Spotlight on better public services initiatives
Delivering Better Public Services that meet the needs of New Zealanders requires government agencies to be innovative, responsive and work together. We're spotlighting just some of the State sector initiatives taking off now around the country.
Connecting with government is about to take a big step forward.
Feedback is invited on a pilot website that connects New Zealanders directly with government services and information. The website govt.nz was launched in August 2013 with the aim of providing better online public services.
The pilot is the first stage of redevelopment of the current newzealand.govt.nz website. As people provide feedback, ongoing changes to the pilot are being made, and as the site develops it will contain more and more useful information.
Government Chief Information Officer Colin MacDonald is an avid supporter of the new website, which is part of the public service transformation work he’s guiding as ICT Functional Leader.
“The govt.nz website is a fantastic place to access government services,” says Mr MacDonald. “People can go to the site, and quickly find the services and information they want – because it’s been designed with users in mind. It’s in plain language - no government agency gobbledygook.”
“You can access it on your computer, tablet or smartphone, whenever you like. Please visit govt.nz and tell us what you think.”
From 6 January 2014, the New Zealand Legislation website www.legislation.govt.nz will become a source of official legislation, making New Zealand one of the few comparable jurisdictions to provide free, official, up-to-date online legislation to the public. The change is a result of the Legislation Act 2012, which updates and modernises the publication of legislation.
“Transparency is a key feature of good law,” says Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson. “Online publication will ensure official legislation is available to the public appropriately and conveniently.”
At present, only legislation printed and published by the Parliamentary Counsel Office or the New Zealand Government is official.
In the courts, official legislation is taken to correctly state the law unless the contrary is shown.
“Access to official legislation online is important to anyone who needs to know what the law is, because of the assurance of accuracy that it provides,” says Mr Finlayson. “It also frees them from relying on potentially out-of-date printed legislation.”
Not all legislation on the website will be official. It will apply only to legislation in PDF format, and only to PDFs that display the New Zealand Coat of Arms on the first page. However, this will include the latest versions of all principal legislation enacted or made since 1931 (plus a few earlier Acts), and many other point-in-time versions.
A printout of an official PDF is also official.
The New Zealand Legislation website will also introduce print on demand, a shopping-cart-type system allowing users to select legislation for printing, and order it through a commercial printer. Users will still be able to print their own copies of legislation free of charge.
The Parliamentary Counsel Office will continue to publish booklet versions of legislation, available from Legislation Direct and from some bookshops.
Students can now check their total student loan balance online, thanks to the Student Loan Redesign Project - a collaboration between Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Social Development ‘s StudyLink. Borrowers no longer have to compare and add up separate loan statements from StudyLink and Inland Revenue.
The Government and agencies involved in managing the Student Loan Scheme want students to understand the significance of a student loan, borrow sensibly and repay it within a reasonable timeframe.
Providing borrowers with a consolidated, up-to-date view of their loan balance in one place enables them to access information easily and manage their repayment responsibilities from anywhere in the world at any time.
Delivering this complete view of a student loan involved Inland Revenue and StudyLink working together to streamline their policies and processes. They started “near real time” electronic transfer of student loan information in 2012.
StudyLink now transfers up to 125,000 loan updates to Inland Revenue each day with a 99% success rate (an increase on the one-off transfer of 165,000 records previously sent each year).
- improved customer service for students by providing one view of their loan information in one place – Inland Revenue’s myIR portal
- improved communication for students by making loan information available online anytime, anywhere
- ‘real time’ IRD number validation at the point of application.
Having accurate, immediate information enables borrowers to better manage their loans. Currently almost 400,000 student loan borrowers have a myIR online services account.
The consolidated view of student loans also provides government with better data to assist with designing student loan initiatives.
