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the department of internal affairs Annual Report 2008-09


The Department has a strong focus on achieving outcomes.

We have identified three outcomes that we believe contribute to the priorities for citizens, communities and government. These are:

  • Strong, sustainable communities/hapū/iwi
  • Safer communities (this outcome has three parts: communities are more resilient to hazards and their risks; gambling is safe, fair, legal and honest; harm from restricted and objectionable material has been minimised)
  • New Zealand’s approach to identity is trusted and well led.

We also contribute to the objective[1]:

  • Executive Government is well supported.

The following sections outline our contribution to achieving these outcomes.

[1] ‘Objectives’ recognises that not all departmental functions are to achieve outcomes, as they are not directly targeting societal, economic or environmental effects. From 1 July 2009, the Department has a new objective – common information and communications technology services deliver improved State sector performance and better citizen experience.

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Strong, Sustainable Communities/Hapū/Iwi

Strong, sustainable communities, hapū and iwi are an important building block for positive social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being. Achieving strong, sustainable communities involves empowering them to identify their needs and to access the resources to best meet these.

The Department’s particular responsibilities for helping build strong, sustainable communities include:

  • supporting the system of local government through the administration of aspects of the statutory framework, the provision of information and advice, and the facilitation of central and local government engagement

  • enhancing community development by providing advice on community and voluntary issues, community advisory and information services, and administration of grants

  • contributing to a strong, self-directed ethnic sector by promoting the advantages of ethnic diversity in New Zealand.

During the year, the Department’s work in this area was influenced by the new Government’s priorities. This involved reviewing the cost and relative priority of activities, partly in response to the overall financial and economic pressures, and partly to reallocate resources to take account of the priorities of new Ministers. It also meant working more closely with related agencies, such as the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector.

Our research on the key drivers and trends likely to impact on local government and communities/hapū/iwi over the next 5-20 years suggests we need to capitalise on the benefits of growing diversity in the population, work alongside whānau/hapū/iwi to unleash their full potential, and encourage innovation in an environment of financial constraint.

As a result, a longer-term strategic work programme has been developed, designed to better position the Department to support strong, sustainable communities/hapū/iwi in the future.

The following sections highlight our key activities during the year. Our work towards this outcome also recognises the needs of diverse groups, in relation to reducing inequalities, supporting effectiveness for Māori, Pacific peoples, positive ageing, ethnic responsiveness and people with disabilities.

Working with local government

Local authorities determine how rates are spent in a community and are the principal providers of local infrastructure, amenities, facilities and services and administrators of legislation, setting and enforcing local bylaws. They directly contribute to the health and well-being of communities. Priorities for local authority spending need to be determined by local government in consultation with their communities in a fair and transparent manner.

Increasingly there is an expectation that local government will be more efficient, less bureaucratic and less costly to ratepayers, thereby reducing impediments to development. As well, it is expected local government will adopt better financial planning to enable ratepayers and voters to make better decisions about trade-offs.

The new Government’s priorities and the Minister of Local Government’s early request for public feedback on the Local Government portfolio resulted in a substantial increase in the Department’s workload, all of which was managed within existing budgets. In 2008/09, the Department prepared replies to 1,807 items of ministerial correspondence for the Minister of Local Government. This compares with a total of 581 for the whole of 2007/08. The increase resulted from the Minister’s request for public comment on local government issues and the major policy projects being undertaken. The major themes running through the correspondence were:

  • Auckland governance issues
  • examples of areas where correspondents thought local government reform is necessary, including the number of councils, rates increases and council spending, bureaucracy, and inefficient or slow decision making (for example, on building or resource consents)
  • particular concerns or disputes with councils, or disagreement with councils’ decisions (for example, the Dunedin Stadium, the Timaru Aquatic Centre, Whenuapai airbase, and noise control).

Despite these challenges facing the Department this year, the Minister of Local Government indicated a high degree of satisfaction with our performance.

Meeting Government’s priorities

Meeting the new Government’s priorities meant a shift in the Department’s local government work programme. The major elements of the revised work programme were:

  • Auckland governance reform
  • improving local government transparency, accountability and financial management
  • developing a clear process for determining the allocation of functions and costs between central and local government.

These areas are discussed further below.

