17 April 2024

Did you know that more than half of all New Zealand’s public servants are based outside of Wellington?

Yes, about 55.5% of public servants work outside the capital.

So where are they based? And what kinds of jobs are they doing to serve and support New Zealanders?

Let’s take a tour. 

Firstly, what is a public servant?

The term ‘public servant’ is usually used to refer to those employed in our core Public Service institutions. Most have ‘ministry’ or ‘department’ in their name – things like the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, and Department of Conservation. There are 65,699 FTEs in departments and departmental agencies as at 31 December 2023. 

As well as the above, the Public Service also includes 27 Crown Agents - organisations such as ACC, the Earthquake Commission, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand. But the term ‘public servant’ is also commonly used to refer to any person ‘paid out of public money’, which covers any of the roughly 462,000 FTEs working in the wider public sector – including police officers and Defence personnel, teachers and nurses. 

For this article we’ll stick to the first definition, unless otherwise stated.

Te Whanganui-a-Tara | Wellington

Yes, let’s start with the capital. Because there are still a lot of public servants in the Wellington region – about 28,000 FTEs or 44.5% of the total.

They occupy a wide range of roles – delivering front-line services to New Zealanders and office-based work to support the Government.

The latter roles reflect the important work public servants do in providing advice to Ministers on how to implement their policies, managing finances and information, as well as things like administration.

To see the Public Service and public sector workforce by region, check out our Workforce data.

Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland

The Public Service has about 13,000 FTEs based in the City of Sails – the largest number outside of Wellington.

And if you look at the wider public sector, then Auckland has the largest proportion of the public workforce (44,800 FTEs in the education sector, 31,800 in the health sector).

All up, Auckland has about 30% of our central government employees.

New Zealand Customs Service border patrol team.

In the regions

Public servants are based in communities from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South.

For example, at our latest count there were 1,614 FTEs in Northland, 472 in Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay (1,443), Nelson (451), Otago (1,526), and Southland (662). The full count is on our Workforce Data – Regional workforce page.

In addition, 12 Regional Public Service Commissioners have been appointed across New Zealand to cover 15 regions.

They are tasked with planning and delivery of wellbeing outcomes in their regions, plus ensuring there is regional alignment and national-level input where needed to get good outcomes for communities.

Find out more about our Regional Public Service Commissioners.

Ministry for Primary Industries Forest and Land Use Advisor out in the field.

Around the world

Our public servants are present on every continent, often working in roles related to diplomacy, trade and security.

For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has staff based in dozens of capitals and major cities around the world. Diplomats and embassy staff actively promote and protect New Zealand's interests overseas, plus aid and development teams promote prosperity and stability offshore, with a particular focus on the Pacific Islands.

Then there’s officials from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helping Kiwi businesses to grow internationally.

And the Public Service Fale which supports 16 Pacific Public Service Commissioners to achieve their goals and deliver quality public services for the people of the Pacific. 

In the wider public sector, Members of the NZ Police and Defence Force are often based offshore, with about 200-250 NZDF personnel deployed on overseas operations each year.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Afghanistan Response in 2021.



Antarctica New Zealand is the government agency responsible for carrying out New Zealand's activities in Antarctica, supporting world leading science and environmental protection.

They work to ensure Antarctica's environment continues to be protected, that scientists are supported to find the answers to complex scientific questions, and science outcomes are communicated back to policy makers and the public.

Antarctica New Zealand. Photograph by Al Chapman, Antarctica New Zealand.

In space

Well, sort of. Ok, not really.

But we do have our own dedicated space agency. Set up in 2016 by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the New Zealand Space Agency is the lead government agency for space policy, regulation and sector development.

They do things like support rocket launches, support space-related science and innovation, regulate the use of space from New Zealand, and develop space policy and strategy.

What’s more, they offer - along with NASA - a number of internship and scholarship opportunities.

In short, these public servants are doing some pretty amazing work.

Ok, where can I find available jobs?

Easy, just go to jobs.govt.nz.

There you'll find a handy tool that makes it simple to search for jobs using keywords, locations and categories. Just choose your parameters and you will see a list of jobs that match your preferences.

You can also visit our Working in the Public Service page for information about joining us, developing your career, and seeing what opportunities we have for you right across the country, overseas and perhaps one day, in space.


Note: This article was originally published in August 2023. It is updated each quarter with the latest data.

Working in the Public Service


People sign up to the Public Service because they want to make a difference. Working in the Public Service will give you opportunities, challenges, and the ability to develop an exciting career. 

Find out more