22 November 2023

Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission acts as a steward for diversity and inclusion in the Public Service, engaging with our stakeholders to improve the composition, culture and capability of our workplaces.

Tō mātou haerenga kanorau, whai wāhitanga hoki Our diversity and inclusion journey

Everyone in the Public Service is entitled to work in a safe and inclusive workplace, where people treat one another with respect. For more than 5 years Te Kawa Mataaho has been focused on building a diverse and inclusive Public Service and we have made some significant gains during this time.

  • In 2017, we established Papa Pounamu as the chief executive governance group for the Public Service-wide diversity and inclusion work programme to bring together diversity and inclusion practices across the Public Service and support organisations to meet their diversity and inclusion obligations and goals. The Papa Pounamu co-leads are the functional leads for diversity and inclusion across the system. Papa Pounamu Public Service work programme
  • In 2019, we ran the WeCount survey to explore the diversity and inclusion experiences of our rainbow public servants. The findings of this survey gave us a better understanding of how the Public Service Rainbow community felt about their workplaces.
  • In 2020, the Public Service Act (the Act) came into effect. It supports our diversity and inclusion commitments with requirements on leaders to promote diversity and inclusiveness within our workforce and workplaces. Public Service Act 2020 — New Zealand Legislation 
  • In 2021 we conducted the first Te Taunaki Public Service Census, which was a survey of approximately 40,000 public servants working in 36 Public Service organisations that included questions on diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at work. Te Taunaki Public Service Census

We know that there is still work to do. We need to show that we value the voices and experiences of our people and collect the data to help move us forward.

Supported by the Act, our role includes:

  • acting as a steward for diversity and inclusion in the Public Service by engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, and developing and sharing resources
  • building the composition, culture and capability of our Public Service to ensure it serves our diverse communities 
  • collecting and reporting on data to see the progress we are making and ensure accountability for the Public Service’s commitment to achieving diversity and inclusion within our organisations.

Te tuku kaitiakitanga me te ārahi i te whakaanga Providing stewardship and leading engagement 

We want our Public Service to meet its diversity and inclusion commitments, addressing bias so our employees feel valued, supported and respected, and collecting and reporting on data related to diversity and inclusion. 

We do this through stewardship and engagement, which includes supporting chief executives and senior leaders to build diversity and inclusiveness at a system level to ensure our workforce reflects our communities. 

Putting diversity and inclusion at the centre of what the Public Service does is essential. We know that diversity and inclusion work together and improving one area can have a positive impact on the others. Knowing where our strengths and weaknesses are means we can begin to address the areas where we need to do more to achieve our diversity and inclusion goals. 

Working with Public Service leaders to build diversity and inclusion 

It matters that New Zealanders see themselves reflected in the Public Service, and the Act requires Public Service leaders to promote diversity and inclusiveness within our workforce and workplaces. 

We work with Public Service organisations to improve diversity and inclusion planning, collaboration and reporting, and have been working with Public Service chief executives to ensure that public servants are diverse, reflect the make-up of society, and that our workplaces support this with inclusive cultures and practices. This is part of earning the trust and confidence of New Zealanders.

We’ve set the expectations for Public Service organisations to develop their accountabilities by:

  • strengthening the performance expectations for chief executives to include specific diversity and inclusion expectations
  • appointing Gaye Searancke, Chief Executive of Land Information, and Peter Mersi, Commissioner and Chief Executive of Inland Revenue, as the co-chairs of Papa Pounamu and the functional co-leads of diversity and inclusion to lead our diversity and inclusion work programme across the whole of the Public Service
  • mandating a unified approach by making Papa Pounamu’s 5 priorities a requirement for all Public Service organisations: addressing bias, cultural competence, inclusive leadership, building relationships and supporting employee-led networks.
  • requiring all Public Service organisations to publish diversity and inclusion plans and publicly report progress against the Papa Pounamu work programme in their annual reports.

