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New Zealand’s public sector has consistently rated well internationally on a variety of measures of comparative government performance. In the 1980s New Zealand achieved a step change in public sector reform when it introduced a distinctive and widely applauded model of public management. Despite attempts at continuing improvement, however, New Zealand has struggled over the past decade to keep developing the frameworks and tools that public managers require to manage efficiently and effectively in the public sector. New Zealanders are becoming more diverse in their needs, ethnicities, and lifestyles, and more demanding in their expectations, and the weight of these expectations increasingly impacts on government. In the face of these changing circumstances, it is tempting to stick with the current model and continue to refine and adjust it. But tweaking is no longer enough − another step change is required.
In 2009 the chief executives of several public sector organisations commissioned a group of researchers associated with the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington to undertake a project looking at the ‘future state’ − to consider present trends that would impact on public management in coming years. Future State pulls together the results of that work, covering emerging trends in governance, from both New Zealand and international perspectives; issues, options and policy implications of shared accountability; experimentation and learning in policy implementation; agency restructuring; skills and capability; the authorising environment; and e-government. It contains valuable insights into how New Zealand’s public sector currently operates, and how it might operate in the future.
Bill Ryan is an Associate Professor in the School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, where he specialises in public management in both teaching and research. He was the Programmes Director for the first five years of the School of Government.
Derek Gill is a Senior Associate at the Institute of Policy Studies, School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington and Principal Economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.