IPANZ E-Update - 27 February 2024

This e-update covers some of the burning issues for the public service right now, including the public service itself and the size of it, as well as Artificial Intelligence, New Zealand’s corruption ranking, public policy and more.

Below you will find articles exploring these issues, as well as events IPANZ is hosting that will provide space for further discussion on hot topics.


Kay Booth, Executive Director


The perennial battle over public servant numbers

Figures about the increase in the public service have captured public attention and have resulted in a demand for job cuts. It is helpful for public servants to look at the evidence used.

In this article, The New Zealand Initiative applauds the new government’s plans to reduce public servant numbers. They note that in 2017 there were 47,252 FTEs in the public service and in 2023 there were 63,117. A 34% rise. They report that there has been a 73% rise in information specialists and 51% rise in managers.

An article by Henry Cooke gives a more detailed and thoughtful account of the increase in the public service. He quotes similar figures and also notes that during this period the consultant spend appeared to double, so it cannot be argued that public servants replaced consultants. Interestingly, he notes that the 513 communications staff comprise only 0.8% of the total public service staff.

There are many confounding variables: the impact of COVID, population growth over the period, the difficulty in defining what we mean by “public servants”, a very ambitious policy programme and much more. Overseas comparisons also have flaws, which make it difficult to prove anything about the size of our public service.

Do you understand the role of the Waitangi Tribunal?

There has been some debate as to whether the Waitangi Tribunal is going beyond its remit by addressing contemporary issues including the planned inquiry into a possible new constitution, as seen in this article. Contemporary issues were always the focus of the Tribunal when it was set up in 1975. In 1985 its remit was extended to historical concerns.

The Tribunal is a statutory body set up by Parliament. It has no binding powers but brings important considerations to the debate. It focusses, at the request of claimants, on the Crown actions or omissions in relation to the Treaty principles, using both the English and Māori definitions of principles.

This article will help build your understanding of the Waitangi Tribunal, which is helpful as the discussions continue.

The next two articles are from a special issue of the Policy Quarterly journal, focussed on public administration and edited by former IPANZ board member, Dr Rodney Scott.

What metaphor would you use to describe government and governance?

Metaphors can be powerful in shaping culture and strategy, they affect how we perceive and interact with things around us. This very readable article suggests a new metaphor to conceptualise government and governance – as a moral ecology.

In this article the writer reminds us of some of the historical metaphors for government, such as the “Leviathan” or the “iron cage of bureaucracy”, also citing more recent references to the “machinery of government” or government as a “platform”. These are static and structured conceptions, not dynamic or evolving.

The writer seeks a metaphor that is dynamic, acknowledging the aliveness of the actors in governance – people, companies, communities – and the continual feedback loops that are inherent in evolving policies. He finds the metaphor of moral ecology a powerful one. This is an interesting read, have a look.

The amusing concept of ‘zombie ideas’

Public policy is built on ideas. In this article the authors describe ideas which survive although they have proven to be ineffective. They call them zombie ideas. They cite trickle-down economics as a zombie idea and gun control in the US as a ghost idea – an idea that could be effective but has never been utilised.

The authors explore why zombie ideas persist: there could be strong vested interests (e.g. agricultural subsidies in Europe), they may be supported by false analogies or belief systems (e.g. the national economy being like the family household economy), or they avoid blame (recycling an old idea gets less resistance than a new innovative idea).

They refer to the pendulum swing that occurs in New Zealand politics when “dead policies are reanimated and old beliefs return to life under new flags”. As they conclude “the search for an equilibrium in which policies are both effective and enduring is complex”. This is a thoughtful read.

A straightforward approach to the regulation of AI

This article lays out the attitudes of Australians to AI, revealing an appreciation of potential benefits (e.g. innovation) but a greater concern about risks (e.g. cybersecurity, privacy etc). Currently Australians do not trust that the regulatory infrastructure is adequate to handle AI.

The authors go on to describe the EU framework which takes a risk-based approach to the regulation of AI. This involves heavy regulation in some areas (e.g. law enforcement), banning of AI in some circumstances, and a light approach to legislation where it is safe and where innovation can be encouraged.

