Boards of chief executives and “one-stop shops” for the public could be set up under what has been described as the most significant reform of New Zealand’s public service in the last 30 years.

The Government has launched public consultation on its plans to reform the State Sector Act, first created in 1988.

Speaking to a crowd of public servants at Parliament, State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said the public service did things “that nobody else can”, but could improve the way it delivered services to the public.

Hipkins said the State Sector Act introduced radical, positive changes to the public service at the time it was introduced.

However, it did not work well in encouraging government departments to “come out of our siloes” and take collective responsibility for action.

The public service needed to become more “fleet-footed”, with different agencies working together on common problems when necessary and providing “seamless and easy to access” services to the public.

Hipkins said there were “life events”, such as the birth of a child or moving house, where it would be better for Kiwis to have a single contact with the Government.

The Government was also planning to reform the Public Finance Act as part of its wider state sector reform, including its plans to introduce “wellbeing budgets” from 2019 onwards.

Hipkins said the Government wanted to give public sector agencies a range of options to work together.

They included “executive boards” of chief executives who would be jointly accountable for achieving government priorities such as climate change or child poverty; “joint ventures” of staff and resources from different agencies; and “executive agencies”, where one department would deliver services on behalf of others so Kiwis had a “one-stop shop” for support, similar to CentreLink in Australia.

Hipkins said the Government also wanted to enshrine in legislation the principles and values of the public service, which could be extended to some Crown entities.

“New Zealanders expect the same value and level of service from publicly funded organisations, whether they are delivered by a department, a departmental agency, or a Crown entity.”

If the reforms go ahead, an Aotearoa New Zealand Public Service Bill will be introduced in mid-2019.

Public Service Association national secretary said the union had been calling for reform for more than a decade, with current legislation making it harder for public servants to do their jobs.

Barclay said the public service needed legislation that was “fit for the future”.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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