The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Resource material › Corporate Publications › Statement of Intent 2011-14Tauāki Whakamaunga AtuNature and scope of functions


The Department of Internal Affairs has a singular place in New Zealand society and government. As the oldest government department, it is the original home of many of the functions of government. It has an enduring relevance and an expanding breadth and diversity in its functions. All New Zealanders are touched in some way by the Department’s activities. The Department also supports the public sector and government to increase their productivity, and helps to maintain trust and confidence in government and its agencies. This unique combination of roles means the Department can lead the public sector to embrace and exhibit innovation and excellence.

Last year’s Statement of Intent foreshadowed significant changes for the 2010/11 year, including the integration of the National Library of New Zealand and Archives New Zealand with Internal Affairs. These ‘machinery of government’ changes, which the Department effected on 1 February 2011, were among the first implementations of key Government policy to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public service, and make smaller organisations more resilient by placing them in larger and more sustainable structures. The integration of the three agencies and the functions of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector into a new Department on 1 February provided an opportunity to improve the collective ability to respond to challenges and for the Department to be confident of its ability to respond to New Zealanders’ changing needs and Ministers’ expectations.

The Government’s announcement of the changes initiated a programme of work that resulted in fundamental changes in all three agencies. Some of these reforms were introduced in practice before 1 February 2011, supported by the formation of integration working groups that included people from all the agencies.

The Department’s key responses were: structural change to increase its flexibility; governance arrangements to strengthen the Department’s strategic oversight; an improved intranet, which is a powerful staff tool to improve efficiency; and a modern Internet presence that makes it easier for the public to get the information and services they need.

At the time of writing, the Christchurch earthquake was a very recent event. The effect it would have on the country and government was unknown and was yet to be incorporated into the Department’s responsibilities and work programme. The Department anticipates that it would have a significantly increased role in the recovery of Christchurch city, beyond its usual civil defence role.

Back to top

Purpose, role and functions

The Department of Internal Affairs serves and connects people, communities and government to build a safe, prosperous and respected nation.

The Department’s purpose expresses its diverse role, and the effects it has on many parts of society.

Internal Affairs has a historically wide brief of responsibilities spanning many different roles, from advice to regulation, and functions from administering community funding to providing passports. The full list of websites and legislation that the Department administers are on its website (

The Department:

  • provides direct services and support to people, communities and government, in areas ranging from personal identity information to civil defence; community advice; national archives; national library; information and communications technology

  • provides policy advice to government. It is a key advisor in a range of areas including local government, ethnic affairs, the community and voluntary sector, civil defence emergency management, fire, identity, technology, information management, gambling and racing

  • regulates people’s activity, encourages compliance and enforces the law for gambling, censorship, government recordkeeping, unsolicited email and anti-money laundering

  • monitors performance of three Crown entities (the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, Charities Commission, and Office of Film and Literature Classification) and manages the appointment process for members of trusts, committees and boards under its oversight

  • contributes to the effectiveness of the public sector and provides leadership in government by supporting public sector organisations to provide better, smarter services; optimising the services that support Executive Government; contributing significantly to the Compliance Common Capability Programme; providing leadership in all-of-government ICT leadership and the Identity Common Capability Programme; and building stronger community-government relations

The integration on 1 February 2011 expanded the breadth and scope of the Department’s work and increased the number of votes the Department administers. The Department is now responsible for administering eight votes across nine Ministerial portfolios.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, as the Responsible Minister, oversees the Government’s ownership interests in the Department, which encompass its strategy, capability, integrity and financial performance.

Portfolio Vote Minister
Internal Affairs1 Internal Affairs Hon Nathan Guy
Ministerial Services Ministerial Services Rt Hon John Key
Ethnic Affairs Internal Affairs Hon Hekia Parata
National Archives National Archives Hon Nathan Guy
National Library National Library Hon Nathan Guy
Civil Defence Emergency Management Hon John Carter
Racing Racing Hon John Carter
Community and Voluntary Sector Community and Voluntary Sector Hon Tariana Turia
Local Government Local Government Hon Rodney Hide


[1] The Department provides administrative support to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Building Failure Caused by the Canterbury Earthquakes. The Attorney-General, Hon Christopher Finlayson, has administrative responsibility for these Royal Commissions of Inquiry.

Back to top

Organisational structure and governance

The Department instituted a new structure on 1 February 2011 as part of the machinery of government changes initiated by Government.

The new structure is a direct response to a key priority from Ministers last year to implement the Government’s policy to improve performance of the public sector. The previous structure had served the Department well but it was not suited to the changing expectations the public and Government have for the public service, and needed changing. It was also not capable of incorporating or supporting new functions without substantial reorganisation.

