Journal of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand l Volume 35:3 September/October 2012
A piece of New Zealand – partial asset sales Resolving historical claims of child abuse Economic outlook – Auckland Council’s Geoff Cooper
New professionals – today and tomorrow’s public service
Explore. Engage. Envision. In August, 150 new professionals from across the public sector did just that at the biennial IPANZ New Professionals Conference. While the conference was focused on the future of the public service, political journalist and analyst Colin James and Training Practice’s Hilary Bryan provided historical context for our professional, merit-based public service. Sessions ranged from the government’s Better Public Services work programme, to involving communities in decision making, to how social media is used by agencies. Early on day two of the conference constitutional lawyer Mai Chen discussed the importance of robust, ethical policy making. She was followed by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English who spoke about the value of innovation in the public sector.
While the calibre of presentations was extremely high again this year, attendees also valued the time to network with their peers. For many new professionals the conference provides a unique chance to meet people from other agencies and to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges associated with being a public servant. The IPANZ New Professionals would like to thank The Johnson Group and Russell McVeagh for their generous support of the conference. IPANZ New Professionals host events throughout the year including Meet the Chief breakfasts, tours around Parliament, networking lunches, and social drinks. Interested in learning more? Visit www.ipanz.org.nz.
Journal of the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand
Publisher The Institute of Public Administration New Zealand PO Box 5032, Wellington, New Zealand Phone: +64 4 463 6940, Fax: +64 4 463 6939 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ipanz.org.nz ISSN 0110-5191 (Print) ISSN 1176-9831 (Online) The whole of the literary matter of Public Sector is copyright. Please contact the editor if you are interested in reproducing any Public Sector content.
Contents 2–3 Newsbrief 4 Local government news 5 President’s message – Supporting innovation by Len Cook 6–9 A piece of New Zealand – What’s at stake? 10–11 Better Public Services programme watch 12–13 Doing the right thing – Resolving historical claims of child abuse 14–15 Insights from 2012 Ian Axford Fellows
editor Shelly Farr Biswell: email@example.com
Te Upoko Taiao
writers Marieke Hilhorst Rose Northcott Proofreader Nikki Crutchley journal Advisory Group Len Cook Dr Chris Eichbaum, Chair Julian Light Ross Tanner Advertising Phone: +64 4 463 6940 Fax: +64 4 463 6939 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Design Becky Bliss Printing Lithoprint Scope IPANZ is committed to promoting informed debate on issues already significant in the way New Zealanders govern themselves, or which are emerging as issues calling for decisions on what sorts of laws and management New Zealanders are prepared to accept.
Doing the right thing
15 Executive watch 16–17 On trial – Sharing criminal history records across the Tasman 18–19 Te Upoko Taiao – A holistic approach to planning 20–21 Q&A: Economic outlook – Auckland Council’s Geoff Cooper 22–23 Working with wardens, a multi-cultural approach 24 What’s in a name: asset sales v mixed ownership
Information for authors Public Sector considers contributions for each issue. Please contact the journal’s editor for more information. Subscriptions IPANZ welcomes both corporate and individual membership and journal subscriptions. Please email email@example.com, phone +64 4 463 6940 or visit www.ipanz.org.nz to register online. Disclaimer Opinions expressed in Public Sector are those of various authors and do not necessarily represent those of the editor, the journal advisory group or IPANZ. Every effort is made to provide accurate and factual content. The publishers and editorial staff, however, cannot accept responsibility for any inadvertent errors or omissions that may occur.
Working with wardens
Front cover image: Benmore hydroelectric dam © Mike Hollman, Dreamstime.com
Public Sector is printed on an economically and environmentally responsible paper sourced from internationally certified Well Managed Forests and manufactured with EMAS accreditation (ISO 14001). September/October 2012 Public Sector 1
Kiwis Count – Recent results published Results from the State Services Commission’s Kiwis Count survey were released in late August and suggest that in general New Zealanders are satisfied with public services. The overall service quality score for public services between February and June 2012 was 72, an increase over the 2009 score of 69. This most recent survey drew on the experiences of 1,121 New Zealanders and their views on 42 frequently used public services. Comparing 2012 to 2009 scores: • Public satisfaction for 27 services increased and for 12 of these services the increase was statistically significant. ‘Importing Goods into New Zealand or Customs Duties’ and ‘New Zealand Superannuation’ showed the largest improvements in service satisfaction (both increased by nine points). • Public satisfaction for six services decreased, although only one – applying for or receiving a student loan or student allowance – showed a statistically significant decrease. These results are the first published under Kiwis Count’s new continuous survey format. Introduced in February 2012, the format replaces the pointin-time survey format. The change is expected to result in the timelier reporting of data. The SSC plans to publish survey findings quarterly. 2 Public Sector September/October 2012
In late August, Minister of State Services Dr Jonathan Coleman released capping data as of 30 June 2012. There was a net reduction of 555 full-time equivalent positions in core government between December 2011 and 30 June 2012 to 35,901 FTEs. This is 574 less than the reset cap of 36,475 that the Government set in March of this year. From 1 January to 30 June 2012 there were 526 redundancies spread across 32 of the 37 agencies in core government administration. The four agencies that sit outside the cap had a total increase of 96 FTEs. According to the released Cabinet briefing, it is anticipated that core government is expected to decrease by another 62 positions by 30 June 2013. This number does not take into account any FTE reductions from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which is in the process of developing its new organisational structure. Another 321 positions are expected to be cut between June 2013 and June 2014 based mainly on significant reductions in the Department of Conservation (150 positions), Statistics New Zealand (81 positions), and Inland Revenue (75 positions).
Following the release of an independent report reviewing ACC’s practices in relation to privacy and security of information, Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said a culture change starting at the top of ACC is vital if further data security breaches are to be prevented. “The review has found the breach was a genuine error and I accept that. But it also shows the error happened because of systemic weaknesses within ACC’s culture, systems, and processes.” The report was commissioned jointly by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the ACC Board following the unauthorised disclosure of details of 6,748 clients. Shroff added, “The reviewers noted a good level of privacy awareness especially at branch level. But the review also highlights a culture that, according to stakeholder feedback to the reviewers, has at times ‘an almost cavalier’ attitude towards its clients and to the protection of their private information.” State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said following the release of the report that the SSC is currently assessing the report’s findings, “but there is no doubt that it is a dramatic reminder of the need for all government agencies to treat private information with the utmost care and respect”. He added, “To this end, I am considering requesting that state sector chief executives review their systems for handling private information. Any stocktake would initially be targeted on areas of greatest potential risk. I will be working closely with the Privacy Commission on the design and management of this work.” www.privacy.org.nz and www.ssc.govt.nz
ShakeOut – Update OVER one million New Zealanders have signed up for ShakeOut. At 9:26 am on 26 September, ShakeOut participants will ‘drop, cover and hold’ as part of the first nationwide earthquake drill. ShakeOut provides an opportunity for people and organisations to get better prepared for major earthquakes. www.shakeout.com
New Zealand Families Today: A brief demographic profile Published by the Families Commission, this demographic profile provides an overview of the make-up of the New Zealand family in 2011 and identifies past trends. The report mainly uses data collected and published by Statistics New Zealand with additional information from the Ministry of Social Development’s Social Report. Published August 2012. www.familiescommission.org.nz
Independent review of ACC privacy and security of information
FACT SHEET 01 AUGUST
Quarterly Update 1
Update on capping the size of core government
TODAY LAND FAMILIES NEW ZEA phic profile A brief demogra
Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa.
Kotui – Libraries sign up for shared services
New Zealand Core Cities Research Research Summary
Published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Local Government New Zealand as part of the Core Cities Project, this research was conducted in partnership with Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Dunedin, and Christchurch councils. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research was commissioned for the project to research and report on the competitive advantages and economic opportunities of New Zealand’s largest cities. Published July 2012. www.med.govt.nz/ sectors-industries/cities AUCKLAND
TA U R A N G A
H A M I LT O N
The number of public libraries adopting Kōtui – the shared library management and resource discovery service – will reach 13 by the end of 2012. Hurunui and Upper Hutt libraries moved to the system earlier this year and Timaru, Buller, and Thames Coromandel libraries will soon follow suit and have the service in place before the end of October. The shared service includes a way to manage a library’s physical items, a search facility across a library’s physical and electronic items, a centralised data hosting service, and a wide area
Matatuhi Tuawhenua: Health of Rural Maori 2012 Published by the Ministry of Health, this report provides a snapshot of the health of Māori and non-Māori living in rural and urban areas. The report provides a descriptive analysis of the data, and the statistical information has been made accessible in an easy-to-use format. www.health.govt.nz
Health Expenditure Trends in New Zealand 2000 – 2010 Published by the Ministry of Health, the report is the latest in a regular series that provides information on expenditure in the New Zealand health and disability sector. The report focuses on expenditure for 2008/09 and 2009/10. Published August 2012. www.health.govt.nz
Learning State merges with ETITO Learning State Ltd, the public sector industry training organisation is to merge with ETITO, the Auckland-based multi-industry ITO. The merger, which is still subject to approval of the Tertiary Education Commission Board, is expected to enable economies of scale for the delivery of more comprehensive, cost-effective public sector training required to support Better Public Services. ETITO currently serves the ambulance, contact centre, electrotechnology, offender management, security, and telecommunications industries. Learning State will continue to operate and use its existing brand through the transition period.
Search and Surveillance Act to come into force
Te reo Maori introduced into District Court Opening, adjournment, and closing announcements in all District, Family and Youth Courts are now made in both te reo Māori and English. The new programme was introduced during Māori Language Week this past July. Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue says the introduction of the Māori language is a historic change in the District Court process. “We wanted a practical way for
network link between the Kōtui-hosted environment and the council environment. Kōtui was rolled out in Marlborough in 2011. The shared service is the result of a collaborative effort between a group of public libraries, the Association of Public Library Managers, Local Government New Zealand, and the National Library.