Auckland governance reform

Governance arrangements for the Auckland region have been a concern of successive governments for over 50 years. In the early part of 2008/09, the Department focused on working with Auckland councils to deliver integrated planning and decision making within the existing governance arrangements.

The Department led central government’s input into the One Plan, a comprehensive, integrated and prioritised strategic work programme for the Auckland region. This required collaborative action by councils across priority areas such as improving public transport, and building strong communities. One Plan was approved by the Regional Sustainable Development Forum and subsequently adopted by the Auckland Regional Council in October 2008.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, established in late 2007, delivered its report to the Governor-General in March 2009. The Department led an all-of-government response to the Royal Commission’s report, and successfully delivered advice to enable Government to make an early initial response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

The Department delivered detailed policy advice and support that led to the enactment of the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009. The Act established the Auckland Council and the Auckland Transition Agency. The Auckland Transition Agency is empowered to design, establish and manage the transition from the existing eight councils to the new unitary Auckland Council by 31 October 2010, in time for the next local government elections.

Towards the latter part of the year, we assisted with appointments to the governing body and the physical establishment of the Auckland Transition Agency Office. The rapid establishment of the Auckland Transition Agency was necessary to enable it to begin its large and complex job of reforming Auckland governance. The Department is responsible for monitoring the work of the Auckland Transition Agency and its progress with the Auckland Governance Reforms.

We led the work on the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill, which was introduced to the House in May 2009. The Bill provides for the high-level structure of the Auckland Council, and allows for the determination of boundaries and the membership and number of local boards.

Improving local government transparency, accountability and financial management

The Department is looking at how to make local government’s long-term planning processes less complex and costly, as well as ways in which councils’ financial reporting could be improved to provide better and more easily understood information. We prepared discussion papers and circulated these for consultation with the local government sector and other organisations with a specific interest in the review’s scope.

We began a review of aspects of the Local Government Act 2002 to improve the transparency, accountability and financial management of local government. Policy advice on this work will be concluded in 2009/10.

Allocating functions between local and central government

We are examining the extent to which functions and costs have been imposed on local government by legislation promoted by central government, in relation to devolved regulatory functions. We began scoping the development of principles that could guide future policy decisions on when functions should be devolved or imposed upon local councils. This work will be concluded in 2009/10.

Supporting local government activity

The Department continued to work with the local government sector and across the central government agencies that interact with it to promote collaboration. This included:

  • Resource Management Act (RMA) Reforms – territorial authorities and regional councils have important roles in the resource management system. The Department contributed to ensuring that the proposals to streamline the system would be effective in reducing the costs that are generated and passed on by councils when performing their statutory roles.
  • Building Act Review – the Department assisted in the scoping of the proposed review of the Building Act 2004.
  • Regulatory Reform – we contributed to the Treasury-led development of advice on the regulatory review programme. This has strong links to local government, for example through building regulation reform and the review of drinking water standards implementation.
  • Urban Development – the Department hosted the Interagency Urban Development Unit during 2008/09. Through a public discussion document, the Unit sought ideas on ways to address barriers to urban development, such as coordination/integration, land assembly, funding, planning, development control, and affordability. Working with major private and public sector players, the Unit developed policy ideas, some of which will be considered in other work programmes, such as RMA Phase 2 reforms, Auckland governance work, and the National Infrastructure Plan.
  • Job Summit – we supported the local government sub-group of the Māori Economy, Local and Regional Government Stream at the Job Summit in February 2009. The Department made a strong contribution to developing the local government-related options discussed in this stream. We contributed to the resulting work, led by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), on identifying and rolling out good practice and streamlined consenting practice under the Building Act and RMA.

The Department also supported other significant local government projects, including:

  • completing work on the government response to the Local Government Rates Inquiry and providing advice on the Local Government Commission’s review of local government legislation. The findings of these reviews will continue to inform policy advice, for example Te Puni Kōkiri’s work on the rating of Māori freehold land
  • advising on the impact of Treaty settlements on local government
  • funding LGNZ to develop and run a two-year professional development programme for council-elected members.

Our operational activities with respect to local government include:

Rates Rebate Scheme: We administer the Rates Rebate Scheme in conjunction with local authorities. Both the Department and local authorities promote the scheme, with the Department providing general information through brochures and its website as well as targeted information for specific sectors. Nearly 110,000 rebate applications, to a value of $52.6 million, were granted to assist low income owners to pay their local authority rates. This compares with 108,000 applications ($48 million) in the previous year. The average value of rebate granted in 2008/09 was $483.

