New Zealand

   

Executive Accountability

#15
Key Findings
With mixed oversight capabilities, New Zealand falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 15) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point 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. A proposal under consideration would enhance the powers of the privacy commissioner and make reporting of privacy breaches mandatory.

The population’s policy knowledge is generally strong, with voters submitting a large number of comments on issues with public resonance. The media landscape is dominated by commercial companies. Newspapers provide high-quality content, but broadcast companies focus on entertainment.

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

#4

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
Many New Zealanders appear to appear to be relatively well informed about political issues. According to the 2017 New Zealand Election Study (NZES), 33% of respondents were “very interested” in politics, 49% “somewhat interested.” Roughly two-thirds of citizens make use of the news media to inform themselves about political issues. Asked how often they had followed election news on TVNZ 1, 65% of respondents replied either “often” or “sometimes.” The figure is similar for online sources, with 62% of respondents declaring that they had turned to the internet at least once to find information about the 2017 election. The figures for the 2017 NZES also reveal that political interest and knowledge had increased since 2014.

On issues that have public resonance, relevant select committees – on average – receive a large number of public submissions. For example, in the case of the Smoke-free Environment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill, the relevant committee received more than 15,600 submissions. The various policy working group meetings that have been undertaken since 2017 have been attended by large numbers of citizens around the country. For example, over 2,000 people attended meetings held by the Mental Health Inquiry team around the country (in 2018).

Citations:
New Zealand Election Study 2017 (http://www.nzes.org/exec/show/2017_NZES+Results)

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
8
In global comparison, New Zealand performs relatively well when it comes to publishing data and information as a means to strengthening vertical accountability mechanisms. In the 2018 Open Government Index, published by the Open Knowledge Foundation, New Zealand is ranked 8th out of 94 countries. New Zealand enjoys even higher rankings in the 2017 Open Budget Index (ranked joint first out of 101 countries) and the 2016 Open Data Barometer, released by the World Wide Web Foundation (ranked 7th out of 115 countries). New Zealand’s position is relatively lower in the 2017 OECD OURdata Index on Open Government Data (ranked 13th out of 34 countries); however, New Zealand’s score for ensuring public sector data availability and accessibility is still higher than the OECD average. In 2016, the State Services Commission formed a stakeholder advisory group to work with the government on New Zealand’s Open Government Partnership processes. In addition, the government’s administrative data, along with census data, has been integrated into the Integrated Data Infrastructure, which researchers can access by application. Additional data sets, co-designed with indigenous peoples have been developed, focusing on capabilities rather than deficits. This data is also publicly available on request.

Citations:
International Budget Partnership, Open Budget Index (https://www.internationalbudget.org/open-budget-survey/open-budget-index-rankings/)
OECD, Open government data (https://www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/open-government-data.htm)
Open Government Partnership, Expert Advisory Panel (http://ogp.org.nz/open-government-partnership/expert-advisory-panel/)
Open Knowledge Foundation, Global Open Data Index (https://index.okfn.org/)
World Wide Web Foundation, Open Data Barometer (https://opendatabarometer.org/?_year=2017&indicator=ODB)

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. Each party’s research unit follows up on parliamentarians’ requests, especially in preparation for parliamentary debates. 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. The Clerk’s Office provides other research support for members through the independent Parliamentary Research Service and, for members of select committees, via various secretariat. The parliament budget also provides research support for other intra-party groups within parliament. Despite the availability of these resources, opposition parties are sometimes placed at a distinct disadvantage relative to the breadth of staff, research and other resources made available to the parties in government.

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 twelve members each, with parties broadly represented in proportion to party membership in the House of Representatives. Areas of ministerial responsibility are reflected in twelve subject-select committees and five specialist committees (under the Labour-led government, 2017 – present). These committees had to scrutinize 70 portfolios and four “other ministerial entities” (as of November 2019), led by twenty cabinet ministers, four ministers outside cabinet, three support party ministers and two parliamentary undersecretaries.

Citations:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministerial list (https://dpmc.govt.nz/our-business-units/cabinet-office/ministers-and-their-portfolios/ministerial-list)
New Zealand Parliament, Select Committees (https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/)

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
The New Zealand media landscape is dominated by commercial companies, the largest of which are controlled by international conglomerates. While the newspaper segment, which is split between New Zealand Media and Entertainment (The New Zealand Herald) and Australian-owned Stuff (The Dominion, The Press), does generally provide high-quality content on New Zealand politics, the same cannot be said about television and radio. TV broadcasters mainly focus on entertainment, the only major exceptions being publicly owned Television New Zealand (1 News, Q+A) and Three (Newshub). However, in October 2019, MediaWorks – the U.S. media giant that owns Three – announced that the network is for sale, which could decrease the amount of political news content even further. Meanwhile, among radio stations, it is essentially only publicly owned Radio New Zealand that produces programs on domestic politics (e.g., First Up, Five O’clock Report, The Panel).

Parties and Interest Associations

#15

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
There are currently five political parties in the New Zealand House of Representatives. The two major parties, National (55 seats) and Labour (46 seats) dominate the electoral map. The minor parties – NZ First, the Green Party and the ACT Party – hold nine, eight and one seat(s), 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 into account criteria such as ethnic background, gender and region. 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 the leadership, replacing it with a combination of party membership (40%), parliamentary caucus (40%) and affiliated trade unions (20%).

The National Party 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.

While NZ First and the ACT Party are also based on centralized organizations, the Green Party stands out from the rest of the party system with its emphasis on participatory processes: in contrast to other 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 (bringing together over 320,000 members in 27 affiliated unions), Federated Farmers, and the Chambers of Commerce, and BusinessNZ. All are involved in policy formation and dissemination, and all seek to influence government policy. However, there is an underlying asymmetry. During the 1990s and 2000s business interests relied 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, About us (https://www.union.org.nz/about/)
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.
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, societal groups differ significantly in their organizational resources and thus in their ability to make an impact on policy consultation processes. The Zero Carbon Act that was passed in early November 2019 is a case in point. While the consultation process received around 15,000 submissions – including those from environmental organizations and Māori groups – the law has been criticized for giving undue benefits to dairy industry lobby groups: the law stipulates a reduction of greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, with the exception of methane from meat and dairy herds – New Zealand’s largest greenhouse gas emission (the target for methane is a cut between 24%-47% from 2017 levels).

Citations:
Regulatory Impact Statement Information Release: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/informationreleases/ris (accessed November 30, 2015).
Dunlop (2019) “Māori seek direct input into govt’s climate change policy.” Radio New Zealand (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/388797/maori-seek-direct-input-into-govt-s-climate-change-policy).
Toop (2019) “Agriculture’s role in getting to Zero Carbon.” Stuff (https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/117994549/agricultures-role-in-getting-to-zero-carbon).

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 2018-2019, 11,886 complaints were received, of which 11,793 had been completed by the time the annual report was published.

Citations:
Office of the Ombudsman, Annual Report 2018/19 (http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/resources-and-publications/corporate-documents/annual-reports)

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 Defence 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. Between July 2018 and June 2019, the Privacy Commissioner responded to almost 8,000 public enquiries. During the 2018/19 reporting year, 894 investigation files were closed – a 26% increase on the 2017/2018 period. Some 87% of investigation files were closed within six months

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 in March 2018. The proposal includes stronger powers for the privacy commissioner, mandatory reporting of privacy breaches, new offenses and increased fines. The bill passed its second reading in early August 2019.

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
Privacy Commissioner (2019) Annual Report of the Privacy Commissioner 2019. (https://www.privacy.org.nz/news-and-publications/corporate-reports/annual-report-of-the-privacy-commissioner-2019/)
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