District Courts to recognise te reo Māori as an official language of New Zealand.” The Māori language is already established in some courts, such as the Māori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal, Rangatahi Youth Court, and Matariki Court. A training programme has been put in place for court staff to familiarise themselves with the te reo Māori phrases.
The Search and Surveillance Act 2012 will come into full force on 1 October 2012. Some provisions of the Act had already commenced on 18 April 2012 when the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Act expired. The Search and Surveillance Act 2012 will have implications for over 70 different Acts, from the Animal Welfare Act to the Wine Act. The Act will be reviewed within the next four years to determine if any amendments are necessary. www.parliament.govt.nz
September/October 2012 Public Sector 3
Local government news
ECan’s commissioners to remain until 2016
Cycling friendly – Hawke’s Bay buses get bike racks
LOCAL Government Minister David Carter and Environment Minister Amy Adams have announced that the Government-appointed commissioners for Environment Canterbury will remain in their roles until 2016. The seven commissioners are Dame Margaret Bazley (Chair), David Caygill, David Bedford, Donald Couch, Tom Lambie, Peter Skelton, and Rex Williams. The commissioners were appointed in 2010 following a critical external review of Environment Canterbury’s performance. Current legislation states that the appointed commissioners’ terms are to end at the local government elections in 2013, but on 7 September the Government introduced a bill amending the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010 which will allow the commissioners to remain until the 2016 local authority elections. The bill requires a ministerial review to begin by March 2014. Local Government New Zealand President Lawrence Yule says LGNZ is looking to the Government to prepare a credible plan to return to local democracy which should be the focus of the scheduled ministerial review. “Environment Canterbury has done outstanding work, both in its response to the earthquakes in Canterbury, and its work on implementing the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, but the key principle of elected representation must be allowed to reassert itself in due course.”
In a joint initiative between Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency, and Go Bus Transport Ltd, bike racks have been installed on 14 buses in the goBay fleet. The racks can carry two bikes at a time. There will be no charge for bikes, but passengers will be responsible for loading and unloading their own bikes. HBRC Transport Manager Carol Gilbertson says the bus bike racks will
From left to right: New Zealand Transport Agency Senior Planner Oliver Postings; Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor and Chair of the Regional Transport Committee Alan Dick; and HBRC Transport Manager Carol Gilbertson. Photo: HBRC.
Rena recovery In August, Rena’s insurers announced that they are funding a series of studies to look at the effects of different scenarios for handling the wreck. The studies are considered a first step in looking at potential long-term solutions. www.renarecover.org.nz
IPANZ Auckland hosts conference
Photo: Smit and Svitzer (MNZ).
4 Public Sector September/October 2012
make public transport a practical travel option for even more people, who will now be able to cycle from the bus stop to their final destination, which may not be on the public transport network. “There has been significant demand for this service, and that coupled with the increased number of pathways and cycle tracks meant it made sense to install the bike racks now.” www.hbrc.govt.nz
IPANZ Auckland will present its second annual one-day Auckland conference on 10 December 2012. The conference is again being hosted by Westpac Institutional Bank. This year the overarching theme will be the emergence of Auckland as an internationally recognised metropolitan centre, qualitatively different from any other urban centre in New Zealand. Conference themes will include the relationship between metropolitan centres and higher tiers of government, presented by Daniel Kubler from the University of
Zürich; the role of metropolitan centres in economic growth; demographic change and its implications for policy; and an in-depth look at the intensification debate. For more information visit www.ipanz.org.nz
Building a better Waikato “Rethinking Local Government – International trends and thoughts for the Waikato” was the theme of an IPANZ conference held in Karapiro in August. Nearly 150 people attended the event which included presentations by Bob Harvey, Mike Pohio, Natalie Jackson, Peter McKinlay, Rod Oram, and Stephen Selwood. Highlights and speakers’ presentations are available at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz.
president’s Message – Supporting innovation
By Len Cook he public sector is no stranger to innovation. It has always been critical to our capacity to build a wealth-creating society, whether through building dams and highways; earthquake protection; a fair tax system; or properly functioning and trustworthy registration systems for all forms of property, entitlements, and rights. Innovation depends not only on processes and systems, but also on roles, structures, networks, and relationships. These all rely on people and their knowledge and motivation. In the quest for increased cost efficiency across government, we need to ensure that we do not focus on innovation that simply cuts costs. New and better services and adapting to the shifting context within which suppliers function are just some of the other areas where innovative and courageous actions are required. The current focus on identifiable cost savings risks limiting the capacity of the public sector to capture productivity. Through the many links between and among central and local government, state enterprises, and the wider state services, the interactions among these entities, as suppliers, consumers, comparable institutions, and partners, will play a major part in stimulating innovation. Serial restructuring undoubtedly undermines innovation, as do arrangements such as arms-length contracting which tends to seriously limit the scope of interaction across the networks of the public sector. Where there are changes in sector roles such as that proposed for local government, these will disrupt these highly profitable interactions to some extent. The key initiators of innovation in organisations around the world are the staff employed in them, and New Zealand is no exception to this. Innovation can often involve the successful imitation of a practice seen elsewhere, or adoption of new thinking done elsewhere, and so in many fields local, national, and international linkages and relationships are a significant contributor to innovation. The great spread of drivers of innovation is well reflected among the candidates and winners of the annual IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards. The mix highlights the huge importance of staff as innovators, challengers, and developers of good practice.
For the fifth consecutive year the IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards have recognised excellence and innovation in the public sector, says IPANZ President Len Cook. The organisations that are continually at the forefront of innovation have a culture that encourages staff at all levels to question practices and offer well-founded alternatives. Such organisations will draw on good processes for getting constructive feedback from consumers, usually involving complaint handling, formal feedback processes and systematic approaches to market research, and an interest in feedback from those involved in governance. Innovation also involves investment – in the technologies, systems, and methods that reflect current good practice. Innovation is not necessarily absent in institutions that have poor tools and outdated systems, but the innovation in such organisations may be more focused on keeping the tools and systems up to date, rather than continually improving the range and quality of what they are used for. Because the scope, intensity, and impact of innovation depends on the broad environment within which organisations function, better government is the target of a mix of initiatives beyond better public services. These include considering constitutional change, shifting ministerial roles, local government changes, rethinking welfare policies, strengthening citizen engagement and accountability, and enhancing the insights we have about our future prospects and options, as seen in the
appointment of the Productivity Commission and a Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. It is hard to ignore the need to uplift the engagement of political parties among other reforms that might lead to better government. We must welcome actions which uplift the standing and performance of Parliament, such as the drive by the Speaker of the New Zealand House to ensure that ministers properly address questions of departmental performance in the House of Representatives. In all of these the public sector has a special part, and that is to bring a cohesiveness of thinking through collaboration to policies and programmes that may be less likely to occur in the heat of political discourse. The public sector also provides the context, through economic, demographic, social, and cultural frameworks, to bring an intellectual rigour and capacity to thoughtfully accumulate knowledge that might otherwise seem disparate. Finally, because much capacity to innovate is essentially about people and their knowledge and relationships with consumers, suppliers and potential partners, this is how extending the quality, scope, and reach of services will arise. The prospect of better services is often not predictable or reflected in a cost-benefit analysis. Over recent decades, heavy-handed and distrustful contract management, with business, the community and among public sector bodies, along with the mantra of “the minister is the client,” has removed responsiveness to consumers, which along with the staff turnover associated with serial restructuring has wasted many opportunities for public services to face the same stimuli as business to innovate. The great strength of the IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards is that they provide a powerful counter to this and bring an invaluable spotlight on excellence and innovation. We can with confidence identify and challenge previously unrecognised opportunities and prospects, but this scrutiny needs to pervade all aspects of government, not just the workings of the public sector. As public servants, we have a part in this wider agenda for better government, as well as that focused on government agencies, and IPANZ is one body that helps bring about the variety of engagement necessary for this. September/October 2012 Public Sector 5
A piece of New Zealand – What’s at stake?
Pukaki Dam. Photo: Susan Podwin, mychillybin.co.nz. The State-Owned Enterprises Amendment Act 2012 and Public Finance (Mixed Ownership Model) Amendment Act 2012 were passed in June 2012. The implications of the Acts continue to reverberate across the country as the Waitangi Tribunal’s Wai 2358: The Interim Report on the National Freshwater and Geothermal Resources Claim has recently demonstrated. The Acts have huge implications for nearly every aspect of how New Zealand manages its assets. Editor Shelly Biswell looks at some of the potential concerns and opportunities associated with mixed ownership.
6 Public Sector September/October 2012
Signalling the shift In his 2011 Budget speech, Minister of Finance Bill English outlined the Government’s belief that a mixed-ownership model would be good for New Zealand and would free up between $5 billion to $7 billion that could be invested in “social assets”. Beginning in 2012 the Government planned to apply the mixed-ownership model to four state-owned enterprises: Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy, and Meridian Energy. Additionally, the Government would reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand. “This model frees up Crown capital, provides the companies involved with wider access to capital and imposes greater transparency and commercial discipline and reduces the need for extra government borrowing,” said English. He added that the model also provides New Zealand investors with the opportunity to invest “in solid, New Zealand-controlled companies”. It was a pivotal speech and one where the Government threw down the proverbial gauntlet by stating the Government would seek a mandate in the 2011 General Election before
going ahead with its plans. Weeks after being re-elected, the Government did just that. On 14 December 2011 Cabinet agreed in principle to implement the mixed-ownership model subject to the results of consultation with Māori. That consultation commenced in February and by early March the Mixed Ownership Bill had its first reading.