Lake Taupo Harbourmaster: We provide harbourmaster services for Lake Taupo. During the year, facilities at three of the most heavily used boat launching areas on the lake were significantly upgraded, while improvements were also made to the Lake Taupo Landing Reserve, which the Department administers. Draft navigation safety bylaws for Lake Taupo were released for public comment and it is anticipated that the bylaws when finalised will improve the efficiency of the harbourmaster’s enforcement activities.

Improving information about local government

To better understand the impact of legislation, we continued to increase the amount of research and analysis we produce on local government. This work also helps guide the development of good practice in the local government sector. The Local Government Information Series was launched in 2008. To date,
14 volumes have been publicly released covering a range of topics. These volumes are available on the website.

Several pieces of work were also carried out around council collaboration and governance at a level below the main council, such as community boards or committees. Findings from both these pieces of work identified the importance of good relationships between councils and boards, and having clear parameters and goals to guide the use of community boards or committees.

Water network assets that supply and treat drinking water, wastewater and stormwater for communities are vital for community well-being. During 2008/09, we completed a stocktake of these assets using material available from councils. This study provides a basis for further work and analysis of this important infrastructure area.

In 2009, councils prepared and consulted on their long-term council community plans (LTCCP). These documents set the direction of councils for 10 years, and provide a clear indication of expenditure and income likely to be incurred by communities. We undertook a rigorous analysis of the draft LTCCPs to extract a range of financial and non-financial information. The results were used to inform the Minister of Local Government in discussions with the local government sector, and to provide councils with an early indication of broader issues. Some councils used the findings as a basis for reshaping their final plans.

Information and resources are readily available to the public on the website about the functions and services of local government, elections, and Māori participation in local government as well as the different ways in which people can have a say. In 2008/09, there were 790,470 hits and 5,908 downloads from this site.

Māori participation in council decision-making processes in four councils was reviewed[2]. The findings indicated that relationships between Māori and these councils have strengthened over the last 5–10 years and identified a range of formal and non-formal mechanisms for enhancing Māori capacity. This was based on an understanding of local conditions and the development of trust.

Working with communities

The provision of information, advice and resources to communities/hapū/iwi through our network of community advisory services enables those communities and groups to take responsibility for identifying their own needs and aspirations, and to utilise resources to give effect to these outcomes. This ensures initiatives are community owned and driven.

Over the past year, the Department worked with communities/hapū/iwi throughout New Zealand, providing community development advice on capacity building and leadership to assist engagement and participation in communities, and supporting communities to help themselves. This work was carried out against a backdrop of the global financial crisis and the onset of a national economic recession which impacted many community groups, especially in terms of their access to funding resources. For example, in the wider Auckland area the ASB Community Trust withdrew 2008/09 funding allocations in late 2008 as a direct result of the economic recession. As a result, the Lottery Community Committees in the Auckland and Waikato areas experienced a significant increase in applications for funding. Our work included supporting the distribution committees which funded critical social service organisations such as budgeting services.

We also held funding information workshops in bigger venues to accommodate larger attendance numbers and encouraged other funding agencies to attend and make presentations. Regional staff worked with specific community organisations to assist them in coping with the impact of the recession in an environment of rising unemployment and decreased grant funding from other providers. For example, we assisted a social services provider in financial difficulties to obtain funding from a private sector funder.

We continued to monitor the effects and impacts of the recession and provided regular briefings for the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector on this issue.

Advisory services

Our Community Advisory Service, which is offered by staff in our 16 regional locations, provided communities with advice, information and assistance. It also facilitated collaboration between government agencies, private sector organisations and communities.

For example, the Department worked collaboratively with the Māori Land Court, Inland Revenue and other government agencies to hold a series of information seminars, focusing on funding, charitable status and taxation, restoration and protection, governance and trusteeship, at marae throughout the country. Twenty-eight seminars were held and people from well over 300 marae participated. Many tāngata whenua participated in the seminars. The seminars were well received, with a number of participants remarking on the usefulness of the range of information presented and the interagency approach. Some participants said that what they had learned at the seminars would enable them to fulfil their role as trustees more effectively.

