The New Zealand Public Service Response to Covid-19


  • Hannah Cameron



public service reform, Covid response, spirit of service, trust, integrity, collaboration


The New Zealand public service faced an unprecedented challenge in 2020. The focus of this article is on what the Covid-19 experience can tell us about the strengths of the public service, and whether the course that we have set for the future, enshrined through the Public Service Act 2020, is the right one. The established directions of public service change helped the Covid response: functional leadership made a definite contribution; dispersed leadership roles proved their worth; the deepening experience of inter-agency collaboration over the past decade cannot be proved to have contributed, but it seems reasonable to conclude that it did. Public servants proved willing to behave as participants in a single service rather than employees of a single agency, living up to the more complete view of human motivation reflected in the Public Service Act. The article concludes with some observations on the importance of interoperability for the future public service, and on the implications the strong Mäori response to Covid-19 may have for the public service of the future.


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