Doing the maths BERL Economist Ganesh Nana says that the Government’s rationale for selling assets doesn’t add up. “The refrain from the Government has been to return to a budget surplus in 2014/15 and yet BERL’s assessment is that moving to a partial assets model leaves the Government’s accounts in a worse situation in both the short and long term. That’s because there will be a loss of ongoing earnings resulting from reduced dividends, and while there is an anticipated boost with the sale of assets, that funding would need to be put into assets earning greater value to make any dent in the deficit.”
According to the 2012 Budget Policy Statement, funding generated through the asset sales will be put into a Future Investment Fund that will invest in “new public assets and modern infrastructure, including the building of 21st Century Schools”. While few would question the value of these identified new assets, there is a question as to whether they’ll be as successful in generating income as the four companies have been. Nana says, “Any long-term improvement in the Government’s debt can only be achieved through permanently lowering the level of the Government’s deficit, not the one-off sale of assets.” An approach that the Treasury noted in the 2012 BPS: “More generally, the Government is determined to make more efficient use of the Crown balance sheet so that it contributes to improved economic performance. The Crown balance sheet contains $245 billion worth of assets, so small gains in efficiency have the potential to have significant positive impacts on both the fiscal position and economic performance. We will continue to concentrate on making the most out of what is already owned.” Reducing the Government’s debt has been touted as the main benefit to partial sales, but the Government has stated that other benefits include improving the pool of investments available to New Zealand investors; allowing mixed-ownership companies to grow without being completely dependent on Government; and the value of external oversight to place sharper and more transparency on a company’s performance. Mixed ownership is not the only way to achieve these objectives, however. Economists have identified a number of instruments from developing a national development bond scheme to accessing funds to finance growth that would allow the Government to maintain its equity in the SOEs while reaping additional benefits. Nana says, “There is an underlying theme in the Government’s approach to mixed ownership that the private sector knows how to run companies better than the public sector. There is evidence that points either way on this argument. A reminder of how the Crown came to have a majority shareholding in Air New Zealand is just one example where the counter
is true. But it is a valid discussion and one the voters should be involved with. My frustration with the process behind the mixed-ownership model legislation, however, is that no matter where you stand on this ideological debate the decisions made on selling assets need to be based on sound fiscal principles and part of an overall financial strategy – I’m not convinced that’s the case.”
Playing to each other’s strengths Advocates for the mixed-ownership model, however, say that mixed ownership can be successful precisely because there is shared expertise, knowledge, and risk. In its 2012 Annual Report, Infratil commented on its own experience with mixed ownership. “New Zealand’s other major energy company TrustPower was originally the Tauranga Electric Power Board and started life outside of Crown ownership. Since Infratil became its major shareholder, TrustPower has been transformed into a national generator/ retailer which also provides irrigation in Canterbury and wind-powered generation in Australia. Local ownership of TrustPower has been retained through the Tauranga Energy Consumers Trust as well as a loyal Bay of Plenty shareholder base. “TrustPower is an illustration of the ‘Mixed Ownership Model’, where commercial and community interests partner in owning a business. Infratil can point to its experiences as evidence that this can create real value for communities and investors. The key is having
the partners understand they need to both benefit over the long-run.” Bryce Wilkinson, Acting Executive Director, New Zealand Business Roundtable, argued in a 24 November 2011 article in the New Zealand Herald that the “debate over asset sales is a debate over ownership, not the assets … Board appointments are too often politicised, as may be an SOE’s objectives and its investment, remuneration or pricing decisions. The absence of any market test of what is happening to the value of the firm or the return on capital, allows taxpayers’ capital in SOEs to be destroyed non-transparently.” He says that under the mixed-ownership model, “The company would be less open to wealth-reducing political interference, and company management could be better focused on wealth creation. The public would experience the benefits of better information about value.” But in providing Minister Ryall with privatisation case studies earlier this year, the Treasury noted, “We identified that, even where the literature was strongly of the view that privatisations led to significant efficiency gains, it may have been of only partial relevance to the New Zealand experience”. That is in part because New Zealand’s SOE framework has been successful in “corporatising the entities involved”. In a New Zealand context, efforts to compare SOEs to comparable private companies has shown “little evidence of systemic under or over performance in the SOE portfolio”. The Treasury report adds that
Atiamuri Hydro Dam - Mighty River Power. Photo: Cliff Threadgold, mychillybin.co.nz. September/October 2012 Public Sector 7
for “electricity SOEs in particular, data on access to investment capital, service provision, efficient pricing, and the quality of investment decision making all indicated that performance had been adequate”. Treasury also noted that ownership is only part of the debate. “Separately, successive New Zealand governments have also been able to undertake a wide range of regulatory reforms, including competition policy, labour markets, and a sector-specific regulatory regime for electricity. The literature agrees that improved performance of SOEs is driven by broader regulatory reforms as well as privatisation, but argues that privatisation is a proxy for this array of reforms because in many countries governments are unable to undertake the necessary reforms in the absence of privatisation.” The Treasury’s argument is that “New Zealand has been able to undertake a range of reforms and that the performance of New Zealand SOEs already reflects these improvements. In New Zealand’s case, the MOM IPOs will tend to complete the picture by adding capital market disciplines and direct price signals on performance. It was on this basis that we [the Treasury] indicated to the government in our initial advice on the MOM proposal that the economic efficiency benefits of implementing MOM would be modest (recognising, of course, that overall benefits would be greater once other goals such as fiscal, capital markets etc were considered).”
What is for sale? In a thought-provoking interview in the May issue of Guernica, Harvard Professor and author Michael Sandel discusses his new book What Money Can’t Buy and the extent that market values – where everything has a price – have become ingrained in the way we think. One of his goals with the book is to encourage public dialogue on the big questions, the “controversial ethical questions that touch on moral and sometimes spiritual values about the meaning of goods”. He says that the end of the Cold War encouraged “a sense of market triumphalism” where capitalism appeared to be the last economic system standing. He says this has led politics in many democratic countries to become increasingly “about narrow managerial,
technocratic concerns rather than with larger questions of ethics and justice and the meaning of the common good.” It’s a public dialogue that New Zealanders appear willing to be engaged in if you go by news headlines and submissions on the mixed-ownership legislation. While the legislation has passed and the Government has confirmed its intention to go forward with an initial public offering of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power early next year, ministers have agreed to consult with iwi on issues raised in the Waitangi Tribunal’s interim report. It’s democracy in action – slightly messy, loud, and at times confusing, but an important part of the process. – Editor
Further reading Asset Sales, The Government Accounts, and the New Zealand Economy a Discussion Paper prepared by BERL Economics for Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. May 2012. ‘It’s about ownership, not assets’ by Bryce Wilkinson, Acting Executive Director, New Zealand Business Roundtable. ‘What money can’t buy’, an interview by Tana Wojczuk with Michael Sandel, Guernica. May 2012. On 4 September 2012 Treasury publicly released a number of documents related to the mixed-ownership model, including Treasury Report T2012/592: Privatisation Case Studies. These documents are available at www.comu. govt.nz/publications/information-releases/ mixed-ownership-model/.
The spill way from Benmore Dam releasing overflow water. Photo: Richard McNab, Dreamstime.com.
8 Public Sector September/October 2012
Water rights In late August the Waitangi Tribunal released its interim report on the National Freshwater and Geothermal Resources Claim. The interim report was released at the request of the Crown so that ministers could consider the Waitangi Tribunal’s findings and recommendations before making decisions about the sale of shares in Mighty River Power. The primary claimant, the New Zealand Māori Council, lodged the claim in response to the Government’s proposal to move to a mixed-ownership model in Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, and Genesis Energy. In its interim report, the Waitangi Tribunal found that the proprietary right guaranteed to hapu and iwi by the Treaty in 1840 was the exclusive right to control access to and use of the water while it was in their rohe. As the Waitangi Tribunal said in its letter of transmittal to the prime minister, “the claimants do not seek to benefit from non-commercial uses of the water bodies in which they have these proprietary rights. Nor do they seek a commercial benefit from uses
that do not generate an income stream. What they do seek is recognition of their property rights, payment for the commercial use of water in which they have property rights (particularly its use for electricity generation), and enhanced authority and control in how their taonga are used.” While the Waitangi Tribunal accepted most of the Crown’s assurances in rights recognition, it found that the Crown will not be able to ensure the recognition of rights for Māori when shares are sold to private investors. Based on this concern, the Waitangi Tribunal determined that the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power’s shares to private investors should be deferred until an agreement can be reached with Māori. Prime Minister John Key responded by announcing the Government would proceed with an initial public offering of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, but the sale would be delayed until early 2013. “The Government’s preference would have been for a share offer for Mighty River Power
this year. However, after careful consideration ministers have decided to undertake a short period of consultation with iwi on the ‘shares plus’ concept raised in the Waitangi Tribunal’s interim report.” He also acknowledged that the issue may still end up in litigation. “The Māori Council has told Ministers that if the Government does not follow the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendations – which include a national hui on water rights – it will take the Government to the High Court to attempt to halt the partial sale of Mighty River Power.” At the September national hui held on the issue (which Government ministers did not attend), resolutions were passed that were to be taken to the Iwi Chairs Forum. The resolutions included the need for proprietary rights to be settled before the sale of shares and before hapu and iwi enter negotiations with the Crown. Additionally, if negotiations fail, there was a clear commitment on the part of iwi to support a New Zealand Māori Council court challenge.
