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Public Service undergoes biggest shake-up in 30 years
26 June 2019
Public Service undergoes biggest shake-up in 30 years
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The State Sector Act 1988 will be repealed and replaced with a new Public Service Act.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.
 
More information is here.