As stewards for diversity and inclusion in the Public Service, Te Kawa Mataaho and Papa Pounamu expect Public Service agencies to publish diversity and inclusion plans. Agencies are also required to publish annual Kia Toipoto action plans to meet the Te Pono | Transparency milestone of Kia Toipoto.  

Te Kawa Mataaho supports agencies choosing to create one combined Diversity and Inclusion(D&I) and Kia Toipoto plan.  

Combined plans can help identify, build and strengthen connections between Papa Pounamu and Kia Toipoto and help agencies to close pay gaps, create fairer workplaces and improve diversity and inclusion outcomes. 

Combining Diversity and Inclusion and Kia Toipoto Plans(PDF, 231 KB)

Papa Pounamu Public Service work programme

  • Closing pay gaps

    Ensuring people are paid fairly is a fundamental human right. Public Service organisations are committed to Kia Toipoto — the Public Service Pay Gaps Action Plan. Kia Toipoto recognises that common barriers drive all pay gaps and targeted action is required to accelerate progress. It requires Public Service organisations to meet several goals between 2022–2024, including setting up plans and targets to improve gender and ethnic representation in their workforce and leadership.

    Pay gaps and pay equity 

  • Supporting Māori Crown relations

    One of the Public Service’s most important roles is to support the Crown in its relationships with Māori under te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi. The new Public Service Act 2020 (the Act) also recognises the responsibility of the Commissioner, chief executives and all Public Service leaders to develop and maintain the capability of the system to engage with Māori and understand Māori perspectives.

    We are also collecting data to inform our understanding of Māori Crown capability and how it fits with our wider diversity and inclusion work.

    Māori Crown relationships 

Collaborating with stakeholders

We partner with key stakeholders both inside and outside of the Public Service, which includes ministerial and chief executive engagement. Through engagement and support of our stakeholders and communities we ensure they are invested in our diversity and inclusion work. Together we share diversity and inclusion stories and celebrate progress and achievements. Strong collaboration like this helps us better serve our communities.

We encourage agencies that are further along their diversity and inclusion journey to partner with those that are at the earlier stages. We actively promote sharing diversity and inclusion resources and knowledge so that there is better understanding on what delivers impact. We want all our organisations to continue to make progress in lifting their diversity and inclusion capability, no matter where they started from. Many of our organisations have a range of helpful tools and resources that can be shared to support one another to make progress against the Papa Pounamu commitments. We also encourage organisations to work together to foster innovative solutions to sizing and resourcing issues that some of our smaller and mid-size agencies face.

We encourage and support all agencies to develop diversity and inclusion plans (or an integrated Kia Toipoto and Diversity and Inclusion plan) and to share these with us and each other. This will help us to provide better support and connect agencies efforts across the Public Service. 

Te whakatipu kōpuni, ahurea, āheinga hoki Building composition, culture and capability

We aim to help create a diverse Public Service with a strong culture and a capable workforce that supports and celebrates all our communities. This includes supporting the development of a strategy and system plan for improving how the Public Service develops a diverse workforce and leadership with talent and opportunities. 


Diversity in our workforce is improving, but this is happening at a slower rate than we would like. We want the whole of the Public Service, as well as each agency, to reflect communities across all diversity dimensions, including participation and representation for Māori, Pacific, ethnic groups, women, rainbow and disabled persons. We’ve done some great work on gender and now we’re concentrating efforts to increase Māori, Pacific and diverse ethnic representation and particularly want to improve the representation of Asian and ethnic groups.

We want to see our ethnic composition shift at all levels. This needs to happen across the system. To achieve the shifts we want, we need better and more regular data collection on our existing workforce and on our recruitment and progression.

Workplace culture and capability

The Public Service also needs to ensure opportunities exist for everyone, irrespective of their background or identity. Papa Pounamu supports chief executives to meet their diversity and inclusion aspirations and commitments, and they have agreed to implement Papa Pounamu’s 5 priorities in their agencies. These are the areas we believe will make the most positive difference for workplace culture and capability. 

  • Addressing bias 
  • Building inclusive leadership 
  • Enhancing cultural competence 
  • Fostering diverse leadership 
  • Supporting employee-led networks. 

