Thirty Years On: Learning from the New Zealand Experience

Prof. Robert Gregory
Mr. Masashi Yui
Prof. John Halligan

Thirty years ago New Zealand’s State Sector Act 1988 transformed the country’s public service into what was widely seen at the time as an exemplar of public management reform, a poster case for what soon became known as New Public Management. What has been learned from the New Zealand experience since those heady reformist times? What key elements of those radical changes have endured and which have tended to fall by the wayside? What does New Zealand’s public service look like today in the face of challenges that were not clearly visible back in the late 1980s? This paper addresses these questions, with particular reference to strong criticisms recently levelled at the public service by one of the main architects of the original reforms, former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who has now called for another royal commission of inquiry into the country’s state services. The paper will employ mainly qualitative research, but will also include quantitative research on the scope and frequency of organisational restructuring in the New Zealand public service since 1988.