The Government has decided to change the statutory framework governing New Zealand’s Public Service.

Following the public consultation last year, Cabinet has approved making changes to the State Sector Act 1988. These decisions will help deliver better outcomes and services for New Zealanders by:

  • creating a modern, agile and adaptive Public Service
  • affirming the constitutional role of the Public Service in supporting New Zealand’s democratic form of government.

Major decisions are grouped in the five areas that will enable the Public Service to join up services around New Zealanders’ needs, secure public trust and confidence and ensure it remains well placed to service New Zealand in the future. They are:

  • A unified Public Service
  • Te Ao Tūmatanui - Strengthening the Māori/Crown relationship
  • Employment and Workforce
  • Leadership of the Public Service
  • Organisations of the Public Service

A Public Service Bill will be drafted and introduced to Parliament in the second half of 2019. The legislative process will take some months.

As part of the proposed changes, the State Sector Act 1988 will be repealed and replaced with the new Public Service Act.

As part of the regulatory change process, Cabinet requires agencies to undertake an analysis of the impact of the proposed changes and provide the impact statement for Cabinet consideration. This helps ensure that the proposed reforms are as effective as possible. Read more here. The State Services Commission’s impact statement on the State Sector Act reform can be read here.

An overview of major decisions

An overview of all proposals being considered in the reform is contained in the Cabinet paper An Overview of Proposals. Major decisions are listed below.

A unified Public Service

Proposed law changes will:

  • help create a unified Public Service with a common purpose, upholding foundational principles and displaying affirmed values
  • make appropriate officials (e.g., chief executives) responsible for upholding the principles
  • acknowledge “a spirit of service” as fundamental to the Public Service
  • reaffirm the term ‘the Public Service’ to include Crown agents.

Read more in the Cabinet paper “A Unified Public Service” released in June 2019.

Te Ao Tūmatanui - Strengthening the Māori /Crown relationship

The changes will support:

  • engagement, participation of and partnership with Māori
  • delivering services that are responsive, accessible and work for Māori and whānau
  • improving workforce composition and capability
  • collective responsibility for a culturally competent Public Service that delivers with and for Māori
  • Māori are supported in leadership and decision-making roles
  • recognising the responsibility of the Public Service – including Crown Agents – to enable/support the Crown to fulfil its responsibilities under the Treaty.

Read more in the Cabinet paper “Te Ao Tūmatanui / Our commitment to improving the public service’s responsiveness to Māori” released in June 2019.

Employment and Workforce

The provisions cover:

  • employees being appointed to the Public Service, at the same time as being employed by departmental chief executives
  • broadening the Public Service Commissioner’s delegation powers for collective agreement negotiations, including pay equity
  • State sector-wide government workforce policy statements that set out government expectations, for example in pay equity, diversity, development, and the portability of service-related entitlements
  • improving inclusiveness and workforce diversity by explicitly recognising its value, making chief executives responsible to promote appropriate workplace policies and practices, and assigning the Commissioner to lead, support and report on inclusivity and diversity
  • portability of annual leave entitlements to aid career mobility across departments.

Read more in the Cabinet paper “Public Service Employment and Workforce Proposal” released in June 2019.

Leadership of the Public Service

New legislative provisions to support this system-focused leadership include:

  • establishing a Public Service Leadership Team (PSLT) of chief executives. This will work as an executive team to support a unified Public Service. It will be led by the Public Service Commissioner
  • strengthening leadership of the centre through the proposed Public Service Commission
  • senior leaders’ strategy that develops a strong group of senior leaders who can lead or move across boundaries and take a broad range of experience and skills into chief executive roles in the future. This will develop the role of the existing Public Service Leaders Group
  • creating functional chief executives and other mechanisms to lead system improvement.

Read more in the Cabinet paper “Leadership of the Public Service” released in June 2019.

Organisations of the Public Service

The new system-design provisions allow for:

  • interdepartmental executive boards that support joined-up planning and budgeting and/or policy alignment on a complex cross-cutting issue
  • two different types of Public Service joint ventures – the interdepartmental venture, and the joint operational arrangement – that support joined-up, agile service delivery and joint resource management, including assets and staff
  • a more flexible departmental agency model.

Read more in the Cabinet paper “Organisations of the Public Service” released in June 2019


Alongside the system-level State Sector Act legislative changes, there is also work to improve how government agencies organise themselves in the regions.

The Public Service in the Regions

Changes include:

  • Shifting organisational boundaries (agency jurisdictions) to a more common basis built around communities of interest, reflecting territorial authority boundaries in general.
  • Driving change through the designation of regional leaders to provide system leadership. They will have the mana and mandate for convening cross-agency decision making forums.
  • Communicating public service focus areas through regional profiles and priorities for the whole Public Service. This will be developed with leaders within local government, iwi, business and community groups.
  • Developing shared property and IT models to support the operation of regional offices and the greater integration of services for communities.

Read more in the Cabinet paper “A More Joined-Up Approach to the Regional Arm of Government, starting with the Skills and Social Sectors” released in June 2019.

State Sector Act 1988 reform legislative timeline

SSAR Diagram Timeline

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