In another instance, the Department, in collaboration with Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, organised a community development hui in the Otautahi Māori community. The hui supported the strengthening of existing relationships within the community, and enabled new relationships to be formed. It also made available a practical resource kit on community development, and information about Department-administered grant funding and advisory services.

Another important source of information for community groups is CommunityNet Aotearoa (, a website hosted and funded by the Department. In the year to 30 June 2009, traffic to the website site increased by 15 per cent compared with the previous year. This traffic comprised:

  • 2,772,229 page views

The Community Resource Kit with information on setting up and running community groups is available on the website.

Access to grants funding resources and expertise

The Department assists communities to gain access to grants funding, resources and expertise through:

  • providing advice to applicants on grants funding
  • administering a range of national and regional Lottery- and Crown-funded grant schemes and independent trusts
  • providing grant decision makers with policy advice and recommendations on grant applications.

Grant funding administered by the Department increased during 2008/09:

Lottery grants[3] 92.5 103.0
Crown-funded grants 15.1 23.7
Total 107.6 126.7

Examples of things happening in communities as a result of grants from the funds administered by the Department include:

  • The Significant Projects Fund made a grant for the completion of a Visitor Centre at the Orokonui EcoSanctuary in Otago. The sanctuary provides public education programmes on the unique native flora, fauna and ecology. Native species are being conserved within the Sanctuary and a nursery programme operates from which protected species can be moved to other protected areas, restocking forests. The centre will provide a base for research, education, community participation, recreation and tourism.
  • The Community Sector Research Fund made a grant to the Auckland Women’s Centre which will enable research on teenage parenting to be undertaken.
  • The Lottery Individuals with Disabilities committee made 631 grants to people with disabilities, for mobility scooters, vehicles and modifications and communication equipment. This contributes to their continued mobility, independence and well-being.
  • A Lottery National Community Committee grant enabled the 87 Citizens Advice Bureau offices to continue to help people deal with the rising incidence of recession-related problems, and provide information on consumer rights, budgeting advice, legal assistance, income support, and housing/tenancy issues.
  • The Lottery Community Facilities Fund provided a grant to the Palmerston North City Council to build a community house which will provide shared accommodation for a number of community organisations providing social services. The advantages of this concept are lower overhead costs, shared administration facilities, maximum use of shared spaces and common equipment areas, and the heightened visibility of the services available to the public. Clients of the community organisations can access many agencies in this central location.
  • The Regional Lottery Community Committees (West Coast/Nelson-Marlborough Committee) has given grant funding to the Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support (Cactus) since 2006. Their aim is to tackle youth crime in Picton through a military-style training programme for young people. Youth offending has dropped from 120 offences in 2005 to 20 in 2007, to minimal numbers in 2008.
  • The Community Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS) provided grant funding to many community organisations, iwi and hapū, large and small, who provide a range of local services in their communities. For example, COGS provided a grant to Napier Victim Support to recruit and train volunteers dealing with the victims of homicide, suicide and sexual violence.
  • The Community Partnership Fund assists communities to enhance their uptake of digital technologies. Computers in Homes, a programme delivered in low income communities, provides computer training for parents in their children’s school and a computer to take home. It also funds the Computer Clubhouse, an after-school programme which teaches young people a range of computer skills.

Support for volunteering

The Department continued to promote and support volunteering through the delivery of community advisory services and by administering grants schemes including the Support for Volunteering Fund.

Improving efficiency and effectiveness

We undertake annual surveys of our grant applicants, community advisory service clients, and funding committee members. These surveys have shown consistently high levels of satisfaction with the services provided by the Department. For 2008/09, the performance targets were raised from 85 per cent to 90 per cent overall satisfaction and these revised targets were met. The information gathered through the surveys assists us to identify further areas for improvement and opportunities to streamline processes and reduce the costs for applicants.

Over the year, the Department invested in building capability and capacity to improve the quality of services provided to communities. In particular, we made progress during the year in strengthening our capability to meet Treaty obligations and improving outcomes for Māori.

Overall, the Māori röpū we work with report that our staff are supportive and our services are delivered in a culturally appropriate way. Through building relationships based on manaakitanga and trust, the Department is able to support röpū to achieve outcomes that are important to them.

