The Public Service has an important stewardship role to support the Crown, through the government of the day, to foster a strong relationship with Maori. In its 2011 Ko Aotearoa Tēnei report, the Waitangi Tribunal considered partnership as an essential element of the Treaty, suggesting it be built into all our national institutions.

‘It gives us our sense of right and place, grounding us in the traditions of the Pacific and the West at the same time…It is essentially optimistic in outlook…It is the precondition for unlocking Māori potential for the benefit of the country as a whole. It is the core of our national identity. And it is unique.’

Recently, Hon Kelvin Davis, Minister responsible for the new Crown/Māori relations portfolio, held more than 30 hui, kanohi ki te kanohi, attended by over 1600 people around the country. This process and others (including Waitangi Tribunal reports), have indicated that a shift in the public service’s relationship with Māori is needed. There are pockets of good practice but the quality of relationships with Māori and level of responsiveness to issues that affect Maori, varies across the Public Service.

These ideas are not new, however previous legislative and non-legislative initiatives have not delivered significant results for many Māori. There is a need to take a new approach and provide clear expectations for the public service. These reforms provide a timely opportunity to contribute to this.

This section proposes a number of statutory amendments to support a more citizen-centred public service; for example, vehicles that will better enable cross agency accountability, collective stewardship by chief executives, and an inclusive workforce. These provisions are designed to improve services for all New Zealanders, including Māori.

However, these will not be enough on their own to reflect the Treaty partnership and provide the step change needed to deliver meaningful results for Māori. A wide range of initiatives is being considered to bring about a cultural change within the public service so that it is highly responsive to Māori issues; proactively, confidently and competently engages with Māori; is committed to developing the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver results for Māori; better able to partner with Māori and incorporates Māori perspectives into its work as a matter of course.

Explicit authorisation through the new Act will play a key role in ensuring this happens. We propose that the Act would contain specific references to the Public Service’s support of an improved Crown/Māori relationship, and take into account the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles. We propose that this would apply to the New Zealand Public Service outlined earlier.

We propose that the Act include a prominent stand-alone clause that is clear about the expectations of the public service in relation to the Treaty partner and contains guidance to support the public sector in building its capability.

In doing so, the clause could set out provisions relating to

Engagement, participation and partnership with Māori: proactive, informed and collaborative approaches that are mutually beneficial and strengthen the relationship
Delivering services and results: services that are responsive to, accessible to, and work for Maori and whanau, and well-informed decisions and interventions that improve results
Workforce composition and capability: a workforce that values, reflects and understands the communities it serves, is valued for its cultural competence, and empowers Maori to succeed as Maori in the public service
Leadership and culture: collective accountability for a culturally competent Public Service that delivers with and for Maori, and is committed to support Maori in leadership and decision-making roles

We propose to consider how these ideas might be further developed following consultation feedback. For example, we consider that there is a unique case for there to be a focus on increasing the number of Māori in senior leadership roles in the Public Service. While 16 percent of the core Public Service are Māori, 12.3 percent of public servants in senior leadership roles are Māori and many of these roles are Māori facing, such as cultural advisors. The senior leadership of the public service, like the overall public service needs to reflect the community it serves. There is a strong view that if Māori are better represented in senior decision-making roles, engagement with Māori will be more confident and consistent, Māori perspectives will be incorporated more fully into advice and service design and improved results will be delivered for Māori and New Zealand. This does not remove the onus on the New Zealand Public Service to provide a culturally competent service and respond in ways culturally appropriate to all New Zealanders.

In addition to a prominent stand-alone clause, we propose the Act would include explicit provisions to strengthen and clarify the Commissioner’s and chief executives’ collective responsibilities. These provisions would include responsibility for developing the cultural competence and capability of the Public Service, supporting Maori leadership within the Public Service and ensuring the Public Service has strong relationships with Māori, is responsive to the needs and aspirations of Maori and advances opportunities to work with Māori.