Chief Executive's Overview
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's activities underpin executive government in New Zealand. The department provides support and advice to the Governor-General and the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues, and to ministers more generally through the Cabinet system. It also has a leadership role, with the State Services Commission and the Treasury, in relation to the performance of the public service and state sector as a whole.
Our Statement of Intent for the year ending 30 June 2008 (SOI 2007) foreshadowed a number of changes to the department's role, reflecting higher expectations from the government on policy leadership, cross-government collaboration and effectiveness, and ongoing security challenges. This annual report sets out some responses to those changes, and records other departmental contributions to achievement of the government's priorities.
The three policy themes adopted by the government in 2006 (economic transformation; families – young and old; and national identity) have continued to guide the work of the department and government agencies over the past year. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has had an ongoing role in supporting agencies charged with taking these themes forward, and in monitoring and reporting progress. Under the economic transformation theme, DPMC has been closely engaged in efforts to assist the further development of Auckland, including in the establishment and conduct of the Royal Commission on Auckland Issues. Similarly, the department contributed to policy for the broadband package announced in the Budget, and to policy in other areas of infrastructure development.
DPMC also played a role in supporting the government's sustainability programme and climate change policies. We continued to convene departmental chief executives and deputy secretaries from relevant agencies to aid development of sustainability policy options for ministers. The department also participated in cross-agency and wider processes to develop New Zealand's proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS); and, through Australia's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra, we coordinated discussions with Australian officials on ETS proposals in both countries.
Other cross-agency policy initiatives that DPMC contributed to or led included the House Prices Unit, the Effective Interventions Programme for the criminal justice sector, and development of the Schools Plus initiative to improve educational and life outcomes for 15 to 19 year olds. The findings of the House Prices Unit, and the advice provided to ministers on possible steps to improve housing affordability, were released publicly. Following the conclusion of this cross-agency project, which was hosted by DPMC, we were tasked to lead a further project looking at the role that urban development authorities might play in alternative housing solutions and in wider urban-renewal initiatives.
The last year has seen strengthened collaboration between the central agencies (State Services Commission, Treasury and DPMC) aimed at lifting the performance of the public service and the wider state sector. DPMC has committed to taking over leadership of the State Services Development Goal of "Coordinated State Agencies". Steps have been taken to ensure greater alignment of activity, advice and support between central agency staff and line agencies, especially in relation to those large agencies with sector leadership responsibilities. The central agencies have focused on working more effectively to achieve the government's main policy outcomes, enhance effective engagement with line departments and agencies, and improve the public management system.
The Domestic and External Security Group (DESG) took the lead in the broad strategic shaping of this year's large-scale civil-emergency exercise Ruaumoko, which simulated a volcanic eruption in Auckland. DESG worked closely on this with the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, local authorities, central government agencies, and other entities from the Auckland region and hinterland. In the coming year, departments participating in the Officials' Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) will consider the strategies learnt from Ruaumoko, and from the previous year's Capital Quake exercise in Wellington, for possible adoption. DESG has also been active in facilitating workshops on infrastructure resilience, and in lifting awareness of threats (including cyber threats) to the security of government agencies' infrastructure. ODESC departments have also updated whole-of-government guidance on security; and DESG, working closely with lead agencies and departmental security officers, has coordinated a programme of awareness-raising and training.
Their Excellencies' programme
Over the last year, the Governor-General the Hon Anand Satyanand and Mrs Satyanand undertook a varied range of visits and activities throughout New Zealand and overseas. Major visits were made to Northland, Southland, and the Waikato region. In May 2008, His Excellency made the first visit by a New Zealand Governor-General to Canada. He also visited the United Nations in New York, where he accepted the prestigious Franklin Delano Roosevelt International Disability Award on behalf of the New Zealand Government. Celebration of leadership and courage were the focus of a special investiture ceremony in July 2007, when the Governor-General presented the Victoria Cross for New Zealand to Corporal Willie Apiata.
A significant development this year has been the agreement by Cabinet to a major conservation project for Government House Wellington, which will mark its centenary in 2010. As noted in last year's annual report, DPMC has undertaken a process to assess the state of Government House Wellington and develop options for possible refurbishment. The project will cost $47.4m over four financial years. It is designed to ensure the building is fit for purpose, and to bring it up to modern building and conservation standards whilst enhancing heritage values. During the refurbishment, the Governor-General and Mrs Satyanand will live at Vogel House in Lower Hutt, which will be renamed Government House Vogel from early 2009.
The department has been pleased to welcome Rob Taylor as Official Secretary, Government House, in succession to Adrian Simcock who unfortunately resigned because of illness. Mr Taylor has previously worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, most recently as New Zealand's Consul-General in Los Angeles and before that as High Commissioner to Vanuatu.
Support for Cabinet
The Cabinet Office was fully occupied throughout the year in its core role of providing advice and support to the Prime Minister and ministers as they participated in Cabinet decision making. In January, Cabinet Office and Honours Secretariat staff contributed to preparations for, and served at, the state funeral for the late Sir Edmund Hillary. Subsequently, a thanksgiving service for the life of Sir Edmund was held on 2 April at St George's Chapel, Windsor, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. The Clerk of the Executive Council and Cabinet Office staff coordinated the involvement of New Zealand agencies in preparing for this special and rare event at which Sir Edmund's Knight of the Garter banner was "laid up".
The Cabinet Office also produced an updated version of the Cabinet Manual. As the Prime Minister the Rt Hon Helen Clark noted in its Foreword, the Cabinet Manual 2008 represents "an orderly and continuous development of the conventions and procedures of executive government" and provides the basis on which successive New Zealand governments have agreed to conduct themselves whilst in office. It is the manual, rather than legislation, that guides Cabinet's procedures – and these are required to be updated from time to time. The publication of the Cabinet Manual 2008 represents an important contribution to the function of the department and the Cabinet Office in supporting the continuity of executive government in accordance with accepted conventions and practices. The manual is available online on the department's website.
On 24 April, the Prime Minister launched the Cabinet Manual 2008 at a function in the Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings. On the same occasion, Diane Morcom was farewelled at the conclusion of 17 years' service at DPMC, the last five of which were as Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council. Ms Morcom became a Companion of the Order of New Zealand (CNZM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and was also appointed a Commander of the Victorian Order (CVO) by Her Majesty. On the following day I was pleased to welcome Rebecca Kitteridge as Diane's successor. Ms Kitteridge was previously Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet; her appointment to the position of Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council demonstrates the strength we have developed within the department.
This year I have been again very well supported by all staff in the department, in particular by my management team. I should like to place on record my thanks for everyone's efforts, and for the manner in which they have given substance to their roles as impartial public servants serving the government of the day to the best of their ability. It was very pleasing that our latest climate survey of staff opinion showed, yet again, high levels of satisfaction on the part of departmental employees. Despite the daily pressures that many staff face, they continue to value the opportunity to work at the very heart of our democratic system.
Maarten Wevers CNZM