We are continually looking to improve our performance and deliver better services. Several initiatives are underway and designed to achieve improvements in grants administration. Expected benefits of these include:

  • reduced compliance requirements on applicants
  • streamlined and aligned processes
  • improved cost effectiveness of grants administration and reduced costs
  • better targeting of grants to applications meeting community needs and bringing long-term benefits to communities
  • quality operational policy
  • defined and measurable performance standards
  • the incorporation of robust reporting, monitoring and accountability processes.

This work will be supported by a monitoring and evaluation programme which over the next few years will help the Lottery Grants Board measure the success of its investments in communities, and provide it with a better idea of just where its activities are making a difference.

In 2008/09, the Department undertook initial work to investigate replacing the ageing online grants application system (Grants Online) with a new grants and client management system. Further development work is planned for 2009/10. This will be integrated with the above initiatives to streamline funding practices and systems.

Promoting citizenship

As our population becomes increasingly diverse, the concept of New Zealand citizenship as a shared bond or collective identity, transcending differences in religion, ethnicity and social backgrounds, will become increasingly important. New Zealand citizenship began on 1 January 1949 when the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act came into force. Prior to 1949 there were no New Zealand citizens, as people born or naturalised in New Zealand were British subjects, a status common to the peoples of the United Kingdom and the British Empire.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the creation of New Zealand citizenship we ran several initiatives this year, including a Parliamentary citizenship ceremony; a national survey of public attitudes towards citizenship; the development of a citizenship educational website and associated teaching materials; and a secondary school essay competition. This programme of work will continue during the 2009/10 year, and is designed to raise public awareness of the meaning and importance of New Zealand citizenship.

Working with the ethnic sector

The increasing diversity of New Zealand presents opportunities and challenges. Census 2006 showed almost 23 per cent of the New Zealand population was born overseas and that there are over 200 ethnic groups in New Zealand. To make sure New Zealand benefits from our increasing diversity, we need to ensure that people from all backgrounds feel valued and able to contribute to the development of our country.

The Department, through the Office of Ethnic Affairs (the Office), plays a key role in working with ethnic New Zealanders – people whose culture and traditions distinguish them from the majority in New Zealand. Our purpose is to contribute to strong, self-directed and integrated ethnic communities, so that all New Zealanders feel confident, equal and proud citizens of New Zealand.

During the year, our increased presence in the community and our outreach activities into the regions generated a significant increase in demand for our services. This may also have been influenced by increasing concerns within ethnic communities about the current economic situation. For example, requests from ethnic communities for advice or information almost doubled during 2008/09, when compared with the previous year.

In the current economic climate, we can play a role in promoting the benefits of diversity to organisations and businesses making employment decisions.

Promoting the benefits of diversity

In May 2009, the Office, in association with English Language Partners New Zealand and the British Council, hosted a series of activities throughout the country to promote the economic benefits of diversity. The activities, which included public forums, business case studies and media presentations, raised awareness of how employing people from diverse backgrounds can be both an asset to businesses and contribute to economic growth.

We increased our ongoing work with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on ways of tapping into the expertise and contacts of ethnic communities. This will benefit New Zealand’s trade and economic development and increase employment opportunities for ethnic people.

We will continue to promote the economic benefits of diversity and enable all people to have equal access to employment and business opportunities.

Improving government responsiveness to ethnic diversity

The Office provided leadership across the State sector to improve responsiveness to ethnic diversity. We worked closely with the Department of Labour, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Te Puni Kökiri, Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and other agencies to enable equal access to services by ethnic communities.

We continued to provide Intercultural Awareness and Communication training, which promotes intercultural effectiveness as a core business skill. Thirty sessions were delivered to a range of government and non-governmental agencies throughout the country. An additional seven sessions were delivered as part of a three-year project with Auckland Regional Council (ARC), which involves the training of frontline staff from local district councils and ARC. There is significant demand for a ‘Training for Trainers’ module, which will support agencies’ delivery of their own Intercultural Awareness and Communication training programmes.

The Office participates in the implementation of the Government’s New Zealand Settlement Strategy at both national and regional levels. The Strategy, led by the Department of Labour, assists new settlers who have been in New Zealand for more than two years.

The Department worked to increase its own responsiveness to ethnic diversity. For example, the Office and the Department’s Local Government and Community branch delivered Intercultural Awareness and Communication training to frontline Departmental staff, and provided funding workshops with interpreters for Korean, Chinese and Kiribati communities.