In 2010, the Minister of Internal Affairs asked the Department to build its capability to allow it to be the preferred home for selected government functions that require high-quality service delivery to people, communities and government. The Department’s structure now allows it to respond confidently and effectively to the challenges facing the public sector and to ensure its ability to effectively deliver a diverse range of functions.

The organisational structure brings together complementary skills and resources to create areas of expertise. It groups similar functions and skill sets that promote sharing and building of knowledge and expertise to improve performance around the function or area of practice, build critical mass of knowledge and resources that can be leveraged in different ways, and provide broader professional development opportunities. For example, all of the Department’s policy functions are now in a single branch. The structure of the Department is now flexible enough to be able to respond to new opportunities and demands without needing further organisational redesign.

The structure promotes an integrated, single Department; branches are interdependent but also have the ability to develop internal cultures to allow the delivery of diverse services and functions.

The organisation’s structure sets the foundation for relationships, flows of information and clear accountabilities for carrying out the Department’s functions. The ideal behaviours and capabilities – collaboration, innovation and service-orientated culture – are supported by the operating models and governance.

The integration of the former Department, National Library and Archives New Zealand and the functions of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector created a structure that is able to drive the performance of the organisation. However, a structure based around areas of expertise presents its own challenges for the Department, which has to ensure it has the capability and breadth in its skill sets to meet the demands placed on it. This is a focus of the Department’s strategic priority for building its capability.

Internal Affairs employs more than 2,000 staff. Its staff are based from Kaitaia to Invercargill to enable effective delivery of its services directly to the community. The Department also has offices in Sydney and London.

The Department is made up of five branches and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM), each of which has a clearly defined external or internal focus. Three branches – Policy, Regulatory and Ethnic Affairs; Service Delivery and Operations; and Knowledge, Information and Research Technology – and MCDEM provide specialist services to the public or government. Strategy and Governance provides leadership support to the Chief Executive and leadership team, and Shared Services provides core internal support services to the other branches.

This structure allows each component to concentrate on its core functions, and develop its expertise in that area.

Image outlining The Department of Internal Affairs Oganisational Structure

Larger version of image  Long description

Policy, Regulatory and Ethnic Affairs

Policy, Regulatory and Ethnic Affairs brings together into a single branch the policy, regulatory and ethnic affairs functions from across Internal Affairs, including those from the National Library, Archives New Zealand, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, and the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector. The branch also provides advice to Ministers on monitoring and appointments to committees, boards and trusts for which the Department is responsible.

Service Delivery and Operations

The Service Delivery and Operations branch provides a range of public-facing services and operations that are the Department’s responsibility. It combines operational functions, such as passports, citizenship, and births, deaths and marriage records; identity services such as igovt service to the public and public sector agencies and overseas agencies; and the Department’s community-based network of community development and funding advisors.

Knowledge, Information, Research and Technology

The Knowledge, Information, Research and Technology branch promotes efficient and innovative access to, and management, storage, preservation and conservation of, knowledge, information and heritage collections and taonga, for the benefit of government and New Zealanders. The branch combines the National Library, Archives New Zealand, Government Technology Services, the Government ICT Supply Management Office and the Government Information Services, along with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer. It provides both internal and external support.

Shared Services

The Shared Services branch provides corporate support functions to other business groups in the Department, in communications, finance, human resources, property, procurement and administration. It also provides support services to Ministers and secretarial support services to advisory boards for which the Department is responsible and commissions of inquiry.

Strategy and Governance

The Strategy and Governance branch provides strategic management and governance support to the Chief Executive and the Executive Leadership Team. It is responsible for strategy, planning and performance, research and evaluation, risk, assurance and audit, legal services, and effectiveness for Māori.

Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management

The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management is the lead government agency for civil defence emergency management in New Zealand. The Ministry provides national leadership in the civil defence emergency management sector to ensure the most efficient and effective path towards enhanced resilience.

Governance arrangements

The Department’s governance arrangements include a six-member Executive Leadership Team (ELT), comprised of the Chief Executive and five Deputy Chief Executives, four Governance Committees, and a Management Board. The Executive Leadership Team is a decision-making body chaired by the Chief Executive. It has collective responsibility for the effective governance of the organisation as a whole, with accountability ultimately vested in the Chief Executive.

The four standing Governance Committees – Finance and Investment, Information and Technology, Organisational Development, and Risk and Assurance – are recommendation-making bodies, each chaired by an ELT member. The Governance Committees drive the agenda of the ELT by making recommendations to the ELT on their particular areas of responsibility.

The Management Board is also chaired by an ELT member and brings a broad and more diverse range of experience to bear through discussion and significant input on strategy development and the expectations for leadership and management within the Department. It provides advice and can make recommendations to the ELT and undertake specific work as requested.

Back to top