Transparent dealings In its Budget Policy Statement 2012, the Treasury identified one of the benefits of mixed-business ownership as “allowing for external oversight, which places sharper discipline and more transparency on a company’s performance, increasing the incentive for improved performance”. Yet under the mixed-ownership legislation the four companies at issue (Mighty River Power, Genesis Energy, Solid Energy, and Meridian Energy) are no longer subject to the Official Information Act 1982 and the Ombudsmen Act 1975. The official reasoning runs along the lines that the OIA and OA are unnecessary because of other protections that are in place and that being subject to the Acts would put the MOMs at a competitive disadvantage. It is an issue that was raised in the Treasury’s consultation with the Office of the Ombudsman before the Mixed Ownership Model Bill was introduced. As the Treasury’s 28 February 2012 report to the Chair of the Cabinet Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee noted, the Office of the Ombudsman identified a number of concerns including that the Crown, as majority shareholder, “demonstrates the importance of the MOM companies to New Zealand’s interests and their role in the state sector. The sale of a minority shareholding does not affect the reasoning for their being currently subject to the OA and OIA.” The Treasury provided advice to ministers on 8 March 2012 comparing powers of shareholding ministers in the SOE and
mixed-ownership model regimes. In their advice, Treasury officials note that the OIA and the OA are important because “the state and most of its agencies have the characteristics of a ‘monopolist’, i.e. customers do not have anywhere else to go”. Their contention is that the two Acts are not necessary for mixed-ownership companies which operate in a competitive environment where investors and consumers have choices and there is a strong incentive to be customer focused. The Treasury’s advice also notes that ministers and officials will still be subject to the OIA, and officials to the OA; that Air New Zealand is not subject to the OA or OIA; and the companies will be subject to the Stock Exchange’s continuous disclosure regime. Through its initial consultation, the Office of the Ombudsman clarified that Air New Zealand was excluded from the OIA and OA when it became wholly privatised in 1989, and that when the Crown again became a majority owner of the airline in 2001 it “should arguably have been made subject to the OA and OIA again once the Crown regained majority ownership”. As the Office of the Ombudsman stated in its submission on the MOM bill: We would observe that the competitive environment cannot always be relied upon to facilitate a fair and just provision of goods and services. Although private remedies exist, their cost may make them prohibitive for some people. In contrast, access to an Ombudsman’s services is free, and can lead to better public accountability and improved decision-making and service delivery.”
September/October 2012 Public Sector 9
Better Public Services Programme Watch
consequence of how departments have worked under the State Sector Act 1988. As their findings have illustrated, state sector reforms are seriously needed to support the important work of the public sector, and it is no surprise that some of these require legislative change. “At the same time, New Zealand’s public sector has a wellearned international reputation as transparent and devoid of serious bias or corruption. This gives New Zealand a very special place in the world. Any changes we make to the current model must be considered and founded on robust, well debated thinking, so that they are equally valued by Parliamentarians regardless of their political philosophy.”
State sector reform
t the end of August ministers introduced two bills that are intended to ensure better results from the public sector. In the coming months IPANZ will provide coverage on these bills through Public Sector. We will also host panels and debates to promote discussion on this important issue.
IPANZ President Len Cook says the state sector reforms are to be cautiously welcomed, but all who recognise the value to New Zealand of a merit-based public sector will want to see that Parliament scrutinises and debates any substantive change to how the state sector operates. Changes that affect the fundamentals of the public sector are of such importance that they deserve the attention of Parliament at its best, when considering law changes. “This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ground-breaking Public Service Act 1912 – the basis
10 Public Sector September/October 2012
of our professional public service. One hundred years on and we realise that we need a public management model that maintains those worthy tenets, and we have learnt that this may require change in the statutes that underpin public service. “The Better Public Services Advisory Group highlighted areas where we must do better, and identified where change to the current legislative framework would bring about better leadership. Most particularly, the advisory group recognised a void in leadership development and professional leadership that was an unintended
State Services Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman introduced the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill on 30 August 2012. If enacted, the omnibus bill would amend the State Sector Act 1988, Public Finance Act 1989, and Crown Entities Act 2004. The proposed changes are intended to: • ensure government agencies collaborate more and organise themselves around results • ensure government agencies share functions and services, purchase goods and services, and develop systems together • provide greater flexibility in reporting and ways of providing more meaningful performance information to Parliament • encourage stronger leadership at the system, sector, and departmental levels to improve performance. The first reading of the bill is expected shortly. It is anticipated it will then go before the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. In June 2012 the Government provided a pre-introduction Parliamentary briefing on the
State Sector Reform (Public Finance) Bill. The document, along with other Cabinet papers and information on the legislation is available at www.ssc.govt.nz/ bps-background-material. Changes to the State Sector Act are intended to: • strengthen the State Services Commissioner’s role • extend chief executives’ responsibilities to consider the collective interest of government and put more emphasis on their stewardship role • add a new organisational arrangement – the ‘departmental agency’ – to the options available to deliver public services • improve the operation of the legislation. The departmental agency model is based on the UK model of executive agencies. These servicedelivery agencies sit within a ‘host’ department, but retain operational autonomy. For example, the UK’s Department of Education has four executive agencies responsible for key delivery functions, including the Standards and Testing Agency, the Teaching Agency, the Education Funding Agency, and the National College for School Leadership. Changes to the Public Finance Act are intended to: • improve financial flexibility to facilitate innovation and different ways of working within the executive branch of government • provide more meaningful information to Parliament about what the government is spending and achieving, and reduce the compliance costs involved in producing that information (for example, shift the focus from reporting by departments to reporting against appropriations) • clarify departmental chief executives’ responsibilities for financial management • specify the governance regime for the Act’s Schedule 4
companies. Additional amendments to the Public Finance Act were also introduced on 30 August as the Public Finance (Fiscal Responsibility) Amendment Bill (see below). Changes to the Crown Entities Act are intended to: • support sectoral leadership by strengthening the alignment of Crown entities • support functional leadership by expanding the scope for the use of whole-of-government directions • simplify, streamline, and improve the planning and reporting provisions by providing greater flexibility to provide more meaningful performance information to Parliament and making the default for tabling Statements of Intent every three years • formalise the role of the monitoring department and the ability of the Minister of State Services to request information • improve the operation of the legislation.
Public Finance Act amendments – fiscal responsibility Finance Minister Bill English introduced the Public Finance (Fiscal Responsibility) Amendment Bill to Parliament on 30 August. The bill proposes three new principles of responsible fiscal management, which would require governments to: • formulate fiscal strategy recognising its interaction with monetary policy • formulate fiscal strategy recognising its likely impact on current and future generations • ensure that the Crown’s resources are managed effectively and efficiently. The bill also includes new reporting requirements and extends the existing principle relating to the tax system by referencing efficiency and fairness.
Delivering on results In late August, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment published an action plan for the Government’s result 9: New Zealand RESULT 9: NEW ZEA businesses will have a A ONE-STOP ONL LAND BUSINESSES WILL HAV ADVICE AND SUPINE SHOP FOR ALL GOVERNME E NT POR GRO W THEIR BUSINE T THEY NEED TO RUN AND one-stop online shop SSES. for all government advice and support they need to run and grow their businesses. The plan documents how government agencies will work over the next five years to achieve the result.
Better public services for business
ACTION PLAN AUGUS
For businesses, actions identified in the plan are expected to deliver faster online services, better integration of services, and services that are specifically designed for business. The plan states that 90 per cent of businesses have contact with government at least once a year. In fact, about three million interactions occur between agencies and small- to mediumsized businesses every four months. The two targets identified in the plan are: • cut the cost of dealing with government by 25 per cent by reducing effort required to work with agencies by 2017 • key performance ratings for government services to business to match leading private sector firms by 2017. The plan lists eight actions, anticipated results, and associated timelines. Below are the actions in order of timing: • make government processes for contracting with businesses simpler and clearer (underway) • increase digital delivery of services (underway) • consolidate government functions (6+ months) • set up new, highly targeted and integrated services (6+ months) • create a shared “front door” for government services (6 to 18 months) • identify and put in place common core service standards and common performance measures (12+ months) • collect information and share it so businesses only have to tell government once (18 to 36 months) • make it easier to understand what you need to do to comply with regulations (18+ months). The action plan can be viewed at www.mbie.govt.nz/ what-we-do/better-public-services.
September/October 2012 Public Sector 11
Epuni Boys Home is one of several homes where claims of abuse have been reviewed. Photo: Ministry of Education. Personal interaction and a commitment to put things right are vital to the success of Resolving Historic Claims of Child Abuse, the crossgovernment project that won the 2012 IPANZ Gen-i Prime Minister’s Award for Public Sector Excellence. A joint Ministry of Social Development, Department of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Education project, it also won the Excellence Award for Working Together for Better Services.
Rose Northcott talks with some of the people behind a project that has potentially saved the government decades in court and tens of millions of dollars in costs, while at the same time helped rebuild the lives of hundreds of the country’s most vulnerable citizens and restore their trust in the state. Doing the right thing The Resolving Historic Claims of Child Abuse project starts from the premise that the state should do the right thing when it has made mistakes and that this is important in preserving the public’s trust in what it does.
Described as one of the earliest and most far-reaching examples of integrated delivery of social services for vulnerable people and their families, the project’s genesis goes back to the early 2000s. Government agencies such as MSD and MoE started receiving increasing numbers of allegations from people who had concerns about the care they received when, as a child or young person, they came into a residence, family home, special school, or foster care. Many of the allegations centred on physical, sexual and psychological abuse and dated back to the 1940s. “The claims grew to nearly 750 lodged in the court – the Crown’s largest block of civil litigation,” says Garth Young who heads the MSD’s Care, Claims and Resolution Team. “Given the number and nature of the claims the government decided a coordinated response was needed and in 2006 an interdepartmental working group was established to look at the various options to address the claims.” Out of that came a strategy that focused on moving the claims outside the formal litigation process. “The courts can be a very time consuming and expensive way of dealing with claims, and, given the high legal hurdles, it can also be very difficult for complainants to succeed,” explains MoE Chief
12 Public Sector September/October 2012
Doing the right thing – Resolving historical claims of child abuse Legal Advisor Jan Breakwell. “Our strategy was recovery focused. It aimed to get to the bottom of each claim, while rebuilding trust and doing the right thing for each person.”
