A frontier bureaucracy: 1840-1912
The Public Service Act 1912 and Robertson 1912-1920
Roller-Coaster Years: 1920-1935
A new broom and war: 1935-1949
Struggles for equality: 1949-1963
End of the golden weather: 1963-1971
A tightening of belts: 1972-1984
Age of reform: 1984-1998
Moving on: 1998-2012
Conclusion: Towards 2050
Iain Rennie, State Services Commissioner – Head of State Services
As we look back over the years (100 to be exact) we observe the many changes that our State Services Commission (SSC) has not only been through, but been instrumental in bringing about. While it is important for us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the goals ahead, it is equally important to understand and appreciate the journey that has brought us here.
On 7 November 1912, the Public Service Act was passed by Parliament, ensuring merit-based, non-political appointments to civil service jobs. In 1913 the first Public Service Commissioner (as he was referred to then) Donald Robertson was appointed. During his tenure Robertson introduced a series of processes and protocols surrounding staff employment that would largely remain in place for 75 years and lay the foundation for the culture of our Public Service.
Nearly 50 years later, in 1961, the Holyoake Government set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the State Services Commission to review and assess its performance and report back on possible areas of improvement.
In between there was a lot going on, and this souvenir booklet covers most of it, not least of which has included the development and enactment of legislative changes and reforms, such as: the 1962 State Services Act (an update of the original 1912 Act), the 1969 State Services Remuneration and Conditions of Service Act and the 1977 State Services Conditions of Employment Act – the forerunner to our current 1988 State Sector Act that has been central in reforming State sector management in New Zealand.
Over time the New Zealand Public Service has faced many challenges, and often been adept at turning challenges into opportunities. The 2008 global financial crisis and ensuing recession is a good example, and closer to home, the Canterbury earthquakes that first struck in 2010. Both of these events, whilst devastating in their own ways, have also highlighted a number of opportunities for innovative thinking in the Public Service. Not only for taking a fresh look at what we do and thinking about what’s important to New Zealanders, but taking action that will make a real difference to people’s lives.
Over the last century our State Services Commission, and the public sector, have had to change and adapt to meet the ever changing needs of New Zealanders. They have done this while providing transparency, taking accountability and working hard to deliver better public services that will make a real difference to people. At the same time they have had to be ever mindful of changes to the global economic environment.
The Commission continues to adapt, grow, innovate, support, advise and strive to be operationally flexible in an ever changing environment. It is the enduring resolve and spirit of kiwis to do right by their country and their people that makes us proud – not only of what has been achieved, but what is yet to come.
It is not only a responsibility, but a great privilege to lead a State sector that New Zealand is proud of.