A unified Public Service

Factsheet 2 A unified Public Service (224KB | PDF)

A unified Public Service that acts as a single team, with a spirit of service to the community, will lead to more joined-up and better services for all New Zealanders.

Ngā whakataunga matua
Major decisions

Proposed law changes will:

  • help create a unified Public Service with a common purpose, upholding foundational principles and displaying affirmed values
  • make appropriate officials (eg, 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 (for the purposes above).

Ka pēhea mō ngā kaimahi kāwanatanga
What it means for public servants

New legislation will affirm and clarify the common purpose, and bedrock principles and values for all public servants. This will capture why the Public Service exists and how it fits into New Zealand’s system of government, the five foundational Public Service principles, and ideal behaviours that support the integrity of the public service.

Strengthening the shared identity of public servants is aimed at bringing them closer together in the goal of serving New Zealanders, regardless of which agency they work in.

This will include Crown agents, many of which are already providing core public services in areas like health, education, transport and housing. They already give effect to government policy and often need to work closely with other Public Service agencies.

Joined-up core Public Service delivery agencies will help drive the cultural shift to build a unified Public Service, able to quickly mobilise across the sector to tackle specific issues that improve living standards and New Zealanders’ wellbeing.

Ngā pātai me ngā whakautu
Questions and answers

What is the common purpose of the Public Service?

There are several components, including:

  • to enable the government of the day to develop and implement their policies
  • to support constitutional and democratic government
  • to deliver high-quality and efficient public services
  • to support the government to pursue the long-term public interest
  • to facilitate active citizenship.

What are the five public service principles?

The five principles are: political neutrality, free and frank advice to Ministers, merit-based appointment, open government and stewardship.

What are the values?

The five values are: impartial, accountable, ethical, respectful, and responsive.

What is the difference between principles and values?

The principles are fundamental features of the way in which the Public Service operates, inherited through New Zealand’s Westminster system of government.

The values describe necessary behaviours of public servants to maintain the integrity of the Public Service.

Why put a common purpose, principles and values for the Public Service into law?

It preserves them and underscores how important they are. Providing a stronger understanding of what is expected is aimed at influencing public servant behaviours.

Who is responsible for upholding the principles?

Public Service chief executives and boards of Crown agents will ensure the principles are followed in their agencies. The Public Service Commissioner will issue guidance on what the principles and values mean for public servants.

What happens if someone breaches a value?

The Public Service Commissioner’s guidance on the values would be binding on public servants as terms of their employment. Behaviours inconsistent with the guidance would be addressed through employment management processes.

Why are Crown agents now included in the Public Service?

Of the Crown entities, Crown agents are closest to government. They give effect to government policy, include core public facing service delivery, and often need to work closely with current Public Service departments to deliver public services. It makes sense for all Crown agents and Public Service agencies to be unified under a common purpose, values, and principles.

What does this mean for Crown agents?

It is proposed that Crown agents be bound by the same purpose, principles and values as other public service departments. Including Crown agents in the public service for this purpose will also help to strengthen the shared identity between public services.

Which organisations are in the Crown agents’ group?

There are 46. They include all 20 district health boards, ACC, Housing New Zealand, New Zealand Transport Agency, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Tertiary Education Commission, and PHARMAC.

Will the legal status or decision-making powers of Crown agents change?

No. This is about strengthening the shared identity and underlying behavioural foundations of all public servants – regardless of where they work. It’s aimed at bringing them closer together in the goal of serving New Zealanders.

When are these new provisions expected to be law?

It’s expected these provisions will come into law by the end of 2020, subject to the legislative process.

For more information on the Public Service reforms please go to the SSC website.

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