The Public Sector: A Shift in Focus

Kia ora kouto. I thought I should get back on the Policy Buzz train as the public sector never stops – except maybe for last week, when what seemed like most of New Zealand took advantage of those 3 days in between all the stats holidays.


A Shift in Focus


It’s now May and this year has seen a shift in focus from the announcement of new policies and direction, to pushing forward with the implementation and delivery of what was announced last year. The biggest announcement this year is undoubtedly the gun law reforms following the horrific attacks in Christchurch on March 15th. The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill was swiftly passed through the house earlier this month, with the ban on semi-automatic firearms coming into affect on April 24th. 


The work that is going to be put in behind this change is where things get rather interesting - a legislative change and subsequent implementation requires a coordinated cross-agency response and we’re already seeing a lot of strong policy and project people being pulled from other areas of government to work on this. Policy changes around gun legislation haven’t been enacted in NZ since 1992, which means only a small portion of those working on these changes have had exposure to something similar in the past (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing - fresh eyes and all that). So I’d say this is a definite ‘watch this space’ area this year.


Budget 2019 – What it means for contractors


More generally, a lot of government departments are eagerly anticipating the announcement of the 2019/2020 budget, just over a month for a renewal of funding to continue on with all the hard work they’re doing. What this means for contractors looking for work  is, with budgets for additional resources being fairly non-existent in various areas, some may have to wait until after June for new positions to become available, or only have the offer of short term work with many contract end dates being set at 30th June. 


With 2019 being the year of delivery, most agencies have strict time frames to meet in terms of ministerial and cabinet reporting and subsequent policy implementation. For prospective employees, this means that the types of work available have become particularly project or policy cycle specific. Contract work in particular has become very piece-meal, where those with a very specific skill set are being employed for one part of the policy cycle (e.g. strategic policy specialist to define a scope on a policy project for 3 months) and another specialist in a different area to take over from there. 


All in all, this year has been a busy and interesting time for public servants so far, with no signs of slowing down. What do you think about the types of work going on in the public sector at the moment? I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments you may have. 


I’ll be back again in two weeks with another update. 


Until then, ka kite ano. 

Lisa Johnston
Policy Buzz
Public Sector 2019