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Long-term Insights Briefings

Long-term Insights Briefings – decorative image of a road superimposed with the words past, present, future.

“The Long-term Insights Briefings require the public service to look over the horizon, for the common good.”
– Brook Barrington, Head of the Policy Profession

The New Zealand public service has a duty of stewardship, to look ahead and provide advice on future challenges and opportunities. Achieving this requires organisational commitment to develop the capacity and capability to not only respond to the issues of the day, but also take a long-term stewardship role. It requires a public service that values foresight – to think, anticipate and act with the future interests of people in New Zealand front and centre.

The Public Service Act 2020 (Schedule 6, clauses 8 and 9) introduces a new requirement on departmental chief executives to publish a Long-term Insights Briefing (a Briefing) at least once every three years. The purpose of the Briefings is to make available into the public domain:

  • information about medium and long-term trends, risks and opportunities that affect or may affect New Zealand and New Zealand society
  • information and impartial analysis, including policy options for responding to these matters.

The Briefings are think pieces on the future, not government policy. The requirement to publish a Briefing is a statutory duty on departmental chief executives, independent of ministers. They differ from the advice that the public service provides ministers, or the accountability and planning documents prepared for Parliament.

The value of the Briefings is the opportunity to identify and explore the issues that matter for the future wellbeing of the people of New Zealand. They provide an opportunity to enhance public debate on long-term issues and usefully contribute to future decision making – not only by government but also by Māori, business, academia, not-for-profit organisations, and the wider public.

Long-term Insights Briefing Guidance

A suite of guidance materials has been developed to support government agencies in developing the Briefings. The guidance has been issued by Brook Barrington in his role as Head of the Policy Profession. It sets out what’s required by the Public Service Act 2020 and good practice for what to include in and how to develop the Briefings. The suite of guidance materials has been divided into high-level guidance and more detailed guidance to meet the needs of different audiences.

The Briefings are a new and untested instrument and process. There will be lessons learned from the first round of Briefings to inform and improve the next, including helping refine the contents of the guidance.  

The development of the guidance was informed by workshops with departments and other stakeholders, and research into relevant practices and models in other jurisdictions. The guidance sets out eight high-level steps and indicative timeframes for government agencies to follow in developing a Briefing.

Overview of the Steps in the Long-term Insights Briefing process

Steps in the Long-term Insights Briefing process

High-level guidance

The high-level guidance provides an overview of the Briefings and development process. It consists of two resources – the High-level overview and the High-level development process.

Who’s it for?

The high-level guidance has been developed for:

  • chief executives and other public service leaders responsible for delivering a Long-term Insights Briefing
  • managers and teams developing a Briefing
  • agencies in the broader state services contributing to a Briefing
  • other people wanting an overview of the Briefings and development process.

High-level overview

This sets out the requirements on departmental chief executives to develop a Briefing and recommendations for how these Briefings should best be developed. It includes guiding principles to support departments in making decisions that fully realise the potential benefits of the Briefings. It also includes criteria to assist departments in selecting the subject matter for a Briefing.

Long-term Insights Briefings - High-level overview

High-level development process

This sets out the process and indicative timeframe for departments to follow in developing a Briefing. There are eight high-level steps in the development process and each step consists of a number of activities.

Long-term Insights Briefings - High-level development process

More detailed guidance

The more detailed guidance describes each of the activities that form the high-level steps in the development process and provides a good practice checklist. It consists of two resources – Detailed steps of the development process and Checklist.

Who’s it for?

The more detailed guidance has been developed for managers and teams developing a Long-term Insights Briefing.

Detailed steps of the development process

This provides guidance to support agencies in undertaking the necessary activities that form each of the eight steps in the development process for a Briefing, and provides their indicative timeframes.

Long-term Insights Briefings - Detailed steps of the development process


The Checklist provides a list of questions based on good practice that can be considered during each step of the development process for a Briefing. It sets out practical actions that can be taken to develop and deliver a high-quality Briefing, and how to promote the long-term insights.

Long-term Insights Briefings - Checklist

Other resources

We also encourage you to check out our:

  • Futures thinking tools in the Policy Methods Toolbox. Futures thinking provides a range of techniques that can be used in developing a Long-term Insights Briefing to help you think about the drivers of change that are shaping the future.
  • Community engagement tools in the Policy Methods Toolbox. The Public Service Act 2020 requires departments to consult the public on the subject matter of the Briefing and the draft Briefing once developed.
  • Stewardship page which provides information and resources to help you get a better understanding of stewardship in the context of policy advice, and why it’s so important.

Where to go for help

Individuals and teams working on Briefings in government agencies can join a Microsoft Teams group. The purpose of the group is to share information collected as part of the Briefing process and connect with people in other departments who are developing the Briefings. To join the group, email the Policy Project.

The Policy Project is also available to answer any questions related to the Long-term Insights Briefings and guidance. You can contact us at

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 April 2021

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