"The public service supports constitutional and democratic government, enables both the current Government and successive governments to develop and implement their policies, delivers high-quality and efficient public services, supports the Government to pursue the long-term public interest, facilitates active citizenship, and acts in accordance with the law."

Section 11, Public Service Act 2020 — New Zealand Legislation

The Public Service supports current and future governments to develop and implement their policies and to deliver high quality and efficient public services that New Zealanders expect and rely on.

The Public Service is committed to maintaining the public’s trust and confidence by:

  • achieving outcomes for New Zealanders — real tangible improvements in the lives of individuals, whānau, and communities,
  • improving services to New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses by organising the Public Service’s activities around their needs
  • acting as a unified system around a common spirit of service and in line with our principles and values.

Spirit of Service

Achieving outcomes

New Zealanders expect the Government to deliver outcomes for individuals, whānau and communities. The Public Service supports the Government to improve these outcomes through the services provided by individual organisations, and also by joining up around critical issues or priorities identified by the Government. These are often complex and pressing, and they inherently span multiple portfolio areas. 

Improving services 

New Zealanders expect a world-leading, modern Public Service that supports their Government to improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

A leading-edge Public Service:

  • puts the needs of the individuals, whānau and communities they serve at the centre
  • has digital services that are easy and convenient to interact with and are organised around the needs of people (for example, life events such as the birth of a child)
  • has face-to-face services that are fully integrated around people’s needs.

Fostering active citizenship and open government

New Zealand aspires to be an inclusive and cohesive society. To fulfil these aspirations, the Public Service has an obligation to foster active citizenship and open government.

New Zealand is a participant in the Open Government Partnership, an international agreement by governments to create greater transparency, increase civic participation and use new technologies to make their governments more open, effective, and accountable.

Open Government Partnership — Open Government Partnership New Zealand

Active citizenship depends on citizens being able to participate in the decision-making processes that affect them. Through the Public Service’s Long-term Insights Briefings, the public can contribute to future decision making, helping us collectively as a country to think about, and plan, for the future.

Long-term Insights Briefings

Supporting the Māori Crown relationship

The Public Service has an important role in supporting the Crown in its relationships with Māori under te Tiriti o Waitangi | the Treaty of Waitangi. The Public Service is committed to strengthening the capability of the system to support the Crown’ priorities to improving the outcomes and services for Māori and to better engage with Māori and understand Māori perspectives.

Māori Crown relationships

Reflecting the communities we serve

It is important that New Zealand’s Public Service reflects and understands the society it serves. The Public Service is committed to improving diversity in the workforce and inclusiveness in the workplace. and inclusion work for the last 5 years and we have made some significant gains in that time. Despite this progress, we know disparities continue to exist within the Public Service workforce, and we continue to focus on embedding gains and extending our efforts.

Diversity and inclusion

Te whakarato i te kāwanatanga o te wāServing the government of the day

New Zealand has an apolitical Public Service. This means that the Public Service serves the government of the day, regardless of its make-up, and does so in a way that is professional, expert and ethical.


Each Public Service chief executive is accountable to their appropriate minister or ministers for fulfilling responsibilities under section 52 of the Public Service Act. Their responsibilities  include:

  • running their department
  • providing advice and assistance to the minister
  • working with other Public Service leaders to achieve better outcomes.

Ministers have the ability to direct the departments that they are responsible for, though tend to focus on setting policy and leave the operation of departments to chief executives. There are only a few things that ministers can’t be involved in, which include:

  • making decisions about the employment of individual employees (except chief executives)
  • drafting Long-term Insights Briefings that provide information about trends, risks and opportunities that affect or may affect New Zealand and our society 
  • performing other duties or functions that particular chief executives are legally required to perform independently.

Ministers are responsible to Parliament for their portfolios and departments, including funds their departments spend from the budget allocated by Parliament.


The Public Service operates within the overall accountability of the Executive branch of government (which includes ministers and government agencies) to Parliament. Parliament scrutinises what the Executive does, and each minister is responsible in Parliament for the activities of their portfolio and department.

Public Service chief executives, including the Public Service Commissioner, support and assist their ministers to be accountable in Parliament. This means Public Service organisations’ annual reports are presented in Parliament, and chief executives may appear before Parliamentary select committees to review their department’s expenditure and annual reports. 

Public Service Commissioner

The Public Service Commissioner is the Head of Service, and leads the Public Service and wider public sector agencies to work as one system to deliver better services and better outcomes.

The Commissioner acts to protect and enhance the legitimacy and integrity of the Public Service, and the spirit of service that sits at the heart of the Public Service and everything it does.

About Te Kawa Mataaho

Public Service Commissioner