The New Zealand National Party has attacked the government’s plans for extensive public service reforms involving a major overhaul of the legislation, claiming it will lead to a bigger, more expensive government apparatus in Wellington and undermine frontline service delivery.
The opposition spokesman for State Services, Nick Smith, said the sweeping reforms explained by his opposite number Chris Hipkins would make the government sector “more expensive, less accountable and more centralised” and questioned an apparent preference for the term “public service” from the Labour government.
Smith said the National Party was “not convinced of the need” to rebrand the NZ State Services Commission as the Public Service Commission, suggesting it was a waste of money and had no practical purpose.
“These reforms will deliver a bigger and more centralised state sector,” said Smith. “It will mean more taxpayer money going into Wellington bureaucracy and less into the important front-line public services that New Zealanders use every day.
“It will make our Health Boards less responsive to community needs and the dozens of other public institutions like Callaghan Innovation and Antarctica New Zealand more bureaucratic and less innovative.”
“These reforms repeat this Government’s errors with KiwiBuild and the Polytechnic reform in believing that bigger government is better government. The failure of KiwiBuild shows that centralised government agencies cannot build houses faster or more cheaply. Nor will centralising New Zealand’s 16 Polytechnics into a mega-polytechnic deliver better skills training.”
Smith said the opposition did support some key elements of the changes, like employment arrangements that allow public servants to move between different projects more easily.
“It is useful to enable public servants to move more easily between different agencies, this is something we championed while in Government. There are also some useful changes that make the process of re-organising state agencies more efficient.”
Overall, however, the National line is they are “a recipe for a bloated bureaucracy” in line with general criticism of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s expansion of the state.
“The government has already appointed a record number of ministers and working groups,” said Smith. “The core state sector is growing at the fastest rate in over a decade. National will be pushing back on this expansionist view of the public service and seeking a greater focus on value for money and quality in our public services.”
Top image: Nick Smith / CC BY 3.0 NZ NZ National Party