New Zealand

   

Executive Accountability

#16
Key Findings
With mixed oversight capabilities, New Zealand falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 16) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to its 2014 level.

Parliamentarians have comparatively slim resources, but ample oversight powers. The highly effective ombuds office is the world’s fourth-oldest. The review period saw the introduction of a proposal to enhance the powers of the privacy commissioner and make reporting of privacy breaches mandatory.

The population’s policy knowledge is generally strong, though participation levels among young people are low. TV and radio broadcasts offer considerable high-quality information. A decline in investigative journalism in the electronic and print media has been partially offset by internet commentary.

Decision-making styles in the traditional political parties vary. The small number of well-organized economic associations are involved in lobbying and policy formation. Other civil-society groups are frequently consulted by decision-makers.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#7

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
7
The most recent comparative data set which includes information on New Zealand policy knowledge is the International Social Survey Program. In the 2004 edition, New Zealand respondents overwhelmingly (69%) felt that they had a good or very good understanding of important political issues. Only 13% of respondents said that most people are better informed about government and politics. The 2007 edition of the survey did not include this question. Regarding the question, “How interested would you say you personally are in politics?” there was a slight decline of political interest in New Zealand between 2004 and 2007. According to survey data from the New Zealand Election Study of 2014, approximately two-thirds of respondents expressed satisfaction with the state of their democracy.

While levels of party membership and voter turnout have been in sharp decline – voter turnout dropping from the 80s and low 90s percentiles for much of the postwar period to 74% in 2011 with a minor increase in 2014 to 78% – there is evidence to suggest that levels of political knowledge and engagement are not as worryingly low as figures might suggest. This said, participation rates among the young suggest that generational disaffection during the review period is at an all-time high..

From time to time, matters of constitutional importance or public interest are put to voters by way of either citizen- or government-initiated referendums. In 2015-2016, for example, the government conducted a two-stage referendum on whether New Zealand should replace its national flag. The issue sparked a high level of public debate, with a majority opting to retain the existing flag.

Citations:
International Social Survey Programme 2004: Citizenship: http://zacat.gesis.org/webview/index.jsp?object=http://zacat.gesis.org/obj/fStudy/ZA3950.
International Social Survey Programme 2007: Leisure Time and Sports: http://zacat.gesis.org/webview/index.jsp?object=http://zacat.gesis.org/obj/fStudy/ZA4850.
New Zealand Election Study, University of Auckland, 2011-12.
Voter turnout: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Trust%20and%20participation%20in%20government/voter-turnout.aspx (accessed October 9, 2014).
OECD Better Life Initiative: How is Life in New Zealand? Update from 31 May 2016. http://www.oecd.org/statistics/better-life-initiative.htm#Countrynotes (accessed June 30, 2016).

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
6
New Zealand has several policies that have been endorsed by the cabinet to support open government and the release of open data. These policies and principles support agency discussions relating to opening up data and improving transparency. The country ranked 11th in the OECD OURdata Index on Open Government Data, which focuses on government efforts to ensure public sector data availability and accessibility and to spur greater re-use.
Since 2014, New Zealand’s government participates in the Open Government Partnership which features an Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) with an independent reviewer assessing each government’s performance. The IRM for New Zealand released the latest draft report on New Zealand in early 2018. While in opposition, the Labour party and the Green party were criticizing the National government’s performance on the OGP. However, it is too early for a full evaluation of the new government’s performance here.

Citations:
OECD 2017. Open Government Data. http://www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/open-government-data.htm
Open Government Partnership. 2018. Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): New Zealand Progress Report 2016-2018.

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#27

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
5
While New Zealand members of parliament are not generously equipped with financial or personnel resources to monitor government activity, they do have access to party research budgets, which fund party research units. Other personnel available to individual members of parliament include an executive assistant (in parliament) and electorate staff, with constituency members being more generously funded than those on the party lists. Despite the availability of these resources, opposition parties are placed at a distinct disadvantage relative to the breadth of staff, research and other resources made available to the government and its small support parties. Each party’s research unit follows up on parliamentarians’ requests, especially in preparation for parliamentary debates.
Following the 2017 election, inexperience on both sides of the house was evident. On one side, even the most experienced National members of parliaments had not been in opposition for nine years. On the other, Labour’s 46-member caucus included 17 new parliamentarians, NZ First’s group of nine included two new parliamentarians and the Greens’ eight parliamentarians also included two newcomers.

Citations:
K.-U. Schnapp and P. Harfst, Parlamentarische Informations- und Kontrollressourcen in 22 westlichen Demokratien, Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, 36 (2005), pp. 348–70.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
9
The Cabinet Manual defines the right of committees to ask for government documents. All documents must be delivered in full and within an appropriate time. There are limitations with regard to classified documents.

