IPANZ Letter to the Editor New Zealand Herald, Published on Saturday 23 January 2021

Beware Unsubstantiated Claims

The third part of Simon Wilson’s essay “Why I am afraid” (Weekend Herald 16 January 2021) raises some important insights about threats to democracy.  If inequality, racism and climate change are not addressed, the seeds are sown for deep discord.

It is unfortunate that he pops in a throwaway line, that the (New Zealand) Government’s commitment to progressive change “… has been obstructed by officials throughout the public service”.  He gives no examples, no evidence for this sweeping statement.

This is at a time when public service officials have delivered as never before; “throughout” the public service: nurses, community workers, teachers, administrative and policy professionals in Wellington, chief executives, and many more.

IPANZ appreciates there have been errors, missteps, poor practice – no one is saying the public service is perfect. But the implication that the motivation of officials is to obstruct government, is wrong.  Surely we have learnt about the dangers of unsubstantiated claims?

 A statement such as this fuels distrust. Trust is essential, more essential than ever. We should all be doing everything to build trust, not make statements which increase distrust.

Liz MacPherson, President of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ), Wellington.