Enabling equal access to government services

To be able to fully participate in society and access government services, people need to be able to communicate and have equal access to information. The Office’s Language Line service provides quick, cost-effective telephone interpreting services to people with limited English who need to transact business with government agencies. It has had a steady uptake since its launch in 2003, supporting approximately 164,000 calls to date.

Language Line Call Volumes

Language Line Call Volumes

The top five languages requested since the inception of the service in 2003 are: Mandarin, Samoan, Korean, Cantonese and Tongan.

By the end of the 2008/09 year, 63 agencies (an increase of 11 from 2007/08) and 93 educational institutions, such as schools, were participating in the Language Line service. Language Line will continue to be extended, with a focus on health, justice and local government agencies.

Encouraging greater civic participation

The Office works to enable ethnic people to participate in all aspects of New Zealand life, so that they become confident, equal and proud New Zealanders. During 2008/09, we assisted ethnic communities to increase their participation in democratic processes. For example, we ran six civic participation workshops, which focused on accessing the justice system and creating awareness of New Zealand’s legislative processes. Civic participation includes involvement in the decision making of public boards. To encourage greater participation in this area, the Office streamlined its Nominations Service, targeting qualified candidates for specific public boards.

Building capacity within ethnic communities

Community forums are a key means to update ethnic communities on government activities and receive feedback about community needs. The Office held forums for a range of communities, with specific meetings for refugees and new migrants, women and ethnic youth. Pan-ethnic forums were also held, bringing communities together to consider common interests.

The Office, in association with the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand and New Zealand’s Muslim communities, continued to deliver the Building Bridges programme. This programme demystifies Islam for New Zealanders and promotes participation by New Zealand Muslims in New Zealand society, through a series of workshops, forums and awareness-raising activities. The Office and the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand produced a directory for Muslim women’s organisations, to assist organisations which provide services to Muslim women to work together.

One of the Office’s key projects during 2008/09 was the Strengthening Ethnic Non-Governmental Organisations programme, funded by the Department of Labour’s migrant levy. This project provided governance training and mentoring to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who provide settlement services to refugees and migrants. As a result, 22 Ethnic NGOs from Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch said they would commit to learn more about governance and review their procedures. The aim of the programme is to strengthen these organisations’ infrastructure, enabling them to provide services and understand the importance of good succession planning. It also develops leadership skills which can be transferred to any board situation.

Increasing visibility of ethnic communities

Increasing awareness of the existence of diverse groups is the first step towards community acceptance of them. During 2008/09, we contributed to projects aimed at increasing the visibility of ethnic communities. These included the Diversity Stage at the ASB Polyfest and contributing work to national meetings for ethnic communities such as the ‘Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas’ conference for New Zealand’s Chinese communities.

The media can play a key role in assisting the wider community in understanding issues relating to ethnic diversity. During the year, the Office hosted several Ethnic Media Gatherings, providing a channel of communication between ethnic media, mainstream media and government. This initiative supports improved communication to the community as a whole about ethnic communities and their issues as well as encouraging the development of information to better meet the needs of ethnic communities.

[2] Hamilton City Council, Environment Bay of Plenty, Porirua City Council, Marlborough District Council.

[3] Based on New Zealand Lottery Commission profit forecast made in mid June yearly. Higher than expected profits were announced and paid to New Zealand Lottery Grants Board the year after.

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Safer Communities

Protecting citizens by building safer communities is a fundamental responsibility of government. The Department supports safer communities by:

  • efficiently and effectively fulfilling its regulatory roles
  • helping build the capability of relevant sector groups
  • supporting communities and individuals by raising their awareness of risks.

Our particular areas of responsibility for building safer communities are civil defence and emergency management, gambling and censorship.

Communities are more resilient to hazards and their risks

New Zealand’s dynamic physical environment exposes us to a wide variety of hazards. Our overall aim is for communities to be more resilient to these hazards and their risks. The Department’s specific focus in this area is on civil defence emergencies and fire. We do this largely through our leadership role in developing structures and processes to support individuals and communities in reducing the risk of, getting ready for, responding to, and then recovering from any civil defence emergencies that occur. In respect of fire, the Department provides fire policy advice to the Minister of Internal Affairs.

