It encourages government and citizens to work together on actions that will make a measurable difference in openness and transparency, encourage public participation and enable greater use of technology.
New Zealand starts from a strong position in open government. We rate amongst the top countries in international measures and comparisons – for example, we rank first amongst 100 countries in the international Open Budget Survey. Our governing system does not tolerate corruption. We are also amongst the top countries for integrity and the rule of law, underpinned by an independent judiciary and professional police force. We have a politically neutral public service that has a responsibility to provide free and frank advice in delivering on the directions and priorities of the Government of the day. The Official Information Act (OIA) provides the foundation for the opening up of government information in New Zealand so that citizens can participate in decision-making and hold decision-makers to account.
Government services are being reshaped across New Zealand to put people at their centre and better meet community needs. A key part of this is government agencies sharing their open data and making it available to everyone so that all the government-held evidence to guide the best solutions is available. And it means government agencies joining up their knowledge, people and resources to work together on the complex problems and significant opportunities that require a collective approach.
The OGP has challenged New Zealand to commit to actions that will maintain our strengths but build beyond them in areas where greater progress or new initiatives are needed. It sets out a process of public engagement and participation to develop a two-year National Action Plan and track progress on implementing it.
Since we submitted our first plan in 2014, we have learnt lessons about how we can better reflect the work we are already doing to deliver on open government principles and how we can make further progress.
The first plan contained commitments that reflected work that was primarily already under way. These were:
Our understanding of how to develop and deliver a successful National Action Plan continues to expand. We are taking an approach of continuous improvement to delivering on New Zealand’s obligations under the OGP, which means that we intend to continue to evolve our practice and improve over successive plan periods.
New Zealand was due to submit its second action plan in July 2016 but sought additional time to improve its engagement. Although in the end the time period was constrained, we were able to hear from many groups and individuals about the ideas they had to improve transparency, accountability, access to information and public participation in government. Details about our engagement programme can be found in Appendix A.
The State Services Commission (SSC), which has accountability for delivering a National Action Plan for New Zealand, has learnt a great deal during the country’s first term in the OGP. To support its work, SSC has sought external advice about developing and reporting on New Zealand’s action plans. An initial Stakeholder Advisory Group was set up in 2015 and when its term expired in June 2016, a new Expert Advisory Panel was formed. It has worked to support SSC to deliver a plan that reflects achievable, practical commitments. We are further supported by a group of government officials providing advice on their respective areas of expertise, including justice, data, and technology.
These groups worked alongside representatives of civil society in a day-long workshop at the end of our engagement programme to turn ideas about draft commitments into actions that agencies could deliver.
In an effort to continue to improve our engagement practices, one commitment in this National Action Plan has been developed around improving how we engage with communities in developing and implementing our action plans and commitments.
The New Zealand government is regularly rated amongst the world’s best for its openness and transparency and amongst the lowest on international corruption indexes. Efforts to improve the way government interacts with New Zealanders, driven by an extensive programme to improve public services, has seen government agencies work together to improve service delivery and to understand the needs of their customers so that services can be oriented around those needs. Two key result areas are also devoted to making it easier for businesses and individuals to do business with government in a digital environment. Alongside this, the government is working with New Zealanders to enable greater access and use of government-held data to better inform decision-making.
New Zealand’s changing demographics show us that we face an increasing challenge to engage our diverse communities in the activities of government and the importance of their participation in decision-making. Statistics New Zealand projects that by 2038 Māori, Asian and Pacific peoples will make up 51 percent of the population, up from 34 percent in the 2013 Census.
There is a range of work under way across government to further the principles of open government. The commitments in New Zealand’s National Action Plan cannot fully capture the breadthof these. These initiatives cover access to information, open data and technology.
Currently, this includes:
Chief Ombudsman’s report on government OIA practices (http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/newsroom/item/chief-ombudsman-releases-report-into-government-oia-practices)
Better Public Services, particularly Result Areas 9 and 10 (http://www.ssc.govt.nz/bps-interaction-with-govt)
Government ICT strategy (https://www.ict.govt.nz/strategy-and-action-plan/)
LINZ Open Government Information and Data Programme (http://www.linz.govt.nz/about-linz/what-were-doing/projects/open-government-information-and-data-programme)
New Zealand Data Futures Partnership (http://datafutures.co.nz/)
work under way by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to expand New Zealand Treaties Online (http://www.treaties.mfat.govt.nz/) – a home for information on all of New Zealand’s international treaties, including those in negotiation – to include New Zealand’s non-legally binding international instruments.
We know that it takes attention and diligence to maintain and advance the principles of openness and transparency that are cornerstones of New Zealand’s approach to government.
In global measures of transparency and accountability, New Zealand ranks:
Participation in the OGP provides another avenue to develop and strengthen our efforts in these areas. The commitments in this plan stretch us to improve in areas that are important to both New Zealanders and to government.
Rather than building on existing government work programmes, these commitments set out targeted, discrete pieces of work that will make a difference to openness, transparency and accountability and will help foster greater public participation in government.
These commitments will:
further open up the government budgeting process
improve access to official information and government practices around its release
enhance access to government-held data
improve people’s access to legislation and government regulations
improve how we engage with people in developing and delivering on our OGP commitments