Reform of public service a step closer

  • Hon Chris Hipkins
State Services

Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins today introduced into Parliament a Bill that will make it easier for the public service to tackle the biggest challenges facing Governments.

The Bill represents the most significant change in the public service in 30 years. The State Sector Act 1988 will be repealed and replaced with a new Public Service Act.

“The current Act has reached the limit of what it can achieve,” Chris Hipkins said.

“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.  

“It is no longer possible for a single agency to fix the really big and complex problems New Zealand faces today.

“While the current Act has provided some benefits to efficiency and effectiveness at the agency level, it can no longer support the way modern public services need to be delivered,” 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 and to deliver services in a more convenient way   
  • allows public servants to move between agencies more easily
  • strengthens leadership across the Public Service and, in particular, provides for system and future focused leadership
  • supports the Crown in its commitment to and relationship with Māori, and
  • clearly establishes the purpose, principles, and values of an apolitical Public Service, as well as its role in government formation.

Under the changes, boards, made up of chief executives from relevant government agencies, could 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 Bill builds on successes of the past, is more citizen focused and future proofs the public service,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Long-held principles and values of the public service - political neutrality, free and frank advice, and merit-based appointments - will be embedded into the new Act.

“These changes will ensure the public service operates with integrity and continues to earn the trust, confidence and respect of New Zealanders,” Chris Hipkins said.