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Category Finance
Type Policy
Approved by Vice-Chancellor, 14 May 2012
Date Policy Took Effect 1 August 2012
Last approved revision 4 September 2014
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Responsible officer Director, Pacific Development


In keeping with the University's commitment to strengthening its ties with Pacific communities both within New Zealand and in the Pacific region, this policy seeks to provide clarity around gifting practices and procedures for University representatives interacting with Pacific peoples in Pacific cultural contexts.

Gifting  is an integral part of many Pacific cultures, and occupies a position similar to that of koha within Māori culture.  Gifting occurs in a number of contexts, including interactions with/between Pacific individuals, churches, groups, organisations, and communities. Gifting is understood and practised as a reciprocal gesture (money or payment in kind) whereby an unconditional gift is bestowed upon a recipient who has neither stipulated that it be given, nor has any expectation of receiving it. Reciprocity and unconditionality are implicit in Pacific gifting  (Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs Koha/Mea Alofa Policy (2008), p. 3).

'Gifting' as used here reflects a variety of similar, though discrete, Pacific customs: mea alofa in Samoa; me'a 'ofa in Tonga; apinga aroa in the Cook Islands; mea aloha in Tokelau; foaki mena fakaalofa in Niue; sevusevu in Fiji.

Organisational scope

This is a University-wide policy that applies to all staff/students representing the University in Pacific cultural contexts within New Zealand and the wider Pacific region.


For the purposes of this policy, the University of Otago defines gifting as the presentation of an unconditional, spontaneous gift that is given in acknowledgement of unsolicited services or as acknowledgement of cultural respect. Such gifts will:

  • be in the form of cash, vouchers or in-kind gifts, as deemed appropriate;
  • be given to external person(s) or non-profit community groups who provide support, or undertake a one-off activity and expect non-payment for such activity or support in return;
  • not be given in lieu of salary or as a payment for service(s) provided;
  • not be given by the University to University of Otago employees.


1. Procedure for determining University representation at Pacific cultural gatherings where gifting may be appropriate (funerals, fono, etc.)

a. Where staff or students are planning to attend a Pacific cultural gathering at which they consider University representation may be appropriate, they should notify their Manager/Supervisor/Head of Department before attending the event.

b. In considering whether University representation is appropriate, the Manager/Supervisor/Head of Department shall consider the importance of the event to the University.  In the case of a funeral, they may consider with respect to the deceased:

  • significance and/or prominence within the community;
  • prominence and/or standing in the local or national tertiary sector; and/or
  • association with the University of Otago.

c. If the University is to be formally represented, consideration shall be given to the level of staff and/or students who should attend. In some cases senior University representation (i.e. Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, etc.) will be required.

d. If there is difficulty in determining the standing, and significance to the University, of the gathering, or the appropriate level of representation, advice should be sought from Divisional Pacific Leaders and/or the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), which may consult with the University's Pacific leadership as appropriate.

e. If it is deemed that attendance by staff and/or students will be in a personal capacity, then any gift will be the responsibility of the staff/students concerned.

2. Other circumstances where gifting may be appropriate

Gifts, as defined in clauses 4 and 5, may be given to external Pacific non-profit community groups and individuals (non-University employees) in certain circumstances. This may include acknowledging a Pacific individual, family or non-profit community group who:

  1. support/lead a University welcome or farewell, or the opening or closing of a conference or fono;
  2. directly support University research projects (through the provision of culture-specific knowledge and/or ethnicity-specific data);
  3. directly support University teaching and learning (through the provision of culture-specific knowledge, including hosting students on cultural immersion programmes);
  4. give support at a University-organised event such as the opening and/or blessing of a new building;
  5. participate where prominent Pacific guests are welcomed by local Pacific communities at the request of the University of Otago.

3. Authorisation procedure for gifting

  1. Notification should be made by the staff member to their Manager/Supervisor prior to gifting, of the intention to provide a gift. The staff member will also provide:
    1. brief explanation of the reason for the gift; and
    2. the date of the event;
    3. details of who the gift will be made to;
    4. details of the nature/amount of the proposed gift (i.e. whether cash, voucher or in-kind gift).
  2. The Manager/Supervisor will then make a recommendation, for the presentation of a gift, to their Divisional Head who may approve the gift if it is consistent with this policy.

4.Administration procedures for gifts

a. Cash gifts

Following approval of the gift, as described above, the staff member should present to the Accounts Manager, Financial Services, a copy of documentation as detailed in 3a, along with the authorisation of their Divisional Head.

The Accounts Manager, Financial Services will arrange for the cash to be collected.

Note: PCards are not to be used for cash advances for gifting.

b. Non-cash gifts (vouchers, in-kind gifts, etc.)

Following approval of the gift, as described above, the staff member should present to their Divisional Finance or Administration Manager a copy of documentation as detailed 3(a), along with the authorisation of their Divisional Head.

The Finance or Administration Manager will arrange for a purchase order to be completed for the purchase of the gift.

All payments determined as gifting under this policy will not be liable for FBT or PAYE.

5. Recommended amounts for gifts

While limitations are essential, a degree of flexibility is retained so gifting can occur in a way that appropriately recognises the status of the relationship being acknowledged through the gift.

For most of the gifting situations described in Sections 1 and 2 above, the following guidelines would apply.

a. Pacific cultural gatherings, non-profit community groups, families and individuals

Gifts made by University of Otago representatives at Pacific cultural gatherings would normally range from NZ$20 to NZ$200 in value, and would typically comprise food, vouchers (food or petrol), or an appropriate gift (books, for example).

b. Funerals

Gifts for funerals would normally range from NZ$50 to NZ$200 in value.  The gift would comprise a cash component (which is culturally appropriate across the Pacific region), and might also include a gift of food, or food vouchers, or flowers.

c. Exceptions

  1. For events at which the University is represented by a senior management delegation (State funerals for example), an appropriate gift would be provided under the advisement of the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International).
  2. For periods of extended engagement with non-profit Pacific community groups in the Pacific Islands (for research, in particular), gifting amounts would be itemised and approved as part of the research budget proposal.

6. Further Advice on University Representation and Gifting

If there are any issues in determining the level of representation or an appropriate gift for a situation, further advice should be sought from Divisional Pacific Leaders and/or the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

For further information about this policy, contact:

The Director, Pacific Development

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