Citations:
Cabinet Manual: Providing Information to Select Committees: http://cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz/8.66 (accessed October 24, 2015).

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
8
It is common practice that ministers follow invitations to visit select committee meetings, but occasionally they refuse to do so. This follows a guideline that committees can request but not require that a minister appear before them. Only the House of Representatives itself can compel members to attend a committee if they do not do so voluntarily.

Citations:
Officials and Select Committees – Guidelines (Wellington: States Services Commission 2007).

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Select committees may summon experts. The only restriction is with regard to public servants who need the approval of their minister to attend committee meetings.

Citations:
Officials and Select Committees – Guidelines (Wellington: States Services Commission 2007).

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
6
The New Zealand House of Representatives is far too small to establish as many select committees as would be necessary to fully correspond to the number of ministries. In recent years, efforts have been made to restrict the number of select committees any individual member of parliament may sit on. Select committees are appointed at the start of each parliament following a general election. The number of members on a committee can vary, but normally a committee has between six and 12 members each, with parties broadly represented in proportion to party membership in the house. Areas of ministerial responsibility are reflected in 12 subject-specific committees (as of 17 October 2017). Those had to scrutinize 58 portfolios (as of November 2018), led by 19 cabinet ministers, four ministers outside cabinet, three support party ministers and three parliamentary undersecretaries, of whom two are from support parties.

Citations:
Ministerial List 14 November 2018; https://dpmc.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2018-11/Ministerial-List-14-November-2018.pdf
About Select Commmittees, 17 October 2017. https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/about-select-committees/

Media

#23

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
Not all television and radio stations produce high-quality information programs, but both Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand provide a regular evaluation of government decisions. TVNZ’s TVOne has three news programs per day, each lasting between 30 minutes to one hour, as well as a lighthearted daily current affairs magazine-style program. It also has an hour-long current affairs program, “Q and A,” which screens once a week and focuses on domestic politics. TVNZ 7, a station established in 2008, offered a range of news and current affairs programming and attracted a small but loyal audience prior to its closure in 2012. A second television network, TV3, offers a similar news and current affairs schedule to that of TVNZ. Radio New Zealand has four extensive news features per day in addition to hourly news programs. Newspapers provide information and analysis on government decisions and policy issues, although many articles report government statements verbatim and such stories tend to be relegated to the inner pages, with crime and celebrity stories dominating the headlines. The decline of investigative journalism by electronic- and print-media outlets has been noted by media commentators, although internet commentary, including blogs, has to some extent provided a substitute.

Citations:
TV One: http://tvnz.co.nz/tv-one (accessed October 9, 2014).
Radio New Zealand: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/programmes (accessed October 9, 2014).

Parties and Interest Associations

#16

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
4
As of early 2019, there are five political parties in the parliament. The two major parties, National (56 seats) and Labour (46 seats) dominate the electoral map. The NZ First party and the Green party come next, with 9 and 8 seats respectively.

The organizational structure of the Labour party is complex, as it mainly consists of affiliated members, that is, those who are members of affiliated trade unions. Although the party refuses to disclose membership numbers (a policy shared by the National party), it is thought to have a current membership of approximately 7,000. Decisions with regard to personnel and policy are therefore not restricted to individual party members. However, at the same time, Labour uses a system of delegates. The selection process for candidates for parliamentary seats is based on a heavily formalized moderating procedure that takes criteria such as ethnic background, gender and region into regard. Following pressure from grassroots members to have a voice in the selection of the party leader, in 2011 the party took away the parliamentary caucus’s sole responsibility for choosing a party leader, replacing it with a combination of party membership (40%), the parliamentary caucus (40%) and the affiliated trade unions (20%).

National considerably increased the central leadership’s influence in an organizational reform in 2003. The newly created National Management Board, which includes the parliamentary leader, plays an especially influential role in pre-selecting parliamentary candidates for electorate seats (to a so-called Candidate’s Club), although these are still required to compete with other nominees, using the existing decentralized electorate selection process. The selection of candidates for list seats has been equally centralized at the expense of regional party organizations. The party leader is chosen by the members of the parliamentary caucus.

The Green party’s organizational structure is quite decentralized in comparison with the traditional larger parties. Decisions on policy and the selection of parliamentary candidates are made by the party membership, with less control exerted by the parliamentary caucus.

