30 April 2024

This study identified a group of survey questions developed from the Public Service Act values and OECD trust framework that together form a reliable predictor of trust in the Public Service.


New Zealand’s Public Service has a strong reputation for integrity and trust on the international stage, but it is not always clear why trust is higher here than other countries. This study builds on work started by the Canadian Institute for Citizen-Centred Service, which over time Te Kawa Mataaho | the Public Service Commission (the Commission) developed into a quarterly survey of public trust called Kiwis Count.

In this study, a new group of questions was tested to understand whether they were reliable predictors of trust in the Public Service. The questions were developed from the OECD trust framework and the Public Service Act 2020. The predictive ability of a scale created from the new questions was tested using a hierarchical regression model. This demonstrated that the new questions are predictive of trust in the Public Service even when controlling for age, gender, income, ethnicity, and education level.  

This work helps the Commission monitor progress on improving services to New Zealanders. Regularly asking the public about the drivers of trust also helps to identify issues and intervene, thereby improving the responsiveness and reliability of services.  

Authors: Sarah Kirkham, Aidan Smith, Paul Vance - Strategic Information Team
Publisher: Te Kawa Mataaho | Public Service Commission
Format: Journal article
Date published: January 2024


Citizens need to be able to trust public agencies, and the people working in those agencies, to do the right thing, be fair, honest, impartial, responsible, and to act with integrity. At the same time, governments need citizens to abide by the rule of law, pay taxes and participate in society by voting and engaging in civic activities. In this way, trust is a two-way street. It supports social cohesion and is vital to the effective operation and legitimacy of the Public Service.

The purpose of the New Zealand Public Service is to: support constitutional and democratic government, enable both the current Government and successive governments to develop and implement their policies, deliver high-quality and efficient public services, support the Government to pursue the long-term public interest, facilitate active citizenship, and act in accordance with the law (Public Service Act 2020 Section 11).

The Public Service Act also identifies principles (politically neutral, open government, stewardship, merit-based appointments, free and frank advice) that underpin the cultural expectations of government employees and organisations. The Act also names the public service values: impartial, accountable, trustworthy, respectful, and responsive. The extent to which these describe the behaviour of individual public servants is unknown, but at a minimum these are expectations that are widely acknowledged and now codified in legislation. These principles are the basis on which trust is built.

New Zealand’s Public Service has a strong reputation for integrity and trust on the international stage. This high standing is evident with New Zealand ranking among the leading jurisdictions for trust and confidence in the Public Service and government, for example in the Corruption Index from Transparency International, OECD Trust Survey, and European Institute of Public Administration International Benchmarking Study. The Public Service Commission has also been measuring trust of New Zealanders for the past 17 years.