New Public Service Act means better services and better working lives

The passing of the Public Service Bill this afternoon heralds a significant new direction for the public service and the wider state sector, offering new opportunities to improve the delivery of services, the relationship between Crown and Māori, and the working lives of public servants.

The Public Service Association supports the new Public Service Act, which follows years of engagement between government and the union.

“This is the biggest reform to New Zealand’s system of public management for over thirty years, and we believe it aligns well with the spirit of service that motivates public servants,” says Glenn Barclay, National Secretary of the PSA.

“All New Zealanders will benefit from more coordinated services. There have been times when the public sector has felt fragmented, carved into carefully delineated fiefdoms, and that can be a challenging thing to navigate both for citizens in need of support and staff working hard to provide it.”

PSA members are proud to work in an independent, transparent and politically neutral public service, and the union welcomes the renewed commitment to these principles in the new Act.

The previous State Sector Act of 1988 had become increasingly unsuitable for New Zealand’s modern needs, and carried the baggage of outdated ideological perspectives.

PSA National Delegate and public service Sector Māngai Paula Davis believes it will take time to see the full scope of what this new Act can mean for public servants, Māori in particular.

“The new Act commits the Crown to a strong partnership with Māori and provides many mechanisms to make that a reality. We can’t forget, however, how many previous commitments have struggled to make the leap from the paper they’re written on into the lives of people in our community,” she says.

“I look forward to seeing our government agencies improve their Māori cultural capabilities. There are plans to have a million New Zealanders speaking te reo by 2040, and that will require a public service capable and confident of engaging with all aspects of te ao Māori .”

Thousands of PSA members worked in new or different government agencies during our nation’s response to Covid-19.

Mr Barclay says while this mostly went smoothly, there were inevitably areas where it became clear change is needed.

“Gone are the days where you start as a teenage cadet and work your way up one agency for your whole career, but perhaps we lost something along the way? Public servants want to go where they’re needed and help however they can, and we need consistent terms and conditions of employment that remove barriers to making this happen. The new Act brings us closer to this, and promotes the concept of a career public service,” he says.

“The new Act brings us closer to this, and promotes the concept of a career public service. If you have a certain amount of leave built up at one agency, for example, you shouldn’t sacrifice that when shifting to work at another. It’s exciting to see us move closer to a place where a public servant really can work for the whole public service, and by extension for the whole New Zealand public.”

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