An alternative to court The Confidential Listening and Assistance Services was established (see box), an independent body administered by DIA and chaired by former District Court Judge Carolyn Henwood. CLAS listens non-judgmentally, working with individuals to connect them to the help they need from government and non-governmental organisation services. MSD established the Care, Claims and Resolution Team which employs some of the country’s most experienced social
workers to investigate claims, work through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, track down and interview hundreds of former residents and staff, and work with a range of government agencies and NGOs. “We developed an alternative process to the court, which was based around sound social work principles of working with a person face to face in a way that would be helpful and meaningful to them and hopefully find the resolution they needed and wanted,” explains Young. “It is built on the principle that if we have done something wrong, we need to acknowledge it, fix it, and do things better in future.” The same process was adopted by Breakwell at MoE. “We have a much smaller team, so it was very
Dunedin Boys Home is one of a number of schools across the country where claims of abuse have been reviewed. Photo: Ministry of Education.
About the award’s sponsor
Members of the cross-government team working on Resolving Historic Claims on Child Abuse with State Services Minister Dr Coleman (centre) at the 2012 IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards. The project won both the Prime Minister’s Award for Public Sector Excellence and the Excellence in Working Together for Public Services. useful for us to look at the MSD approach and work together with them, share information, share files, and share the process.” The success of the Resolving Historic Claims of Child Abuse project has greatly exceeded agencies’ expectations. Around 1000 people have registered with CLAS since 2009 and it has met with 600 people in the community and in prisons. More than 1000 people have accessed their files and the CCRT has resolved 225 child welfare claims and applications. MoE has investigated and resolved a smaller number of claims. Almost all cases have been resolved outside the formal litigation process.
Finding resolution Resolution can take various forms, says Young. “One thing almost everybody wants and appreciates the most is that formal acknowledgement
and apology in a letter from the CEO – recognition that something did go wrong, that they were harmed when in care. Resolution can also include being connected with support services such as counselling, help with tattoo removal, assistance in tracking down relatives or lost possessions, support in approaching the police, and financial compensation.” Breakwell believes the strategic approach taken at the project’s outset has been one key to its success, as well as the willingness of the various agencies to work and problem solve together. “A range of different people were involved in the planning stage so we got a lot of different perspectives. We considered the options and things that had been done in other countries.” The project is unique to New Zealand as far as Garth Young is aware.
“What tends to have happened overseas in countries like Australia and Ireland is that some kind of enquiry has been held and that has determined that care in certain places at certain times was less than it should have been and a system has been put in place to redress that. It is a template matrix system; the amount of money you get depends on the boxes you tick. “The difference with our approach is that we deal face to face with the person, we listen to their story, we go away and investigate, and we meet with them again face to face to talk about our findings. “The other thing we do is that when we are looking at individual cases we identify things that have gone wrong. If we can learn from that how to work better with clients today, we feed that back into MSD.” The project is ongoing and
New Zealand Society of Local Government Managers is the national organisation that supports and develops local government professionals around New Zealand. Our focus is on ensuring that they have the knowledge and skills to benefit New Zealand’s local communities. SOLGM does this by providing professional support and access to training advice and resources. SOLGM is also the leading voice and provides input into policy development on local government issues from a managerial perspective. We understand the importance of providing leadership and guidance on the role of good local government management. We exist to constantly improve the complex process of local government. SOLGM sponsored the Excellence in Working Together for Better Services Award.
while Breakwell and Young agree it can be challenging, difficult work, the results are enduring and are making a positive difference to people’s lives.
Confidential Listening and Assistance Service – Listening with dignity and respect When Judge Carolyn Henwood was approached by the Department of Internal Affairs to chair the new Confidential Listening and Assistance Service it was described as New Zealand trying the South Africa Truth & Reconciliation Model. It had also been preceded in this country by the Confidential Forum for Psychiatric Patients, an initiative which was seen as successful. “The government’s goal with CLAS was to reconcile with people who’d suffered abuse and neglect in state care before 1992 and assist them in their lives now,” says Judge Henwood. Despite a very limited budget and restrictive terms of reference, she was inspired by the notion. “At that time hundreds of cases were making no headway in
the High Court – everyone was bogged down. I felt that being independent, CLAS could shake the trees and try and get everybody focused on a goal.” A lot of thinking went into how CLAS would work. “It’s very dangerous work because if you get it wrong you can make people feel worse than when they came in. We knew a lot of people would be angry, damaged, and cynical against the government because they haven’t been helped in the past.” CLAS includes Judge Henwood, an executive director and assistant, several senior facilitators, and an eminent persons panel which is comprised of senior New Zealanders who travel the country with Judge Henwood to meet with individuals.
September/October 2012 Public Sector 13
Insights from 2012 Ian Axford Fellows
n August five Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellows in Public Policy presented their research findings during a seminar series jointly hosted by Fulbright New Zealand and IPANZ. The seminars were held in Wellington at Te Puni Kokiri.
The fellows’ full reports are available at www.fulbright.org.nz.
Education David Vannier is a Consultant at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Science Education in Bethesda, Maryland. Hosted by the Ministry of Education, Vannier researched policies and practices that lead to effective science instruction in New Zealand schools. Vannier notes in his abstract that in 2006 and again in 2009 New Zealand students caught the world’s attention with their outstanding performance on international science assessments from the OECD. “While this highlights the education system’s strength, there is growing evidence that too many are not doing well in science and do not have access to effective instruction, especially in primary school. This inequity is compounded by the observations that lower achieving students tend to be of Māori or Pasifika descent and from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Educators and scientists are calling for increased attention to science instruction.” Vannier’s report looks at education policy, successful science programmes, past research, and “realities in the classroom”. The findings provide strategies for improving science education for all New Zealand children.
Foreign affairs and trade Bruce Vaughn is a Specialist in Asian Affairs at the Congressional Research Service in Flint 14 Public Sector September/October 2012
Hill, Virginia. Hosted by the Ministry of Defence and Victoria University of Wellington, Vaughn researched shared NZ-US interests in promoting stability in the South Pacific. For his research, Vaughn examined recent developments in the bilateral United StatesNew Zealand relationship, with a focus on security and defence cooperation and recent activity in the South Pacific. He notes that NZ-US cooperation in the South Pacific can be viewed as an expression of what is happening in the wider relationship and the larger geopolitical dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region. His abstract notes that, “US-NZ cooperation in the South Pacific addresses shared concerns while developing cooperative approaches to regional affairs. New Zealand’s interest and involvement in the South Pacific makes that region a natural starting point for developing bilateral cooperation. This is particularly so given the renewed focus by the United States on the South Pacific as part of its larger rebalancing toward Asia.”
Housing Christian Stearns, who has an extensive career in housing development in the United States at the local and federal government levels, was hosted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. He presented his research findings on Rebuilding Sustainable Communities: Partnerships for Social Housing. In 2010 the Government established the Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group to provide advice on state and social housing.
Using Appreciative Inquiry, Stearns examines the advice provided by the group. He also explores some of the government’s current state and social housing policies, including policies related to increasing the supply of social housing through NGO providers. His paper concludes by looking at how an action model for sustainable social housing redevelopment could be used in Auckland and Christchurch.
Law and enforcement Cornelia Weiss is a Judge Advocate at the United States Air Force Reserves in Washington, DC. Hosted by the New Zealand Defence Force, Weiss researched the impact of military justice, human rights, and the rule of law on NZDF operations. In her executive summary, Weiss notes that “New Zealand’s respect for human rights and the rule of law in military operations is one of its great, unacknowledged strengths. While not flawless and with the complication of contradictions, New Zealand can offer the world the beginnings of a blueprint.” Weiss says the NZDF selection process, training, self-leadership, size, types of operations, force composition, and culture as well as New Zealand political leadership and New Zealand culture may contribute to NZDF respect for human rights and the rule of law. She concludes her report with a number of recommendations to continue to improve and enhance respect for human rights and the rule of law in NZDF operations.
Resource management Caroline Park is Deputy Section Chief for Sustainable Fisheries at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Arlington, Virginia. Hosted by the Ministry for Primary Industries, Park explored service delivery models for New Zealand marine fisheries. In her report Park considers New Zealand’s management of fisheries, including its use of the Quota Management System for commercial fisheries. She compares New Zealand and the United States’ approach to
fisheries management and the similarities in the need for scientific research, enforcement, monitoring and policy advice. She notes, however, that a major difference between the two countries is how those services are funded. Since 1994 the New Zealand government has recovered costs of fisheries and conservation services from quota holders. While the US has cost recovery requirements, fees are capped at a low level. As Park says in her executive summary, “Since the inception of the QMS, New Zealand has continuously sought ways to improve fisheries management and reduce costs. Its experiences in this regard will be instructive for other countries, including the United States, as they grapple with achieving the best compromise between market-
based and traditional fisheries regimes. For New Zealand, a critical question is whether alternative service delivery models will result in further, significant efficiencies.”
The Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships in Public Policy were established by the New Zealand Government to reinforce links between New Zealand and the United States. The programme is administered by Fulbright New Zealand for the Ian Axford (New Zealand) Fellowships Board.
executive watch Pauline Winter
Pauline Winter has been appointed Chief Executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. She is currently Director of the Office of Pasifika Advancement at the Auckland University of Technology. She has also run her own company, Interpacific Limited and, in addition to private sector management positions, was Chief Executive at Workbridge Incorporated, a professional employment service for people with disabilities. A current board member of the Tertiary Education Commission, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Auckland City Investments Board and the Committee for Auckland, she is also Chair of the Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust, and serves on the boards of the National Advisory Council for the Employment of Women, the Teachers’ Council Review Panel, and the Auckland District Police Pacific Peoples Advisory Group.
