Wellington Scoop

Shake-up for Public Service – it’ll be modernised to tackle big issues

News from NZ Government
Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins today announced the most significant changes to the New Zealand Public Service since the State Sector Act of 1988.

The State Sector Act 1988 will be repealed and replaced with a new Public Service Act. This will underpin a modernising of the Public Service for the good of New Zealanders and make it easier to tackle the biggest challenges facing the Government of the day, Chris Hipkins said.

Under the changes, boards made up of chief executives from relevant government agencies will be established to tackle the most pressing issues. These boards, or joint ventures, would be accountable to a single minister and receive direct budget appropriations. Public servants from across the system will be deployed as required.

“The public service is operating in a fast changing and unpredictable context where major social, demographic and technology driven changes are reshaping the world as we know it,” Chris Hipkins said.

“When it comes to the really big and complex challenges it doesn’t work anymore to put a single agency on the job. These reforms will make groups of chief executives jointly accountable for delivering on complex government priorities. This can’t happen under the current Act.”

The new Act:
• brings genuine whole-of-government action – shifting agencies from working as single departments to working as one, unified public service, to quickly mobilise and tackle specific issues, such as reducing child poverty, mental health services, climate change and the future of work,
• means leaders in the Public Service take collective responsibility, rather than individual agencies, to tackle the country’s big challenges,
• allows public servants to be deployed as required to work on single-issue challenges,
• acknowledges a ‘spirit of service’ is fundamental to the Public Service and embed cherished public service principles to the community, political neutrality, free and frank advice and merit-based appointments.
Chris Hipkins said the shift to a single, unified public service approach would be complemented by cultural change. The new Act will acknowledge that a ‘spirit of service to the community’ is fundamental to the Public Service. Long-held principles and values of the Public Service would also be embedded into the new Act.

“Principles such as political neutrality, free and frank advice, and merit-based appointments are important I believe these changes will have a unifying effect on the Public Service.

“They help safeguard the constitutional conventions governing the public service, promote ethical conduct, and enable cross-agency collaboration on services and outcomes for New Zealanders.”

In another important change, the Act will recognise the responsibility of the Public Service – including Crown Agents – to support the Crown to fulfil its responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi.

“This is another clear signal that we are serious about our commitment to our treaty partners,” Chris Hipkins said.

“What is good for Māori is good for New Zealand. The country is stronger when we improve outcomes for Māori.”

A Public Service Bill will be drafted and introduced to Parliament in the second half of 2019.


  1. Harry M, 26. June 2019, 16:28

    If the respective Public service suppliers and providers actually provided those services adhering to the meaning and spirit of the respective Acts, new legislation would be redundant. The challenges we are experiencing in say Housing, Health and Social development are due to the failures of the respective ministers and CEs (in my opinion) .

  2. Donald T., 26. June 2019, 16:37

    All part of NZ’s climate change emergency?

  3. Curtis Antony Nixon, 26. June 2019, 17:23

    Include a provision that requires staff in core public services to be New Zealand citizens. That way the government would be forced to train and pay New Zealanders enough to want to be doctors, nurses, teachers and so on, working in New Zealand.

    This is not an anti-immigrant proposal. The private sector is wide open to immigrants, and it only takes five years of residency and some other requirements like speaking English to gain citizenship.

    There would need to be exemptions for certain positions – I would suggest Chief Executives, some subject area specialists, military secondments etc.

  4. Harry M, 27. June 2019, 6:03

    The Govt priorities are not always the people’s priorities such as social welfare and health cuts. All current governing legislation for public service already has the “spirit of service” written into it. And yet in my experience this purpose does not seem to stop the Govt’s Ministries and CEs from ignoring the legislation. It made sense to have specialized service providers so someone from HUD or WINZ is not providing complex health services etc.
    The challenges are not big and complex, they stem from govt priorities, inattention and the funding cuts.

  5. michael, 27. June 2019, 9:28

    We need regulation to achieve openness, transparency and co-operation between government departments? Why am I not surprised.


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