The key pieces of legislation under which we operate are:

  • the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002, which established the framework for managing risk posed by hazards. Under the CDEM Act, the National CDEM Strategy set out the Government’s vision for CDEM in New Zealand as ‘Resilient New Zealand – communities understanding and managing their hazards’
  • the Fire Service Act 1975, which established the New Zealand Fire Service Commission (a Crown entity). The Commission is responsible for the New Zealand Fire Service and has agreements for service with volunteer brigades. The Commission is the National Rural Fire Authority, with responsibility for the coordination of rural fire management. It also provides guidance and standards for other fire service providers, for example, defence and industrial brigades. One of our roles is to monitor the performance of the Commission
  • the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977, under which each of the 86 rural fire authorities, operating alongside the New Zealand Fire Service, is responsible for fire control measures in its area and responding to fires.

Through the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM), the Department has a key operational role in managing any national emergencies that occur. This includes developing and maintaining national-level readiness capability including the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC), and the coordination and management of central government activities at local, regional and national levels of civil defence emergencies. MCDEM provides national hazard warnings to the Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) sector via the National Warning System.

Over the year, we improved our processes and procedures for responding to emergency events. The effectiveness of the National Warning System has been enhanced through 24/7 duty team arrangements and embedding of the relationship with the New Zealand Fire Service. Standard operating procedures for the NCMC were updated and enhanced. A new training programme for NCMC staff is under development.

New qualitative measures underline the enhanced capability of the National Warning System and response capability. Our expectation is that at least 95 per cent of addressees will successfully receive national warning messages for all tests undertaken.

The following sections highlight our key activities during the year.

Strengthening the CDEM framework

We support the continued strengthening of the CDEM framework through oversight of the CDEM Act 2002, the National CDEM Strategy, the National CDEM Plan, and the Guide to the National CDEM Plan (the Guide).

The Guide provides additional information to assist and support agencies to achieve the purpose of the National CDEM Plan. In consultation with the sector, MCDEM reviewed the Guide and released a revised version to stakeholders in June 2009. The review involved consultation with over 100 stakeholders and represented the most comprehensive review since the release of the Guide in 2006.

During the year, we began an initial assessment of how well the CDEM policy and legislative framework has been implemented around New Zealand since 2002. In the second half of the year the primary focus of policy work shifted to consideration of central government financial support of the CDEM sector and how best to ensure stability in CDEM arrangements in Auckland during the transition to the new Auckland Council in 2010.

Strengthening our fire services

New Zealand’s fire services face a number of fundamental problems. These include issues relating to fire service governance, fragmentation of rural fire services, levy inequities, and variations in regard to legal accountabilities such as the responsibilities for handling of building fires in rural areas.

The Government has announced that it will not be pursuing previous proposals to merge urban and rural fire services. It has also signalled that it would prefer a period of consolidation before any legislative reform is considered. In the meantime, it has endorsed work to improve the delivery of rural fire services.

The recent bushfire events in Australia underline how important it is to ensure our rural fire services are properly supported. In New Zealand, there are over 80 rural fire authorities and this fragmentation has led to duplication of resources in some areas and stretched resources in others. Significant gains can be made by actively encouraging voluntary amalgamation of rural fire authorities into regional groups, allowing for improvements in resource allocation and capability.

The Department has been supporting the National Rural Fire Authority’s strategy to encourage the voluntary amalgamation of smaller fire authorities into larger fire authorities through the creation of enlarged rural districts. In early 2009, this focus led to the Department working closely with the National Rural Fire Authority to draw together, for the first time, comprehensive guidance material on the roles, functions and legislative underpinnings of fire authorities.

Following the process of voluntary amalgamation, the Department will consider the need for legislative change to promote further amalgamations. It will also consider how to make progress on the other identified issues.

Developing the CDEM sector

We seek to enhance the capability of the CDEM sector in managing the risk posed by hazards, by assisting communities, local government, the private sector, and central agencies to develop disaster resilience. A key influence on our approach is the level of capability in the CDEM sector. As the changes in the structure of the sector initiated by the CDEM Act 2002 have become increasingly embedded, the focus has shifted from confirming the structures to the ongoing improvement of capability.