Auckland lawyer Michael Heron has been appointed Solicitor-General. He was most recently a partner at Russell McVeagh between 2007 and June 2012. From 1995 to 2007 Heron was a lawyer and partner at Meredith Connell where he gained extensive court and advocacy experience, including as a Crown Prosecutor. He has appeared in court at every level, from the District and High Courts, to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. From 1991 to 1994 he was a solicitor at Allen and Overy, in London and Tokyo. Prior to his appointment as Solicitor-General, Heron was a panel counsel to the Serious Fraud Office, the Auckland Crown Solicitor, the New Zealand Law Society and a member of the Council of the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Law Society.
David Smol has been appointed inaugural Chief Executive of the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. He has been Acting Chief Executive of MBIE since April this year and prior to that was the Chief Executive of the former Ministry of Economic Development. He joined MED in April 2003 as Deputy Secretary responsible for the Energy and Communications Branch. Previously, Smol was a Director of a UK-based energy consulting firm. From 1989 to 1997, Smol worked in New Zealand. He was an Analyst and then Manager in network industries at the Treasury. He was also Secretary to the Trans Power Establishment Board, and spent three years at Electricity Corporation of New Zealand, where he was seconded to the team that set up Contact Energy. In this new role, his contract runs until June 2017.
Peter Mersi has been appointed the new Chief Executive for Land Information New Zealand. Prior to this role he was Deputy Commissioner at Inland Revenue and has served as both Acting Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs and the Treasury. Mersi has extensive public sector experience, having spent time in the Department of Labour and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet before joining the Treasury in 1996. One of his roles at the Treasury included Deputy Secretary responsible for State Service Performance. Previously he also worked in the economics department of the Bank of New Zealand. He began his five-year appointment on 17 September 2012.
September/October 2012 Public Sector 15
On trial – Sharing criminal history records across the Tasman
In May, Justice Minister Judith Collins and her Australian counterpart Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Jason Clare signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries that would allow for a six-month trial of information sharing for criminal history records. In New Zealand the trial involves the Ministry of Social Development; Child, Youth and Family; and IHC New Zealand that undertake high-risk employee checks through the NZ Police. During the trial those checks will be extended to include accessing criminal history records in Australia. Minister Collins says, “The scope of the trial strikes the right balance between including agencies that can benefit most because they already operate in potential highrisk sectors, and with vulnerable individuals, and the need to ensure robust operating procedures are in place before consideration is given to extending the arrangement.”
From intention to action When Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and John Key met for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ meeting in January they agreed in principle to the six-month trial between New Zealand and Queensland. In their joint statement they also “directed officials to accelerate the work under way on reciprocal information sharing to support border control and law enforcement, consistent with free movement of people across the Tasman”. That directive meant that in the course of just a few months, agencies on both sides of the Tasman needed to prepare for the myriad of issues associated with sharing information. Superintendent Barry Taylor, National Manager Operations, NZ Police says that while it was a relatively short time frame there were already existing relationships in place. “Here in New Zealand, the trial involves the three agencies that already request information
16 Public Sector September/October 2012
and use existing processes within the NZ Police. Plus the NZ Police already share information with Australia on a number of levels, including Interpol for enforcement and investigation purposes. “Much of our work for the trial has been on further developing the direct business and ICT relationship between CrimTrac, the agency in Australia with national responsibility for criminal record sharing, and the NZ Police Licensing and Vetting Service Centre.” Because of the limited scope of the trial, NZ Police have been able to use existing business and technology processes, but a separate ICT solution may be required if a formal, long-term agreement is signed between the two countries.
Another tool for vetting employees In New Zealand, as part of its employment vetting process the agencies involved in the trial can request information about a prospective employee who has lived and worked in the other country (Australia or New Zealand) for more than a year. That request is then sent to CrimTrac which passes it to the relevant jurisdiction in Australia. The request is dealt with separately but in parallel to the local vetting process. If a criminal record is disclosed that information is then sent to the agency that made the request.
Photo: Rangizzz, Dreamstime.com.
he New Zealand Police and Australia’s CrimTrac are the coordinating agencies for a trial that sees the two countries sharing criminal history records. Editor Shelly Biswell learns more about our latest partnership with Australia.
Photo: Vicente Barcelo Varona, Dreamstime.com.
In agreement Superintendent Taylor says that while there have been a number of considerations that have had to be taken into account, these have not been major barriers. “Agreements at the government-to-government level as well as service-level agreements between NZ Police and CrimTrac have ensured clarity around protocols and process.” One area of particular focus has been to ensure privacy rights are protected. NZ Police consulted with the Ministry of Justice to put robust protocols in place
and completed a privacy impact assessment before the trial began. In New Zealand criminal history checks as part of an employment vetting process require the prior written consent of the individual concerned. The trial does not change that requirement. Additionally, records are subject to the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004. Under the Act, convictions are not shown on a person’s record if they have no convictions within the last seven years, their convictions are for less serious offences, and certain other
conditions are met. Superintendent Taylor says, “Australia and New Zealand have comparable standards of privacy making for a straightforward process across both sides of the Tasman”.
Working together A trial like this requires a team effort on both sides of the Tasman. Here in New Zealand, Ministry of Justice is the owner of the information and of the trial. NZ Police bring to the table the infrastructure, staff, and resources to provide the operational
requirements of the test. So far the trial has demonstrated that NZ Police and CrimTrac can successfully share criminal record information. Based on the final results, the two governments may consider expanding the programme to other Australian jurisdictions. As Australia’s Minister Jason Clare said with the trial’s launch, “This will enable employers to make more informed employment decisions – and means better protection for the community from people who may pose a risk.”
People fit for performance… As the leading recruitment agency working for the public sector, our sector knowledge is unsurpassed. Providing both permanent and contract resources we work hard on getting it right, consulting both employers and candidates on fit for purpose skills in order to deliver peak performance. Visit www.thejohnsongroup.co.nz to find out more.
YOUR FIRST CHOICE FOR PUBLIC SECTOR PROFESSIONALS
September/October 2012 Public Sector 17
Te Upoko Taiao – A holistic approach to planning Greater Wellington Regional Council’s top performance in Crown-Maori relationships was honoured at the 2012 IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards ceremony. The council shared the Te Puni Kokiri-sponsored award jointly with the New Zealand Police. Marieke Hilhorst spoke with Nigel Corry and Miranda Robinson of Greater Wellington to find out more about the council’s innovative partnership with the region’s iwi.
stablishing Te Upoko Taiao – Greater Wellington Regional Council’s natural resource management committee – was both a no brainer and an easy sell, says Nigel Corry, the council’s General Manager, Environment Management. “The timing was perfect.” The committee, set up in 2009 and made up of seven
elected councillors and seven appointed members from the region’s seven iwi, has brought a new dimension to how Greater Wellington approaches natural resource management planning and decision making. Corry says, “In 2009 we had a process being developed for reviewing the regional plan, we had the Ara Tahi mechanism [Greater Wellington’s inter-iwi
representative group], and we had a long-held desire by mana whenua to be more involved in the decision-making process.” But while the council had looked to increase the participation of the region’s mana whenua in decision making, treaty settlement methodology was limited in allowing this input into natural resource management. Team Leader Policy Development, Miranda Robinson, says the Resource Management Act 1991, which drives the council’s planning processes, doesn’t incorporate tangata whenua values very well. “It has them in separate clauses, so when you’re using that as your foundation document, then integration is always going to be
Members of Te Upoko Taiao at the 2012 IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards. From left to right: Herewini Te Koha, Deputy Secretary, TPK (award sponsor); Nelson Rangi, Chair of Ara Tahi; Chris Laidlaw, Regional Councillor and Co-chair of Te Upuko Taiao; Fran Wilde, Chair, Greater Wellington Regional Council; Te Waari Carkeek, Co-chair of Te Upuko Taiao. 18 Public Sector September/October 2012
a struggle. The whole process is very much from a Western point of view.” Te Upoko Taiao, promoted by Greater Wellington Chair Fran Wilde, has proved the elegant solution. The committee was established under the Local Government Act 2002 with full delegated authority to oversee Greater Wellington’s regulatory responsibilities for resource management, including its review and development of regional plans. One of its aims is to ensure the values of the region’s mana whenua are captured and incorporated in planning processes. The seven mana whenua members are each nominated by their iwi but, says Corry, do not represent individual iwi. Under the Local Government Act they are appointed for the skill set they bring to the regional table – a tangata whenua perspective for the whole Wellington region. “If you look at it holistically, this concept was designed to bring together the management of our natural resources from a Pākehā and mana whenua perspective. And the enduring thing out of this entire process, if it works well, will be that that relationship is stronger, better and more deeply understood by all parties. The regional plan is just the tool to allow that conversation to occur.” One important conversation has been about how the regional plan can reflect some aspirations, but not all. As a statutory document it has strict boundaries, Corry says. “The challenge is to make sure
that those bits that can’t be in it, have been picked up somewhere else in our processes, and that the whole committee can see that the conversation was so rich and so rewarding in terms of everyone’s enhanced understanding over the last two or three or five years, and that it has actually led to a stronger, richer understanding of the relationship between us as a council, the community, and particularly the mana whenua of the region.” That, he says, is the win out of it. Robinson agrees, “It’s caused a shift in other things we do that may not end up directly as words in the plan, but they are still related to natural resources, such as changes to our state of the environment monitoring. We will have tangata whenua values monitoring incorporated in that, which won’t be seen as words in the regional plan but will have been an outcome of those discussions and will change the way we [Greater Wellington] do things.”
