus services.

Johnston Cup for Leadership: presented to Carl Halliburton, this award recognises the contributions he has made both for and on behalf of Blind Citizens NZ. Amongst his experiences Carl has been a Board Member, he remains Chair of our Wellington Branch and is moderator of each of Blind Citizens NZ’s Blind-Discuss and Member Forum email lists. Carl’s unassuming manner are amongst factors that influence others.

Remit and Resolutions

For each of the following items, updates will be provided as progress is made.

Auckland Branch’s Remit raising concerns about Braille, and requiring the Board to commission a comprehensive, externally conducted investigation into the state of Braille in New Zealand was passed by a significant majority.

Three resolutions of significance are being progressed and in brief these relate to:

  • Guide Dog Handlers and the provision of Guide Dog Services.
  • Blind Low Vision NZ Library Service – accessing and using this service.
  • Pedestrian Crossing Safety – the variable types of pedestrian crossings and the lack of consistency of implementation of these throughout New Zealand.