The New Zealand Customs Service’s What’s My Duty? import duty and GST calculator is proving popular with online shoppers, with more than 1,000 Kiwis a day now logging on. The calculator helps ensure that people buying goods online aren’t left with an unexpected bill when their goods arrive in the country. It is available as an app for both Android and iPhone, as well as at www.whatsmyduty.org.nz
Online shopping has increased dramatically over the last few years. However, a lot of people buying goods online don’t realise that they may have to pay duty and GST when the goods arrive in New Zealand — what they’re actually doing is importing.
What’s My Duty? allows shoppers to choose from a list of the most common products bought online and calculates the import duty and GST required to be paid. If the amount is less than NZ$60, then the amount is waived under the de minimis provision of the Customs and Excise Act 1996.
There is a common misconception that goods purchased online from overseas websites for less than NZ$400 can come into the country without incurring any duty, GST or charges. This ‘rule of thumb’ does not apply to goods that attract both duty and GST, such as clothing, shoes and accessories. Customs charges maybe payable when the value of these goods exceeds approximately NZ$225.
People importing goods need to be aware that, if they have to pay import duty and GST, the goods will not be released from Customs’ control until this amount is paid.
The What’s My Duty? website had more than 30,000 views in November 2013 (up from 14,000 in November 2012 when it was launched), with approximately 40 per cent being repeat visitors. This indicates that people are returning to use the estimator whenever they purchase goods from overseas. More than 3,500 users have downloaded the app on either Apple or Android platforms.
Every day, lawyers in public sector practice work on issues right at the heart of government. Whether advising on existing or new legislation, ensuring our policies enable fair and fit-for-purpose outcomes, or undertaking public prosecutions - public sector lawyers directly support effective constitutional governance and better outcomes for all New Zealanders.
It's a dynamic field - and one that is committed to continuous improvement and collaborative ways of working. These motivations are championed by the Government Legal Network (GLN), which actively promotes an informed, connected and engaged approach to public sector legal practice.
Formed in 2011 and led by the Crown Law Office, the GLN links more than 800 lawyers across all government departments, enabling professional mentoring and the sharing of knowledge and expertise essential for the provision of high-quality, trusted legal advice to the Crown.
A shared workspace, hosted by the Department of Internal Affairs, is a popular facility with GLN members. GLN Online functions as an e-portal where public sector lawyers can upload their profiles, download legal resources, participate in discussion forums, advertise jobs and promote events. Read more here.
ACC is the lead government agency responsible for drowning prevention. Sadly, Māori and Pacific people are over represented in our drowning statistics. As a Community Injury Prevention Consultant at the ACC Counties Manukau Branch, Filipo Motulalo has been working with a range of community organisations to reduce the risk and rate of injury, and being water smart.
Filipo looked at two areas where improvements could be made to help make sure New Zealanders have the information they need to make safer decisions when in and around the water. He noticed that Pacific radio stations provided a poor weather forecast service. By working with the MetService and Pacific radio stations Filipo has been able to make sure they now include up to date weather forecasts for both Pacific fisherman and the wider community.
He also worked with Maritime New Zealand and the Coast Guard to negotiate a way to make the Coast Guard Day Skipper course more accessible to Pacific fishers. Not only has the course been translated to Tongan and Samoan, but the exam has been changed from written to oral, and the training now takes place in community and church halls around South Auckland. Read more here.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) receives a wide variety of customer enquiries reflecting the broad range of functions that it carries out. These functions include primary sector productivity, fisheries management, aquaculture, border biosecurity, food safety, climate change, forestry and animal welfare. It was sometimes difficult for MPI's external call centre to identify the most appropriate person or team to direct enquiries to. Staff also saw that a number of incoming calls were either being dropped or transferred multiple times within the agency before getting to the right person.
So, to make it easier to do business with them, MPI decided to establish an in-house contact centre to complement its external call centre. The in-house contact centre is made up of a small team (three people) dedicated to knowing who does what across the entire Ministry. They also deal with all general email enquiries and answer MPI's Food Safety Consumer Helpline. Now, if staff or the external call centre is not sure about a call, they can send it to the in-house contact centre for resolution. Read more here.
