Agencies meet to coordinate their respective work in areas where they have a common interest and each has resources. May be led by the agency considered to have the primary interest.

The basics

  • When to use this tool

    • Various agencies contribute (for example, align activities)
    • Problems that do not involve significant trade-offs of agency versus collective interests
    • Help required by other agencies is manageable within baselines and alongside existing priorities
    • Low-cost model
    • One agency mostly responsible (may use ‘lead agency’ variation)
  • How to agree goals/outcomes

    • Cross-agency groups form common definitions/ descriptions of shared customer/result or
    • A single ‘lead agency’ takes responsibility for a customer/result/outcome (agreed with ministers)
  • Governance model required

    • Cross-agency groups for cooperation and coordination only — no collective decision-making authority
  • Ministerial relationships required

    • Separate reporting to each relevant portfolio minister
  • Incentives required 

    • No deep trade-offs between agency and collective interests
    • Agencies responsible for own activities or
    • Lead agency responsible/ accountable for overall result
  • How to manage the funding

    • Agencies fund own activities from baseline

About this model

This model is primarily used for coordination where each agency’s separate goals can be supported by alignment to a shared purpose. The cross-agency goal is agreed between participating chief executives and/or relevant ministers. Generally cooperation or coordination is supported through interdepartmental governance and working groups at each level with little resource sharing. The role of cross-agency groups depends on the goal but is likely to involve aligning, coordinating, brokering and/or surfacing conflicting functions/responsibilities across contributing departments. It requires strong working relationships and trust between partners.

Accountability for contributions is individual and vertical through participating agencies via their chief executives to individual ministers. Where a ‘lead agency’ takes primary responsibility for coordinating activity, the CE and minister of the primary agency has responsibility for the quality of advice relating to the shared activity.

This model is commonly used for short-term policy development and advice, but it is also used for longer-term standing arrangements. It can be used as an effective ‘clearing house’ for shared or overlapping problems. This model is appropriate for organising around shared problems that may involve a lot of agencies as the gains from having more participants outweigh the potential efficiency of having fewer.

Limitations of this model are largely around the informality of the arrangements and often the reliance on key individuals’ attention. Because there are few formal arrangements or funding issues this model can be implemented reasonably quickly and at little cost, but it does rely on the voluntary participation of members.

Case Study: Natural Resources Sector (2008–)

The Natural Resources Sector (NRS) is a grouping of central government agencies responsible for the management and stewardship of New Zealand’s natural resources. The NRS was established in 2008 to ensure that, across government agencies, a strategic, integrated and aligned approach is taken to natural resources development and management. The NRS is headed by the chief executives of 8 agencies (chaired by the Ministry for the Environment’s Chief Executive), who act as a leadership team for delivering the Government’s natural resources work programme in central government. These agencies are:

  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)
  • Ministry for the Environment (MFE)
  • Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
  • Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
  • Department of Conservation (DOC)
  • Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK)
  • Department of Internal Affairs (DIA)
  • Ministry of Transport (MoT).

The NRS is supported by the Treasury, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission.

NRS agencies work together on a comprehensive work programme to provide high-quality multi-disciplinary policy advice, based on broad and durable perspectives of complex and difficult natural resource issues. The Ministry for the Environment houses the jointly funded Support Unit, which drives the strategic direction and oversight of the work programme on behalf of the NRS. The NRS Support Unit:

  • supports the work programme
  • takes a sector view on priority issues
  • champions collaboration and common approaches across the NRS.

Natural Resources: Briefing with incoming ministers —

Natural Resources: Estimates by Sector, 19 May 2022 — Budget 2022