Lessons learnt Setting up Te Upoko Taiao was the easy part, says Corry. Then came the expectations about what it could achieve and deliver, and a “possibly unrealistic expectation about how quickly we’d be able to do things and how quickly mana whenua values would be incorporated”. Planning, by its nature, is a multi-year process and that initial enthusiasm was eroded a little, he says, as the first 12 to 18 months were spent upskilling committee members about what a regional plan was, what it could achieve, and what it couldn’t. “We went through things like developing guiding principles and values and those slightly more esoteric ground-setting conversations, and then getting across to the committee the whole of what’s going on in the region, and what our current planning
framework was,” Corry says. Robinson says the time it took was simply a function of the high level of information committee members need to support robust policy development, and to engage in public consultation. “I think, given the size of the region, and the scale and scope of the issues that the plan needs to cover – from air, to soil, to coast, to fresh water, to land use – they need a good background understanding, and that simply takes time.” Another lesson delivered by Te Upoko Taiao was how long it takes to socialise the process, says Corry. “People need to get to know each other and you need to have those aspirational conversations. The group needs to form itself and understand how they want to work and what they want to achieve. Only after you’ve done that can you overlay the process – this is what you can actually do under the RMA. “I think what time has shown in this group is that, once you have worked through the initial enthusiasm and got down to the business of planning, everyone fundamentally wants the same outcomes for the environment. There are no real discrepancies. We all want a better environment. How you put the values of the region’s mana whenua into that and how you align with the Western science values, that’s where the hard discussions are. How do you actually incorporate all those values into something that, at the end of the day, is a fairly limited statutory document with fairly limited functions; that’s the challenge.”
Next steps The next step for Corry’s team is to get more specific detail around the regional plan’s policy provisions, including all the rules, in ways that continue to incorporate the aspirations of the region’s mana whenua iwi. Working with Te Upoko
Taiao is crucial to that, he says. “If you go with the essence of this committee, this is the right thing to do. It’s a fantastic model. You can’t consider management of your physical and natural environment from just a Pākehā perspective. It will never work for the long term.
We’re talking a generational change here. This plan won’t fix anything in three years or five years or 10 years, but it might sow the seeds of some genuinely better, properly holistic deeply understood reasons of why we look after our land and water like we do.”
About the award’s sponsor Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development, is the Crown’s principal adviser on Crown-Māori relationships. They also guide Māori public policy by advising Government on policy affecting Māori well-being and development. Each Crown-Māori relationship is unique, and should recognise the complexity and diversity of the parties to the relationship. The best of these relationships provide the conduit through which Māori can contribute to policy and planning processes in the areas that affect them, and also ensure that government can meet its own objectives and outcomes. Te Puni Kōkiri means a group moving forward together. As the name implies, Te Puni Kōkiri seeks to harness the collective talents of Māori to produce a stronger New Zealand. September/October 2012 Public Sector 19
question & answer
Economic outlook – Auckland Council’s Geoff Cooper Auckland Council’s Chief Economist Geoff Cooper won the IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence New Professional Award this year. Recently he spoke with Editor Shelly Biswell about some of the momentous changes that have occurred since the creation of Auckland Council and why supporting a globally competitive Auckland matters.
Can you tell us about your professional background? I graduated with a bachelor in commerce and science before completing a master’s in economics with first class honours at the University of Auckland. When I graduated I began working for the Auckland City Council as an Economic Adviser. I initially worked on labour and manufacturing issues and then moved into the city’s strategy office and was involved in developing Auckland City Council’s submission on the legislation to create a super city. It was a fantastic experience and gave me an intimate understanding of just what it was going to take to bring the region together. After that experience I had the opportunity to work at the United Nations headquarters in New York with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. While there I developed a project that looked at advancing insurance products to farmers in developing nations, using a newly established technique known as index-based insurance. We had a number of good outcomes with the project, including increasing private sector interest in the
Photo: Auckland Council.
20 Public Sector September/October 2012
idea and schemes being rolled out in various African countries. It certainly fostered my interest in using market-based approaches for achieving social outcomes, which I have also applied in the development of microfinance initiatives in Southeast Asia and Africa.
What brought you to this role? When I came back to New Zealand I knew I wanted to be involved with the work of the Auckland Council. I heard about the role of Chief Economist and I was excited about applying for it to be honest – after all it was a newly created position leading a new unit in a new organisation. It is the only position of its kind in Australasia. One of the things that helped me transition into the position is that I spent the first year in an acting capacity which allowed me the opportunity to grow into the role.
You are in one of the few new positions created for the Auckland Council. Can you discuss what this role offers the council – and the region? The role was created with the clear intention of having a person within the organisation who could provide trusted economic advice to elected officials and the council’s senior leadership team. The aim is to ensure that economic thinking is considered at a high level in planning and policy decision making. One of the first projects our team was involved in was reviewing the City Rail Link business case with several government agencies. Transport is one of the greatest challenges facing Auckland and has a huge bearing on how we’ll grow as a city, so understanding the economics of a project like City Rail Link is absolutely crucial to the decision-making process. More recently our team has provided a lot of input into the council’s economic development strategy (available on the Auckland Council website). We’ve supported the
Economic Development Team in looking at ways to make sure Auckland remains globally competitive. This means considering whether unitary plans and regulations are business friendly; looking at ways to support good exporting and innovation strategies, for example, clustering businesses so that they’re working together; investing in infrastructure; and supporting skills and education initiatives. There’s a lot at stake for Auckland – and for New Zealand – to be seen as a place where people want to live and do business. Auckland’s productivity is high by New Zealand standards, in large part because of the types of industries we have here and the density of our employment hubs, particularly the CBD. That’s great, but when we compare Auckland with cities of comparable size overseas we are in the middle of the pack. We need to lift our performance if we’re going to attract and keep investment, talent, and ideas.
Can you discuss what it’s like working in a newly formed organisation? It’s an incredibly innovative environment. Not everything has been smooth sailing and we have some really challenging issues like transport and housing to grapple with, but for the first time Auckland has a united voice. This has allowed us the opportunity to lift the discussion up and deal with issues in a more holistic way. There’s also the sense that we can’t just accept that the way we’ve always done things is the right way to keep doing them. That doesn’t mean we should disregard the past, it just means that our decisions need to be founded on evidence-based information not just assumptions. The Auckland plan process is a good example of that. It’s been challenging, but it’s been a robust process that’s run in a relatively short time – London took five years to develop its plan – we’ve been mandated to complete our process within 18 months.
Has the size of Auckland Council made it harder to make connections within the organisation? Surprisingly, no. I have found that people, on the whole, understand the need to work collaboratively and across disciplines. Part of that means building new working relationships, taking risks, and being willing to adapt.
Competitiveness in an increasingly global economy Below are some of Cooper’s views on building a more competitive and more resilient Auckland. Cities compete fiercely on a daily basis for the inputs of production. This is clearly evidenced in the Auckland context by the number of people leaving the city for greater opportunities abroad, which stood at almost 30,000 people over the last year (the highest it has been in around two decades). The markets for skilled labour and capital are becoming increasingly competitive, and the battle lines are drawn in cities. The global landscape of cities is currently undergoing a remarkable shift. The dizzying scale of urbanisation in China, with an additional 300 million people living in urban areas over the last 25 years, is just one example of a wider regional trend. The emergence of mega cities such as Shanghai and Beijing will continue to drive a new trajectory of demand. Adapting to this will be critical if Auckland is to compete in this vastly different new world. But Auckland does not currently perform well in global measures of competitiveness. According to a 2010 Global Urban Competitiveness report, Auckland ranks 107. We might take from this that there is plenty of scope for improvement. Auckland would do well to start by creating a strong and productive city centre which can compete internationally for skilled labour and foreign direct investment, encouraging a growing and innovative export sector, and investing in an efficient transport network, all of which would support New Zealand’s fastest growing region.”
When I was new to the role I took time to meet with as many people as I could and get a real sense of how the organisation worked and where our team needed to be plugged in. It took time, but it’s meant that I have a good understanding of how the whole organisation works and our team is very much engaged.
What do you see as Auckland’s next challenges? Auckland is in the midst of a housing shortage and that’s of real concern. A big part of my work has been looking at ways we can ease that problem, for example by investigating market-based mechanisms for releasing land for housing development. Transport is another challenge for our region and intricately related to housing issues. The City Rail Link is an important part of both these issues because it will create a greater intensity of highly productive employment nodes, reduce travelling times from across the region, and lift land values which will support increased housing supply. Overall though, I think our greatest challenge is maintaining our competitiveness – everything we do should be viewed through the lens of competitiveness, whether it is the functioning of labour market, the housing market, our industrial policy, or the provision of infrastructure. We can’t be at all complacent if we want to be a competitive global city. Research commissioned by the Ministry
of Business, Innovation and Employment has found that Auckland’s international connections are not well developed. In terms of our changing demographics, we are one of the most international cities in the world and New Zealand’s international gateway, but we haven’t capitalised on that. We need to strengthen our international connections to ensure that we encourage investment, trade, and innovation.
About the award’s sponsor Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Government was formed in July 2002 and is the first and only such school in New Zealand. Our aim is to build public sector capability through our teaching programmes, improve public sector governance through research into public management and administration, and contribute to scholarship in important areas of public policy. Our courses are designed to help public servants make a difference. We work collaboratively and across disciplines, with academics in New Zealand and internationally, and with regional and local government. All of this helps us understand, and both challenge and support the public sector. September/October 2012 Public Sector 21
Working with wardens, a multi-cultural approach
Community representatives, wardens, and members of the Māori, Pacific and Ethnic Services Team accept the Excellence in Crown–Māori Relationships Award. A dozen awards were handed out at this year’s IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards ceremony. Accepting three of them was New Zealand Police Superintendent Wally Haumaha who is General Manager of Maori , Pacific and Ethnic Services. It was a first in the event’s history that so many awards went to one public sector unit, and Haumaha is justifiably proud. Marieke Hilhorst spoke to Haumaha about one of the awards his team received for the Maori , Pacific and Ethnic Wardens programme – a joint winner in the Excellence in Crown–Maori Relationships category. Superintendent Wally Haumaha accepts one of three awards his team received at the IPANZ Gen-i Public Sector Excellence Awards.