Citations:
Constitution and Rules of the New Zealand National Party (Wellington: New Zealand National Party 2013).
Green Party: http://www.greens.org.nz/ (accessed October 24, 2015).
NZ Electoral Commission (elections.org.nz, 2017)
Candidate Selection and List Ranking Procedures 2014 (Wellington: Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 2014)
Labour Party: Constitution and Rules 2014 (Wellington: New Zealand Labour Party 2014).
Stephens, Gregory R. und John Leslie: Parties, organizational capacities and external change:
New Zealand’s National and Labour parties, candidate selection and the advent of MMP, Political Science 2011 (63): 205-218.

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
7
There are few well-organized and well-staffed interest groups in New Zealand. The largest and most prominent are the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – total union membership was estimated at 413,000 in June 2018, an impressive 11.2% increase from a year before – Federated Farmers, the Chambers of Commerce and Business New Zealand. All are involved in policy formation and dissemination, and all seek to influence government policy. However, there is an underlying asymmetry. Business interests additionally rely on the work of the New Zealand Business Roundtable, an organization of chief executives of major business firms. In 2012, this merged with the New Zealand Institute to form the New Zealand Initiative, a libertarian think-tank that lobbies for pro-market economic and social policies.

.

Citations:
Business New Zealand – Submissions: http://www.businessnz.org.nz/submissions (accessed October 24, 2015).
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Campaign Main: http://union.org.nz/campaigns/summary (accessed October 24, 2015).
The New Zealand Initiative: http://nzinitiative.org.nz/ (accessed October 24, 2015).
The National Business Review: Roundtable and NZ Institute Morph Into New Libertarian Think-Tank: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/roundtable-and-nz-institute-morph-nz-initiative-ck-115751 (accessed October 9, 2014).

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
There is a rich tradition of consultation with societal groups during policy formulation. The degree of consultation with groups and individuals and the way in which their proposals have been dealt with is reported in regulatory impact statements (RIS). Recent RISs claim that consultation has had a substantive impact in several cases. Still, resource shortages prevent some interest associations from developing specialist policy knowledge that would give them tangible impact in the consultation process.

Citations:
Regulatory Impact Statement Information Release: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/informationreleases/ris (accessed November 30, 2015).

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#9

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
10
The controller and auditor general is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of parliament and is fully accountable to it. The Office of the Auditor General consists of the following departments: Accounting and Auditing Policy, Legal Group, Local Government, Parliamentary Group, Performance Audit Group and Research and Development. It is empowered to survey the central government and local governments. The legal basis is the Public Audit Act 2001.

Citations:
All about the Controller and Auditor General (Wellington: Office of the Auditor General 2012).

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
9
New Zealand was the fourth country in the world to establish an Office of the Ombudsman (in 1962). Ombudsmen are Officers of Parliament. Each Ombudsman is appointed by the governor-general on the recommendation of parliament. Ombudsmen are responsible to parliament and independent of the government. Their overall purpose is to investigate, review and inspect the administrative conduct of public sector agencies and provide advice and guidance in order to ensure people are treated fairly in New Zealand. The office is highly effective in terms of formally or informally resolving complaints. In 2017-2018, 11,468 complaints were received. Organizational reform has been under discussion for a number of years because of an ever-increasing caseload. In addition, there is an even older tradition of dealing with petitions in parliament.

Citations:
Office of the Ombudsman. 2018. Annual Report 2017/2018. http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/686/Annual_Report_2017-18_-_FINAL_no_signature.pdf

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
7
The Privacy Act 1993 came into force in July 1993. The Privacy Principles in the act may be superseded by a code issued by the Privacy Commissioner for particular sectors. There are currently six codes in operation: the Civil Defense National Emergencies (Information Sharing) Code, the Credit Reporting Privacy Code, the Health Information Privacy Code, the Justice Sector Unique Identifier Code, the Superannuation Schemes Unique Identifier Code and the Telecommunications Information Privacy Code.

The Privacy Commissioner administers the Privacy Act 1993. In recent years, both the New Zealand Law Commission and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner have made recommendations for particular areas of reform (including mandatory breach notification and stronger enforcement powers) to bring New Zealand’s privacy law in to line with other jurisdictions. The minister of justice introduced a bill amending the current Act on 20 March 2018. The proposal includes stronger powers for the privacy commissioner, mandatory reporting of privacy breaches, new offenses and increased fines.

Citations:
Data Protection New Zealand. https://www.linklaters.com/de-de/insights/data-protected/data-protected—new-zealand
Office of the Privacy Commissioner 2018. Privacy Law Reform. https://www.privacy.org.nz/the-privacy-act-and-codes/privacy-law-reform/
https://www.opengovpartnership.org/report/new-zealand-mid-term-report-2016-2018-year-1
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