We want all our people to feel included and valued at work. We can improve the inclusivity of our workplaces by further progressing the work that’s already been started through Papa Pounamu. For example, broadening our cultural competence learning so we can grow our knowledge of Pacific, ethnic, rainbow and disability communities.

Our work to develop our Public Service culture and capability also includes supporting the Crown in its relationships with Māori under te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi. In addition, we can do more to improve the uptake of training on bias and inclusive leadership and embed that learning through day-to-day behaviours and system changes. We want a clearer picture on what we’re doing and the impact it’s having — to achieve that, we’ll need to improve the way we evaluate, collect and report this information.

Papa Pounamu’s 5 priority areas work alongside other key work programmes such as the Positive and Safe Workplaces programme and Kia Toipoto — the Public Service Pay Gap Action Plan 2021–24. 

  • Diversifying Public Service leadership

    Our new Act explicitly requires chief executives and boards to promote diversity and inclusiveness, and strengthens and supports our diversity and inclusion commitments as well as underpins the aims of the Public Service to be an exemplar employer.

    Our Public Service is led by a strong and increasingly diverse group of leaders who are committed to a Public Service that reflects our communities. They are working to address barriers that prevent career progression and develop future leaders with diverse backgrounds and experience who can effectively engage with communities and people, build authentic relationships and foster inclusive behaviour.

    Gathering data on leadership diversity

    We are committed to improving the quality and transparency of the data about the diversity of our leaders, to see the progress we are making and ensure accountability for the Public Service’s commitment to achieving diversity and inclusion, and to address barriers to career progression.

    • The percentage of women in the top 3 tiers of leadership remains high at 55.9% 
    • The number of Māori in Tiers 1–3 has more than doubled since 2016.   
    • Asian Public Service representation is up to 14.5% from 11.6% in June 2020. Asian leadership at Chief Executive level has increased from 2.7% in 2021, to 7% in 2023. We have more work to do to support Asian senior leaders.  
    • Pacific representation at Tier 1–3 has increased from 41 to 64 since 2020 and has more than doubled in the last 5 years (from 22 to 64). 

    Current Public Service leaders

    Workforce Data — Senior leadership

    Leadership Development Centre

    Our Leadership Development Centre (LDC) delivers system-wide leadership development through programmes, resources and experiences that help public sector leaders grow the breadth and depth of their leadership skills. Its aim is to create a community of strong, agile leaders with the skills to work across organisation boundaries.

    LDC works with the Career Boards, agencies and individuals to deliver a range of products, programmes and services that support the development of current and future leaders. LDC resources strengthen and support system priority areas identified in the Public Service Act 2020 including the Māori Crown relationship, our diversity, and the inclusion capability we expect of Public Service leaders.

    Leadership development

    Leadership Development Centre 

    Te Pae Aramahi Development Boards

    Through Te Pae Aramahi Development Boards we are increasingly focusing on the support that we can provide to diverse leaders at all levels. They focus on leaders who, with supported development, enable a lift in senior leader capability and/or capacity across the Public Service. Through this, they help ensure the Public Service is well led to deliver better services for all New Zealanders. 

    Development Boards

    Developing diverse leaders

    We have a range of cross-system programmes focused on developing our diverse leaders:

    • Te ara ki Matangireia |  Māori emerging leadership programme — developing Māori leadership talent and capability in the Public Service and grow a network of Māori public servants with the skills and confidence to step into leadership roles in the future, led by Te Kawa Mataaho
    • Tā Te Ratonga Tūmatanui Kaupapa Whakaruruhau i ngā Uri o Te Moana a Kiwa | Public Service — supporting leadership development for mid-level Pacific public service leaders from across the public service, co-led by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and Te Kawa Mataaho
    • Tū Mau Mana Moana Programme — accelerating the leadership journey of Pacific leaders across the Public Service, led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
    • Ngā Ara Whakatuputanga (Defence Transitions Programme) supporting leaders as they end their NZDF career to transition into leadership roles in the core Public Service, led by Te Kawa Mataaho, Te Puni Kōkiri and the New Zealand Defence Force. 
  • Positive and safe workplaces

    Everyone is entitled to work in a safe and inclusive workplace that is free from bias, where people treat one another with respect and have access to employee-led networks.
    While the data we collect shows the majority of public servants feel part of an inclusive work environment, those who have shared their experiences of negative behaviours have highlighted the importance of prioritising a positive workplace culture.

