Introduction from the Chief Executive
The key role of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) is to support executive government at the heart of New Zealand’s parliamentary democracy. We advise the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, and help provide coordination and leadership across the public service to facilitate the achievement of the government’s policy objectives.
This year, there will be a general election. A number of departmental staff, particularly in the Cabinet Office, will have important roles to play both in the lead-up to the election and in the period following, when a new administration is formed and ministers take up office. It is crucial to the effective functioning of New Zealand’s democracy and to the maintenance of trust in our parliamentary and electoral systems that executive government receives the administrative support required for its continuance in accordance with accepted conventions and practices. DPMC has a key role to play in ensuring that continuity, by supporting the incoming government for its full term.
DPMC is charged with providing support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on a diverse range of policy and administrative issues on which it brings to bear judgement, discretion and effectiveness. The robustness of our processes is particularly tested around the time of a general election and therefore we shall be giving priority attention to preparations for the 2008 election, working with the Ministry of Justice, the Chief Electoral Office, Treasury, the State Services Commission (SSC), and the Crown Law Office.
The Central Agency Review conducted in 2006 outlined a number of areas where DPMC, Treasury and SSC could lift their contributions to whole-of-government effectiveness. Over the next three to five years we shall continue to work intensively with Treasury and SSC on this, with our focus being on cross-agency leadership of issues and on promotion of collaboration between agencies to achieve the government’s key policy outcomes. We shall also work with our central agency colleagues to improve the effectiveness of senior public service leaders as they endeavour to lift the performance of their own agencies.
DPMC, along with Treasury, will continue to support SSC in its leadership of the Development Goals for the State Services; and, over the period of this Statement of Intent, new tools to measure performance will be introduced as a means of identifying where improvements can be made. The Development Goals emphasise the need for the state sector to serve the government of the day and to meet the needs of New Zealanders through being accessible and coordinated, and delivering value for money. Building and sustaining trust in the state sector is perhaps the key Development Goal, one in which this department has a crucial role to play. Accordingly, we shall continue to support staff in carrying out their roles in a professional manner that demonstrates the highest levels of integrity and conduct.
Little change is expected over this three-to-five-year planning period in the conduct of the department’s core functions of assessment, policy advice, and issues management. We do, however, expect to face new policy challenges and issues that will require our response. The past year has seen climate change, sustainability, housing affordability, and financial market stability become issues of policy interest in a manner that had not been evident previously. Similar new pressures can be expected to emerge in future. In order to offer appropriate support on such issues – especially when they arise unexpectedly – the department has an ongoing requirement to maintain flexibility in staffing, a high level of skills, and responsiveness to changing circumstances. We must also strive to develop our understanding of longer-term policy challenges that may emerge for New Zealand, and to anticipate new pressures that may demand the government’s response.
The range of domestic and external security risks facing New Zealand remains broad. We shall continue to take the lead in the state sector’s risk management as we coordinate cross-government efforts to identify and mitigate risks to New Zealand’s well-being. These include not only natural events such as earthquakes and floods but also cyber attacks, border-management hazards, and serious threats to social order. DPMC will continue to coordinate the regular exercising of cross-agency capability for dealing with these risks. A key priority will be the strengthening of local and international partnerships to meet future challenges.
Over the next four years the department will undertake an extensive project to conserve and refurbish Government House Wellington, which will be 100 years old in 2010. Expert studies conducted over the last two years have established that this listed heritage building is in need of significant investment to conserve its historic features and fabric, strengthen its structure, and bring it up to modern building standards. Plans for its conservation have been drawn up; these strike a balance between preserving and enhancing the heritage fabric of the building, and providing modern functional facilities and services. Because of the importance of this project, the governance arrangements put in place for its management draw upon external expertise. The intention is to ensure this historically significant building is fully fit for purpose for at least the next half-century.
Government House Wellington will be closed during its refurbishment and conservation, and Vogel House in Lower Hutt will become the vice-regal residence over the next three years. There will be some special challenges for staff over this period, as the department is committed to maintaining an appropriate level of service for Their Excellencies the Governor-General and Mrs Satyanand in relation to both their official duties and personal affairs.
The department’s management and staff are well aware of the responsibilities entrusted to them in their various roles in support of the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and ministers. We shall continue to work as effectively as we can – over the coming year in particular, but also beyond – to ensure that we provide the quality, service and timeliness of support that is expected of us.
Maarten Wevers, CNZM