Written on 6 July 2017 by Peter Hughes

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I recently visited the Auckland Policy Office to check out how it’s getting on with addressing the many challenges that face our biggest city. 

It was great to be able to wander around and chat with the public servants who have the job of dealing with the issues that matter most for Auckland.

The APO is a new way of working for all of us.  There has been a lot said about collaboration, and the need to work together across agency boundaries in order to drive change.  In Auckland we’re starting to see what that actually looks like.

We’re confronted in Auckland by a belief that central government is irrelevant.  Even though its citizens might interact with public services every day, central government is seen as a Wellington thing that is distant and faceless.  Something they’re never likely to need or even think about.

Aucklanders live every day with clogged roads and a shortage of affordable housing.  All the while more and more people arrive, further overloading services.  They’re longstanding challenges that we need to make further progress on.

The APO provides an opportunity to show our relevance because, of course, we are very involved in the future of Auckland.  There are 100,000 people working in state services in Auckland.  Government is the biggest business in town.  Our challenge as public servants is to work together with a common purpose to improve the services Aucklanders rely on.

Getting central services organised around a single entity like the APO will have its benefits.  It will break down silos, and help with branding and recruitment.  For someone wanting to work in the policy field in Auckland, central government becomes a viable career option if we’re seen to have an effective presence in the city.

Public service CEs and Auckland Council executives met last October and agreed to pursue a single plan for Auckland.  Having a workforce organised around delivery of that plan will ensure there is a system-wide focus on the city.  The approach of organising around needs and not the agendas of individual agencies is the thinking behind the South Auckland Social Investment Board.  By joining up the expertise of relevant agencies and also local decision-makers, the needs of at-risk children and their families are put at the centre of service provision.

Such an approach will be the key to better connecting central government with the rest of Auckland too.


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