31 October 2023

The Public Service cannot operate without the trust and confidence of the people we serve.

He mea tino whaitake te ngākau pono me whakawhirinaki mai a te iwi whānui Why we care about trust and confidence

The Public Service exists to serve New Zealand and can only do so if the relationship is positive and built on trust.

Trust is the foundation the legitimacy of public institutions and a functioning democratic system rests on. Trust in the Public Service encourages people to engage in democratic and consultation processes, help inform the design of effective services, and participate in tackling complex problems. It is crucial for maintaining social cohesion and driving better outcomes for the future.

New Zealand has an enviable international reputation for its impartial, trusted public service. Public servants work hard every day delivering vital services earning the trust and confidence of New Zealanders.

Trust and confidence cannot be taken for granted. We need to keep working hard to build and maintain it, because without public trust the Public Service loses its social licence to operate.

What drives trust

Responsiveness, and integrity are key trust drivers. Responsive services are essential to building trust — if we aren’t meeting people’s needs, they won’t trust us. We know that trust is not only about what an individual has experienced, but also about what their family, social network and wider community have experienced. 

Kiwis Count

We’ve also got to act with integrity and be in the job to help people — these are key aspects that build trust. Public servants uphold long-held principles that guide their work: politically neutral, free and frank advice, merit-based appointments, open government and stewardship.

Principles and values 

The fundamental characteristic, and driving force, behind the Public Service is acting with a spirit of service to the community. We know that making a positive contribution to society is the most common reason people join the Public Service. The spirit of service is what unites us.

Spirit of Service

As part of an ongoing programme of work supporting trust in government, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) selected New Zealand for a country study to provide an in-depth analysis of the main drivers of public trust. Some findings have been released by the OECD as part of their cross-national report and a full New Zealand report was published on 1 March 2023.

Trust in Government — OECD

Uiuinga ki Aotearoa New Zealand measures of trust and confidence

The Kiwis Count survey measures the trust and confidence of New Zealanders in the Public Service. It asks respondents why they’ve given the Public Service a particular trust score based on their most recent service experience and perception of the Public Service overall.

Latest results as of September 2023

  • 80% of New Zealanders trust public services based on their personal experience. This is slightly down from 82% last quarter but is at a consistent level of trust reported over time.
  • Trust in the Public Service brand is 61%, which is up slightly from the June 2023 quarter and remains above pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • A new question has been added to the Kiwis Count survey in the September 2023 quarter based on the OECD Trust Framework and overlapping with Public Service values and spirit of service. Results show that high proportions of New Zealanders think the Public Service do their best to help New Zealanders (73%), treat people with respect (72%) and are generally honest (71%).

See our Kiwis Count survey page for more information.

Kiwis Count.

Ngā rārangitanga ā-ao International rankings in trust and confidence

Across a range of international indexes, New Zealand ranks as a world-leader in trust and confidence in government.  

OECD data shows New Zealanders have high trust in public institutions compared to many other countries, as it reports in its 'Governments at a glance' publications in the July 2022 report on Drivers in Trust in Public Institutions.

Government at a glance 2023 — OECD

Trust in Government - OECD

New Zealand performance in international rankings related to trust in the Public Service 

Tied 2nd Place  Transparency International 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index 
2nd Place  The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index 2019 
2nd Place 

The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2022

3rd Place European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building (ERCAS) Index of Public Integrity 
4th Place  Strong Institutions in Chandler Good Government Index 2022 for the ability of multiple government agencies to act coherently and collaboratively, as well as capability and performance of the Public Service 
99/100  Freedom in the World 2022 Report including 40/40 for political rights and 59/60 for civil liberties 
5th Place

Public sector performance indicator in The European Institute of Public Administration International Benchmarking Study: Sub-Study 2022(PDF, 11 MB)