From Mandarin to Valet Public Service?

State sector reform and problems of managerialism in the New Zealand public service


  • Simon Chapple



managerialism, state sector reform, fixed-term chief executive contracts, valet


Managerialism – the notion that the primary skills required to manage any specific organisation are a generic set of managerial skills – is now widespread in the New Zealand public service. Managerialism was enabled by the 1988 State Sector Act, especially that part establishing the fixed-term contracts and appointments of chief executives. The consequences have been a decline in departmental expertise and a public service which acts as a secretariat for the government of the day. Thus, New Zealand has shifted from a mandarin to a valet public service. Managerialism is identified by top appointees who lack specialist skills and sector experience, short employment durations, and the manner in which the State Services Commission has managed the reform process thus far.


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