    Positive and Safe Workplaces model standards were issued in August 2019. These set minimum expectations for agencies and recognise that every public servant is entitled to work in a safe and inclusive workplace, where people treat one another with respect. Two chief executives are leading a sector-wide work programme to support and build on these standards. The Positive Workplace Cultures work programme provides practical ideas and support to agencies to improve their workplace cultures. 

    The Positive Workplace Cultures programme is designed to support organisations in their efforts to achieve this. The programme builds on the minimum expectations for workplace culture set out in the Positive and Safe Workplaces model standards. It supports organisations to create environments that prevent inappropriate behaviour by building cultures that prioritise wellbeing and ensure all people feel safe and supported. We also need to support our people when negative behaviours do occur by ensuring strong policies and procedures for speaking up are implemented and maintained within all organisations.

    Positive and safe workplaces 

    Workforce Data — Inclusion 

    Papa Pounamu Public Service work programme

  • Supporting employee-led networks

    Employee-led networks (ELNs) play a significant role in creating inclusive workplaces, provide a sense of belonging and a space for employees to have their voices heard. They can help attract and retain diverse workforce talent, support professional development and give visibility to talented future leaders.

    One of the Papa Pounamu commitments is for organisations to support the development and growth of ELNs across the system. To better enable this, Te Kawa Mataaho hosts Te Puna Huihuinga Kaimahi the Employee-Led Networks team (ELN Team).

    The ELN team’s vision is for all employees to have a sense of belonging in a connected, inclusive and diverse Public Service. Its purpose is to support ELNs to thrive by sharing our network experience and amplifying diverse perspectives across the Public Service.

    It achieves this through collaboration with and support for cross-agency ELNs and Tui Raumata (the group of cross-agency ELN leaders) to achieve greater reach and impact across the Public Service. Public Service organisations contribute funding for this support, and some funding is provided directly to the cross-agency ELNs.

    The team also provides guidance and practical support on networks’ development, strategic priorities, resources, events and projects, including large ELN-led events such as Women In Public Service Summits.

    We have recently launched guidance for managers, encouraging their support of employee-led networks.

    Te Puna Huihuinga Kaimahi Employee Led Networks 

    Papa Pounamu — Employee-led networks 

Te pūrongo me te kohikohi raraunga Reporting and data collection

We are committed to collecting and reporting on data relating to diversity and inclusion. We collect this through Workforce Data and the Te Taunaki Public Service Census. Public Service organisations are required to report progress against the Papa Pounamu work programme in their annual reports.

This collaboration with our partners and the wider Public Service provides:

  • important insights about who makes up the Public Service 
  • an update on the progress we are making, and which diversity and inclusion efforts and initiatives are making the most impact
  • accountability for the Public Service’s commitment to achieving diversity and inclusion within our organisations. 

We continue to work with our Public Service organisations to improve how we individually and collectively report against diversity and inclusion efforts with a focus on impacts and outcomes.

Publishing the information on our website makes sure that it’s transparent and easy to access.

Workforce Data — Diversity and inclusion  

Te whakapai ake i te kanorau me te whai wāhitanga i roto i tō whakahaere Improving diversity and inclusion in your organisation 

Whether you are a people leader, senior leader, or part of a community organisation, you can help to build and improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace. Use our tools and resources to meet diversity and inclusion commitments, model good practice and ensure the people you work with feel valued.

How you can meet diversity and inclusion commitments 

Papa Pounamu Public Service work programme

Papa Pounamu sets the diversity and inclusion work programme for the wider Public Service. It covers 5 priority areas that are focused on making the most positive impact across all diversity dimensions.

Read more