Parliament passes Bill to reform public service

Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins said today’s passing of the Public Service Legislation Bill will deliver the most significant change in the public service in 30 years.

The new Public Service Act, which repeals and replaces the State Sector Act 1988, is more citizen-focused and will make it easier for the public service to tackle the biggest challenges facing Governments.

“We saw the Public Service at its best in the immediate response to COVID-19, as is often the case in times of crisis,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The changes in this Bill lock in and expand the thinking and practices of collaboration that this government has been championing.

“It is no longer possible for any one single agency to fix the really big and complex problems New Zealand faces today. Policy and operational silos take you only so far. 

“The State Sector Act 1988 was designed for its time and since then there have been major social, economic and technological changes, many of them on a global scale.

“The new Act gives the public service the tools and organisational agility to work together to tackle the most challenging, inter-generational issues and deliver services in ways that work best for New Zealanders.

“The naming of the Act itself also signals a shift in focus, placing a clear emphasis on service to New Zealand individuals and communities as the key focus and motivation for all public service agencies and activities,” Chris Hipkins said.

The new Act:

  • provides a more flexible set of options for how the Public Service can organise itself to better respond to specific priorities
  • allows public servants to move between agencies more easily
  • clearly establishes the purpose, principles, and values of an apolitical Public Service, as well as its role in government formation
  • supports the Crown in its commitment to and its relationship with Māori
  • strengthens leadership across the Public Service and, in particular, provides for system and future focused leadership, and
  • shifts the focus from state services to public services, changing the name of the State Services Commission to the Public Service Commission.

“Under the changes, boards – made up of a number of chief executives from relevant government agencies – could be established to tackle the most pressing cross-portfolio issues. These boards, or joint ventures, would be accountable to a single Minister and receive direct budget appropriations.

“Long-held principles and values of the public service - political neutrality, free and frank advice, and merit-based appointments – are embedded into the new Act,” Chris Hipkins said.