The wider change process for better services and outcomes

Alongside the COVID-19 response, there have been significant changes in the way the Public Service works in order to serve New Zealand and New Zealanders. A common factor is the departments of the Public Service learning to work more as a single unified system rather than as independent agencies. A strong feature of the year has been the advice and assistance we have given to government on ways to create a truly cross-sector Public Service. These suggestions and efforts are detailed below and involve multiple agencies in projects that are centred on citizens rather than individual agencies, which will lead to real improvements in outcomes for New Zealanders.

Regional leadership

We have continued work to join up the Public Service in the regions to help communities achieve outcomes that are self-defined at the community level. This approach requires the Public Service to develop greater capacity for collaborative work and to counter fragmentation and duplication across agencies on cross-sector issues. Eleven regional leads were designated in 2019, with a mandate to convene social-sector decision-makers in the regions to improve alignment across agencies. Cabinet decisions in July 2021 strengthened this leadership framework further, expanding the scope to include the economic and environment sectors and the leads’ mandate to include resolution of issues and escalation to national-level decision-makers, as well as retitling the role Regional Public Service Commissioner to reflect the influential leadership required. We worked with the Ministry of Social Development to lead the policy work supporting this shift.

Since the initial designations in 2019, the leads have worked to build relationships with local stakeholders and develop shared priorities within each region. This work has continued through the leads’ contributions to local plans and strategies, helping to ensure alignment with national priorities and that central government is better positioned to support local-level ambitions. Regional leads have also been supporting communities to address local issues. As noted above, the regional leadership framework has been important in the COVID-19 response. For example, in the Te Tau Ihu | Top of the South, the regional lead worked to ensure Public Service support for iwi-led provision of food and essential items to whānau. Other examples of the impact of the framework include in Te Tai Tokerau | Northland, where the regional lead has helped develop a partnership framework and unified plan for improving housing outcomes by bringing together key stakeholders, and in Te Moana-a-Toi | the Bay of Plenty, where the regional lead convened a collective impact group that has put in place school transportation for children in emergency housing.

Organising around outcomes

The Government has a strong focus on improved environmental and infrastructure outcomes. To support this, a second interdepartmental executive board, the Strategic Planning Reform Board, is now working to lead the development of the Strategic Planning Act, one of the three pieces of legislation being drafted as part of the resource management reforms. This answers the need for much closer partnership between Public Service agencies on the design of future legislation in this area.

As the Government’s lead advisor on the design and operation of the system of government agencies, the Commission has worked alongside the Public Service on the design and implementation of other aspects of the country’s overall environmental and infrastructure agenda. These have included: support and advice on the establishment of Taumata Arowai, the water services regulator for New Zealand (a Crown agent established on 1 March 2021). Other work has included advice on the implementation of the Three Waters Reform Programme, KiwiRail structure and setting up the Auckland Light Rail Project (from the City Centre to Māngere).

Reform of the health sector has been a major focus for the Public Service. We have supported the Public Service to ensure that the health sector can be configured to deliver better health outcomes for all New Zealanders. This includes supporting the response to the New Zealand Health and Disability System Review and subsequent implementation planning, establishing an Aged Care Commissioner to provide a higher profile and focal point for monitoring and addressing quality and safety issues in the aged care sector and establishment of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (an independent Crown entity established on 9 February 2021).

Promotion and development of social cohesion has also been a major feature of our 2020/2021 year. We supported the establishment of the Ministry for Ethnic Communities (a departmental agency hosted by the Department of Internal Affairs and established on 1 July 2021) to provide a stronger voice for ethnic communities. We have also offered advice to agencies on how to implement a number of reforms, recommendations and business cases. These have led to effective administration of the firearms regulatory system and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques.

The Joint Venture for Family Violence and Sexual Violence (the Joint Venture) was established in 2018 to lead the Government’s efforts to prevent family violence and sexual violence. This year, we have been working with the Joint Venture to provide an update on progress to Ministers, including the potential to use new organisational models introduced in the Public Service Act 2020.

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