ANZSOG’s blueprint for changes to New Zealand’s State Sector Act

Wellington's beehive building
  • Published Date: 30 November 2018

ANZSOG’s contribution to a major review of the legislation regulating the New Zealand public service has recommended a new approach to creating public value through innovation, improving policy quality and capability, and creating an integrity infrastructure to strengthen public trust.

The New Zealand Government is undertaking a Review of several acts covering the public service, including the State Sector Act 1988. The Act is important for articulating the overarching purpose, values, organisational arrangements and ways of working that underpin New Zealand’s system of public administration.

In announcing the Review, the New Zealand government said that current public service law was 30 years old and needed to be reviewed to help create a ‘sophisticated, compassionate and citizen-focused approach that puts the people we serve at the heart of every decision’. It said that the updated State Sector and Public Finance laws would make sure the public service had the leadership, agility and adaptability to serve the people of New Zealand, while future-proofing its democratic and constitutional principles.

ANZSOG’s submission noted that there have been several major reforms of the New Zealand public service in the last 30 years and that there was a need to review these changes and use the lessons learned to inform development of new proposals.

It recommended that new work be done in three areas:

  • Improving policy quality and capability (building on the foundations of the previous Policy Project policy improvement frameworks)
  • Creating public value through innovation (building the innovation ecosystem by drawing on existing pockets of capability, understanding organisational innovation capability, and developing an authorising environment that enables, supports and rewards public entrepreneurial behaviour including experimentation and innovation) 
  • An integrity infrastructure to build public value and strengthen public trust (broadening the approach to integrity to go beyond the focus on individual public servants and their conduct, to look at the concept of institutional integrity systems underpinning state sector institutions and the role of the Public Service overall in creating public value and public wealth). 

The submission recommends that the government should draw on existing pockets of capability to create innovation, and develop an authorising environment that enables, supports and rewards public entrepreneurial behaviour, including experimentation and innovation. This should be supplemented by a systematic research program to support ongoing innovation in the public service. 

It also recommended an ongoing research program to support innovation, and continuing investment in the skills and capability of the New Zealand public service to equip employees for the increasingly uncertain environment in which they were operating.

ANZSOG has also recommended that New Zealand develop a holistic approach to meet Treaty obligations to improve outcomes for Māori, including policy capability and responsiveness, machinery of government arrangements and building and leveraging the Māori cohort of the Public Service to improve policy capability and services responsive to Māori.

The submission also recommended that the New Zealand Government continue to engage with both public servants and the public. It said that international research had shown that the five key actors for successful public sector reform were: clarity, collaboration, co-ordination, communication, and capability. 

Read the full ANZSOG submission 

The submission has been prepared by individuals in the ANZSOG network and is not representative of a formal ANZSOG submission but has been prepared to contribute to the discussion about this important reform process. It has not been approved by the ANZSOG Board of Directors, and therefore does not reflect any official policy position of the Board or the Company.