The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs has been working closely with other government agencies and community organisations on innovative projects to help enrol more Pacific children in early childhood education (ECE). One example is Auckland's 'Smartbus' - a mobile ECE service which is jointly funded and managed by the Ministries of Pacific Island Affairs and Education. The concept was launched mid-March at Pasifika & Polyfest festivals. The Smartbus itself was launched early September by Minister Hekia Parata.
In the first 5 ½ months the Smartbus provider enrolled 66 Pacific children into ECE averaging 20 hours per week attendance. They are engaging with many families across the city and making great progress in lifting what have been traditionally low participation rates. Read more here.
The push to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever in New Zealand involves collaboration between a wide range of agencies and local communities on a number of initiatives.
The Auckland region, particularly South Auckland, has the highest rate of rheumatic fever nationwide. Children and young people who are most at risk of developing rheumatic fever are Māori, Pacific, and those living in low socioeconomic areas. Extra effort is required to help achieve the national target of reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds by 2017.
Pacific children and young people are 44 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with acute rheumatic fever than children and young people of other ethnicities. Because of this, the Ministry of Health has developed a programme to engage with Pacific families in the greater Auckland and Wellington regions. Trained community health workers will be raising awareness of rheumatic fever and how to manage sore throats. This programme takes place in homes and community settings for families at risk of developing rheumatic fever. Community workers in Auckland have been delivering this service into Pacific homes since 1 October 2013 and it will start in Wellington later in October. Read more here.
Over 200,000 young people aged 16 to 24 live in Auckland. A number of social agencies work on the Auckland Agencies for Youth programme with Auckland Council staff. This collective has a workstream aligning the programmes delivering skills and education supplied by various funders, including NGO organisations, the Ministries of Education and Social Development, and the Auckland Council.
The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Youth Development and Education, Careers NZ, Auckland Council, and Roskill Youth Zone Youth Group collaborated as Auckland Agencies for Youth to run a successful Pacific Youth Conference. Over 200 Pacific Island students from 27 Auckland schools attended the one-day event, which focused on NCEA Level 2, ‘youth citizenship’ and career options.
"We can reach nearly 2,000 people from the 209 attendees passing on what they learned to their friends and families," said Nigel Kapa, Chair of Auckland Agencies for Youth. "We’ve had great feedback and are looking to establish this as a regular event."
See the Tagata Pasifika profile on the conference here.
The Healthy Homes Initiative starts in Auckland in November - this will see family support workers provide advice and assistance to eligible families. Look out for more details here and on the Ministry of Health website in November.
The Ministries of Health, Pacific Island Affairs and Social Development, the District Health Boards and NZ Police are supporting the Energy and Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to identify low income families in Auckland with health conditions which can be exacerbated by living in uninsulated homes and would benefit from the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes insulation programme. See more here.
Maniapoto FM's afternoon Taiohi show - "the best korero, latest gossip and hottest soundz" - is hosted by high school students. Training the young people on the job is Maniapoto FM's way of providing opportunities for Te Kūiti youth to have a voice in the community.
It's just one of several youth-focused projects from the small rural town that two years ago began a government-backed trial to do better for local young people. Read more about the government's initiatives to change the way that social services are delivered here.
The Government's Auckland Policy Office provides a vital link between central and local government by co-ordinating government policy into the development of key Auckland Council strategies, including the Auckland Plan, Auckland Economic Development Strategy, Auckland Unitary Plan and the Strategic Housing Agreement. Meeting housing needs in this growing city is a top priority and the Strategic Housing Agreement is only one of the initiatives from both central and local government that that affect the lives of Aucklanders.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment team at the Auckland Policy Office developed a national Regional Economic Activity Report in collaboration with a wide range of other agencies that covers all regions in New Zealand. The report includes a spotlight on the economic activity of the Auckland region and highlights the region's strengths and opportunities, and provides a comparison with other city-regions internationally. A link to the report can be found here.
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