Aotearoa New Zealand is sliding on the Corruption Index

A slide for New Zealand of its ranking in the global Corruption Index is a concern. We are now third after Denmark and Finland. Furthermore, NZ has slipped in the “Global Soft Power Index”.

In this article, Transparency International explains this trend. One point may not be immediately obvious to us – NZ is apparently paying insufficient attention to reducing scamming. There is also a warning that we must be sure in the future that there is no increase in state capture by specific interest groups, such as the tobacco industry or foreign property developers.


Effective Engagement with Māori - Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 April, all day, Wellington

Do you want to build your knowledge and confidence for engaging with Māori? If so this workshop is for you!

Presented by Piripi Winiata, who recently facilitated the Rangatahi forum at the Māori King's Hui ā Motu, the Effective Engagement with Māori workshop is designed to help public servants gain a greater understanding of Te Ao Māori (Māori world view), Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and develop practical tools for effectively engaging with Māori.

For more information or to register for this workshop visit our website.

Parliament in Practice - Wednedsay 3 April, all day, Wellington

Are you, or is someone in your team, new to the public sector? If so this introductory level seminar is for you!

Parliament in Practice is designed for departmental and crown entity kaimahi. It provides attendees with a unique opportunity to learn about the operations of Parliament, from those working within Parliament walls, and who are tasked with overseeing the roles and functions of Parliament.

For more information or to register for this seminar visit our website.

Deloitte State of the State: Exploring the capabilities to navigate uncertainty - Tuesday 27 February, 5.30pm, Wellington and online

It's not to late to join us as we explore the strategic capabilities required for Aotearoa to face global megatrends and secure a positive future for the country at this interactive panel discussion between Carolyn Tremain, Chief Executive at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Adithi Pandit, Partner, Strategy and Business Design at Deloitte.

Last minute spaces are still available, or you can join us online. For more information or to register for this event visit our website.

Ian Axford Fellowships in Public Policy welcome webinars

In partnership with the Ian Axford Fellowships in Public Policy, IPANZ brings you a mini webinar series introducing you to the 2024 fellows and the work they will be doing in Aotearoa New Zealand.

  • Wednesday 6 March, 12.00 - 1.00pm: Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is hosting fellow Rachel Levinson-Waldman. Rachel is the managing director of the Brennan Center's Liberty & National Security Program and while in New Zealand will be working in the realm of privacy, social media, and artificial intelligence. Rachel will be joined by Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster, Deputy Privacy Commissioner and IPANZ President Liz MacPherson. For more information or to register for this webinar visit our website.
  • Wednesday 13 March, 12.00 - 1.00pm: Ministry of Social Development. The Ministry of Social Development is hosting fellow Megan Seeds. While in New Zealand Megan will be working on strategies to transform the digital experience in New Zealand’s social service delivery. She will be joined by Rebecca Sheilds, MSD's Director – Future Service Model. For more information or to register for this webinar visit our website.

Te Tiriti in policy-making Webinar - Wednesday 20 March, 12.00 - 1.00pm, online

Join us for a webinar where we will take a ‘lessons learned’ approach to the subject of Te Tiriti and its principles in policy-making, focusing on some of the experiences from the Ministry for the Environment in resource management reform.

For more information or to register for this webinar visit our website.


Westpac Financial Wellbeing Series - Online

Westpac invites you to join their Managing Your Money team for their March series, with topics themed around housing where they will finish the series off with a special topic – The Housing Market Update with Kelvin Davidson (Chief Economist - Property) from CoreLogic New Zealand, who will share his insights and views on the housing market.

  • Setting New Years resolutions: Tuesday, 5 March. 11am-12pm. Register here.
  • Buying your first home: Thursday, 7 March. 11am-12pm. Register here.
  • Managing your Mortgage: Tuesday, 19 March. 11am-12pm. Register here.
  • Special topic: The Housing Market Update: Thursday, 21 March. 11am-12pm. Register here.


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