Skip to main content

Open Government in Aotearoa New Zealand: What it is, and why it matters | Kāwanatanga Tuwhera i Aotearoa: Tōna kaupapa me tōna whai tikanga ki a tātou

Building a more open and responsive Public Service and increasing New Zealanders’ participation in democracy

Open government is about strengthening democracy, building trust, and improving wellbeing by ensuring our people can contribute and influence what government does, and how it does it.

The Public Service delivers government services across Aotearoa New Zealand.  The way that policies are developed and how services are designed impacts on every New Zealander in some way. 

The Public Service Act 2020 enshrines the concepts of active citizenship, open government, responsiveness (understanding and meeting the needs and aspirations of New Zealanders) and stewardship (thinking about making a difference in the long-term). The Act expects the Public Service to support the Government in its relationships with Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Treaty of Waitangi through the way we engage with Māori and understand and respond to Māori perspectives. The Act also affirms the spirit of service to the community that public servants bring to their work.

While we are consistently among the top countries in global measures of integrity, (including the wellbeing of citizens, openness, transparency, the rule of law and preventing corruption), we have much more to do. 

Membership of the Open Government Partnership, and our commitment to the aims and principles of the Partnership, are part of our ambition to improve transparency and build understanding of what government does and why it does it.

The commitments we make in our fourth National Action Plan will build on New Zealand’s long and proud tradition of open and transparent government, and support our Public Service to foster active citizenship and open government.

The relationships and mutual understanding we build now will be a foundation for the Public Service partnering with communities in the future and becoming more responsive.

“Active citizenship means people getting involved in their local communities and democracy at all levels, from towns to cities to nationwide activity. Active citizenship can be as small as a campaign to clean up your street or as big as educating young people about democratic values, skills and participation. Active citizenship is one of the most important steps towards healthy societies.”

Andrej Nosko & Katalin Széger Active Citizenship Can Change Your Country for the Better (2013)

What is Aotearoa New Zealand doing to improve the openness of government?

Aotearoa New Zealand already has government institutions with high levels of trust. But around the world we are seeing levels of trust in government decline in many countries. That’s why it is so important that we continue to meet the expectations of New Zealanders and maintain that trust.

One way of doing this is using the Open Government Partnership.

The OGP is an international agreement between 78 member nations that aims to improve transparency, increase public participation, and use new technologies to make governments more accountable, responsive and inclusive.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Government has been a member of the OGP since 2013. We are currently implementing our 4th OGP National Action Plan. This process is led by Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission on behalf of the Government.

Developing a new National Plan provides an opportunity to work with communities and civil society to find new ways to work with New Zealanders to improve wellbeing, while also creating a better understanding of what our government institutions do and how it they do it.

The goal is to create this plan with New Zealanders. We want to practise whakawhanaungatanga, valuing the wisdom and experience of the diverse people and communities of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“An effective Open Government Partnership promotes accountable, responsive and inclusive governance. Transparency International New Zealand expects the New Zealand government to make aspirational OGP commitments that will drive integrity and transparency through increased citizen engagement. These are essential to the development and implementation of a significant 4th National Action Plan.”

Transparency International New Zealand

What does OGP and open government mean for me?

For New Zealanders this is an opportunity for you to participate in creating a strong new National Action Plan. An effective National Action Plan is one where, working together, New Zealanders develop commitments that further the OGP goals of strengthening democracy, building trust, and improving wellbeing.

For communities and community groups within Aotearoa New Zealand we invite you to share your wisdom, thoughts, experiences, challenges and aspirations to create a strong Plan. This is a chance to represent your communities, help remove barriers, start conversations and keep them alive, and deliver and contribute to change.

For public servants, local government and government agencies we want you to work with and better connect with the communities you serve, share knowledge, learn from new and diverse voices, and explore innovative ways to work together now and in the future.

“I took so much away from the experience and made me realise how important youth are for New Zealand in the future. This was certainly important for me to meet a diverse range of people.”

Youth Parliament 2019 participant, Commitment 2, NZ National Action Plan 2018–2020

Who do we want to hear from?

No two communities are the same. We want to create the opportunity for a wide range of community and individual voices to be heard.

No one knows communities as well as those who live in them. We encourage people to use their community connections and institutions to have locally led and focussed discussions and meetings – to form a “network of networks”. A connected community fosters engagement and inclusion and opens the door to participation.

The greater the diversity of who is involved, and the wider the conversations we have, the better we can develop a shared understanding of and respond to the challenges individuals and communities face, how their lives and wellbeing can be improved, and plot the course for improving outcomes.

“We all live in a place and every place has unique strengths, assets, contexts and wisdom. When we build on these, transformative change becomes possible. Understanding and activating all the resources in our places is key to enhancing social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing.”

Inspiring Communities, Shaping the Future report

How can you get involved?

Mahi kotahitanga is about working together, sharing expertise, and co-operation. For that to work we need to come together or connect in a way that works for you: online, in person, individually or through your community groups – or other organisations that represent or work for New Zealanders.

Individuals: we invite you to join the conversation, share your experiences, talk to each other and us, and suggest areas for change and help to shape commitments. A diversity of voices is welcome and needed. There will be online and in-person opportunities to participate – it’s up to you to decide what works best for you.

Communities, local governments and agencies: we want to make contact, offer to start conversations, share your networks and knowledge, help New Zealanders understand what open government means for them, offer space at your events, and encourage your communities to engage with this process and build lasting relationships.

“You hear about big issues sometimes but what happens day to day in government, how do they arrive at big decisions like the Budget?”

“What is the best way to get a movement started, does it have to be a petition, what else?”

“If we understood the election process better we would have more motivation to use our voice.”

Youth workshop participants share what they want to know about government

Being a member of the OGP helps us share knowledge and expertise and learn from the experience of others.

“Open government thrives when people come together in dialogue and work to co-create and implement reforms that bring governments closer to their people.”

Sanjay Pradhan
Chief Executive Officer, Open Government Partnership