22 Public Sector September/October 2012
hile the All Blacks were busy winning the Rugby World Cup on the paddock, Superintendent Wally Haumaha’s people were busy winning hearts and minds outside the stadium. These people were the many community-based Māori, Pacific and Ethnic wardens who volunteered more than 1000 hours to work alongside Auckland’s police during last year’s massive sporting event. “There was a hugely diverse range of people attending the Rugby World Cup,” Haumaha says, “so we put up Pacific communities that had Tongan people, Samoan people, Raratongan people; all from
different backgrounds who volunteered their services to work alongside my team.” Pacific wardens worked with the huge Tongan crowds on Auckland’s K road. “Because their faces reflected that community, in the first instance there was no animosity, no confrontation and it was just about keeping the calm, keeping people on track and working alongside them. “It showed you can quell situations no matter what the size of a crowd if you are able to provide the right people in the right place at the right time.” The ‘right people’ who helped make the Rugby World Cup a success are the crucial element in Haumaha’s efforts to enable different cultures to feel safe and
be safe in New Zealand. Since 2007, his award-winning Māori, Pacific and Ethnic wardens programme has trained more than 1000 Māori wardens, around 400 Pacific wardens, and about 120 Asian patrollers. While the Māori wardens are located in every police district in New Zealand, their Pacific and Ethnic counterparts are based in Auckland. The programme has three goals: less crime at events and in communities where the wardens are deployed; empowered Māori, Pacific and Ethnic communities who actively create a safer environment for themselves; and strong relationships between these communities and the New Zealand Police. And it’s working. Crime has decreased in all areas where the wardens are deployed. Engagement and trust between Police and these communities has increased. “We’ve got wardens out there patrolling alongside police regularly on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. They’re a great bunch of people who work tirelessly and do a fantastic job. We’ve worked hard to support them in improving their equipment, ensuring they have got nice uniforms, high visibility vests, and good communications.” The programme grew from the NZ Police’s decades-long work with Māori wardens, a joint project with Te Puni Kōkiri. Haumaha says the Treaty partnership principles that underpinned those relationships are now being shared with the Pacific and Ethnic wardens and their communities. His seven-member, Wellingtonbased unit leads the programme, drawing on 70 police liaison officers spread throughout New Zealand. Along with training, his unit develops strategy, such as the NZ Police’s Māori, Pacific and Ethnic strategic plan to 2016.
His unit also takes a hands-on approach at major events. During the 2004 foreshore and seabed hikoi from Northland to Wellington, Haumaha and five of his team were on the road alongside the protesters. The march was, he says, incident-free, in large part due to the police taking an appropriate cultural response. “When we got to Wellington, people say there were up to 40,000 people that marched on Parliament that day, but we were incident-free, we were arrest-free.” Haumaha recently visited the Solomon Islands and Australia to share the NZ Police experience of working in a multi-cultural world. “If I were to benchmark [against those places] I’m proud of the position we occupy in the New Zealand Police and what we achieve.” While Australia has non-sworn police liaison officers who work closely with their Chinese, Korean, Pacific, and Māori communities, Haumaha says wardens here get a lot more support. “I think they were quite envious of the position that our wardens hold, and the close relationship that they have with police.”
Next steps The current focus for Haumaha’s team is reducing the overrepresentation of Māori and Pacific people in the criminal justice system. “We’re looking at how we can take more Māori offenders out of the system by diverting them into alternative arrangements, working with providers rather than going through prosecutions. “My main focus is on youth, on alcohol and drugs, working with families on domestic violence, and monitoring organised crime groups.” He is also looking for initiatives to reduce the high number of fatal crashes involving Māori. “It’s a huge job and we’re a very
One of the goals of the Māori, Pacific and Ethnic wardens programme is less crime at events and communities where wardens have a presence. Photo: ©mychillybin.co.nz/Kim Stevens. small unit, but we’re very dedicated and committed and there’s not one person in my unit who is complacent about what they do.”
‘Real’ relationships are the key Haumaha says much of the success of the wardens programme comes down to the quality and depth of the relationships his unit has built with communities throughout New Zealand. To prove the point, on his desk sits an award from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand – the 2012 Harmony Award in recognition
of “meritorious services to New Zealand’s Muslim community”. The key is, he says, that relationships need to be real, not just words in a strategy. Success relies on the partnerships police have with communities, enabling those communities to implement initiatives. “Police can’t fix a lot of the issues, but we can lead, we can be of assistance, we can support and guide, and, ultimately, if we work closely with those community leaders and those groups, they pick it up and work with us and deal with the problems in their own way.”
September/October 2012 Public Sector 23
Point of view
What’s in a name – Asset sales v mixed ownership Media expert Tony Schirato talks to Editor Shelly Biswell about the power of words and images in public discourse.
“Asset sales also sound like a return to some of the policies and ideologies of past National-led governments, which is something this Government has worked hard to distance itself from.”
Framing the discussion
t’s an interesting test: Go to your web browser and type in “asset sales nz”. Now try the same thing for “mixed ownership nz”. Notice any differences in the organisations and individuals who use the different phrases? Based on an unscientific Google search by Public Sector, many media outlets and citizen groups appear to favour the use of “asset sales”, as do Labour and the Greens. Government and the Treasury, on the other hand, lean toward using the phrases “mixed-ownership model” or “partial asset sales” in their discussions. While it would be easy to write off the choice of words as a kind of “you say potato, I say potato” discussion, both phrases have values attached to them and both have become part of the broader dialogue about how to manage New Zealand’s resources. Tony Schirato, Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington, says words and images have a major impact on how an event or action is perceived. “It is no surprise that the Government would use the term ‘mixed ownership’, which makes it almost seem like selling shares in the four former state-owned enterprises with Crown companies is business as usual. Conversely, the phrase ‘asset sales’ makes it clear that more is at stake.
24 Public Sector September/October 2012
Schirato says in terms of the power of words and images, it is instructional to look at how New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan is portrayed. “Both officials and the media have couched the sending of troops there as akin to humanitarian aid – almost a community project, as opposed to a conventional military deployment. Just consider a word choice like ‘peacekeeper’ instead of ‘soldier’ to get a sense of how influential the words we choose to use are to our public discussions.” Imagery can be even more powerful, Schirato says. “A textbook example of this is the type of images that much of the media used of Helen Clark in her first years as prime minister. Remember the photo that was trotted out over and over again of an awkward kiss between Helen Clark and her partner Peter Davis? The subtext seemed to be that Clark was somewhat of a clunky woman – so what kind of leader could she be? Over time those images were replaced with images that made Clark appear as a competent statesperson.” Persuasive imagery is used on both sides of the political fence. Media expert Brian Edwards gave an online brickbat in his 23 July 2012 Bouquets and Brickbats posting where he upbraided a news outlet for its coverage of the July National Party Conference, including “deliberately chosen, highly unflattering photographs of Paula Bennett, Hekia Parata and John Key (with double chins) and a laboured attempt at a humorous caption”.
Changing newscape Schirato says that while words and images continue to drive public discourse, the arbiters of what is and what isn’t news has changed significantly. Some of this can be attributed to the rise of the Internet with online media outlets, blogs, forums, YouTube, Twitter, and even Wikipedia all now vying for audiences. “There’s the saying that media is ‘between two deaths’, it’s changing, but we still don’t know what it will look like even in a few years. In many cases mainstream media is still operating as if nothing has changed – a little like the old cartoons where a character runs off a cliff, but doesn’t realise they are in mid-air until they look down. “More and more people are scanning several national and international sources for their news, as well as seeking out ‘niche’ media, such as blogs and forums.” What this means for complex issues like the partial sale of assets is that the public discourse may not be happening through traditional media channels, but as Schirato explains, it is still occurring. “The risk, of course, is that alternative channels might not have the same tenets of journalism – that information can easily be replaced with propaganda. This is why we as a society need to value and foster frank and transparent discourse and need to safeguard the role of the fourth estate – no matter the communication channels.” Tony Schirato is an Associate Professor at VUW. He teaches and researches in the areas of public discourse and media literacy. He has co-authored books on the work of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, and is currently researching his next book on sports and the media.
Celebrating our public service
Join us in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Public Service Act 1912 which is the basis of New Zealand’s professional, merit-based public service. The contribution of this Act to New Zealand’s high standing as an ethical society, both free of corruption and with a low tolerance of dishonest practice with public resources, has been fundamental to the vital place our wide range of public services have in public life.
© mychillybin.co.nz/Brian Scantlebury
FROM THE CROWD.
STAND WHEN YOU’RE READY TO RISE ABOVE THE REST, CONTACT THE VICTORIA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT.
We’re the only school of government in New Zealand. Located in the heart of government, we have access to the people, places and policy makers that will shape your future. Our staff have extensive public sector experience and your study will be applied through relevant case studies. Our courses are flexible to accommodate your work schedule. We also offer a range of study options to suit your needs and experience. Choose from Certificate or Diploma Courses that will take your career to the next level and open the door to a Masters Degree in Public Management or Public Policy. Whatever level you study, you’ll find our courses and those who take them are highly sought after. To find out more and to enrol, contact the School of Government now. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 04-463 5453 or visit www.victoria.ac.nz/sog