Mai i te Kaikōmihana o Te Kawa Mataaho | Foreword by Peter Hughes, State Services Commissioner

We’re releasing He Ārahitanga Pōtitanga Whānui | General Election Guidance 2020 in extraordinary times.

In response to COVID-19, the Government has imposed a range of measures to restrict and eliminate the spread of COVID-19. This will continue to have an impact on the business of government and the lives of New Zealanders over the coming year. The State services’ mission is to serve the government of the day, and all New Zealanders, in a way that upholds their trust and confidence – and that will not change.

Later this year, our country will go to the polls. General elections are vital to our democratic form of government. It is important to publish this guidance to support the State services to do the right thing during the election period.

If any of the processes described in this guidance alters due to the State services’ ongoing response to COVID-19, or for any other reason, we will update the guidance and communicate the changes.

I want to briefly highlight one of the things this guidance makes clear: State servants have the same rights to freedom of speech and political activity in their private lives as other New Zealanders.

The Public Service Legislation Bill, currently before Parliament, explicitly acknowledges that public servants have all the rights and freedoms affirmed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Along with these rights and freedoms, the Bill enshrines the principle of political neutrality, along with free and frank advice, open government, merit-based appointment and stewardship. It aims to recognise and preserve these principles for the State services of today and for future generations.

I encourage State servants to take the time to read this guidance and think about how it might apply to them. We all have a role to play to ensure the integrity of our electoral process and the smooth transition between one government and the next.

Just as with the COVID-19 response, it is important that, over the election period, the State services continues to support the elected government with robust and impartial advice, sound business decision-making and effective delivery of services.

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