As an example of this, in consultation with representatives from CDEM Groups, we produced a guideline to establish a nationally consistent approach to the development of the next iteration of CDEM Group plans.

A CDEM Competency Framework was published as a technical standard on 30 June 2009 after extensive engagement with the CDEM sector. This framework will support a key strategy of developing people, and sets out a list of evidence-based national competencies to guide the sector on the type and level of training and education across roles. We are now working with the sector to detail the skills and knowledge that underpin the competencies for particular roles, and work with education and training providers to develop new professional development opportunities that are aligned with the framework.

MCDEM is further supporting the long-term development of capability across the CDEM sector through the development of a monitoring and evaluation tool. This will assess the level of capability achieved by agencies with responsibilities under the CDEM Act 2002 and identify capability areas for improvement. The Capability Assessment Tool has been developed in consultation with stakeholders with completion in June of a version ready for formal consultation. Once finalised, the tool will initially be applied to CDEM groups and will then be rolled out to other agencies in the sector.

Output measures indicate an improved level of communication with the sector. For example, during the year we published a total of 18 sector updates and newsletters, and increased the number of guidelines published from three in 2007/08 to five in 2008/09. The quality of our engagement with stakeholders is measured primarily through the annual MCDEM stakeholder survey. Recent results indicate that the majority of our stakeholders (73 per cent) were either satisfied or very satisfied with MCDEM’s performance. Furthermore, more than half the respondents (55 per cent) thought MCDEM’s performance had improved compared with the previous year.

The Capability Assessment Tool will provide a measure of capability across the sector, which is an indirect measure of the performance of the Department in supporting the development of CDEM capability.

Developing CDEM initiatives for hazard risk reduction

Risk reduction provides an important component of the management of hazards by mitigating the potential effects on communities, thereby reducing the resources required for response and recovery. We actively engage with the CDEM sector and government agencies to provide technical advice, support or information to assist coordinated disaster risk reduction.

Addressing New Zealand’s vulnerability to tsunami has included the development of information on public alerting options, scenarios to inform national and regional planning, and a guideline for tsunami evacuation zones. The findings have been communicated to the sector through 13 regional seminars as well as the publication of three guidelines. Our work on public alerting and scenario development is continuing. We also contributed directly to the development of the Natural Hazards Research Platform sponsored by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Raising public awareness

MCDEM continued to run two programmes aimed at enhancing public awareness of hazards and their risks – the schools’ programme ‘What’s the Plan Stan?’ and the public awareness programme ‘Get Ready, Get Thru’.

The ‘What’s the Plan Stan?’ resource has been revised to ensure alignment with the new school curriculum. Promotion of the new version at the national level and through CDEM Groups preceded the distribution to schools in August 2009. All 2,349 primary and secondary schools in New Zealand will receive this resource.

What's The Plan Stan - Get Ready Get Thru

‘Get Ready, Get Thru’ is a high-profile publicity campaign in print, television and radio. The mass media campaign has been supported by information on the website.

The effectiveness of the public education mass media campaign is assessed through an annual survey. The results show that the advertisements are effective: four out of five (80 per cent) New Zealanders who have seen the advertisements have been prompted to think or take action to prepare for a disaster. Public preparedness has continued to show an increase from the start of the campaign in 2006 but levels have not altered over the last year. This may be related to the reduced level of advertising compared with the previous year. Key survey findings are that:

  • one in every 10 New Zealanders (10 per cent) is fully prepared for an emergency
  • nearly one in every four New Zealanders (23 per cent) is prepared for an emergency when at home
  • four out of five New Zealanders (79 per cent) have emergency survival items
  • nearly half of New Zealanders (49 per cent) have a survival plan.

Gambling is safe, fair, legal and honest

Gambling is a significant economic activity in New Zealand. Total expenditure on all forms of gambling has remained steady since 2004, at around $2 billion per annum.

There are positive aspects of gambling activity. For example many people enjoy some form of gambling as a social or leisure activity and gambling-related industries provide employment. If well channelled, funds from gambling (in particular non-casino gaming machines and New Zealand Lotteries) support a range of community activity.

However, some in our society are vulnerable to harm associated with gambling. Those least able to withstand economic set-back are often most at risk from the harm that can be caused. Some forms of gambling are more associated with problem gambling than others, notably gaming machines and casino table games. The effects of problem gambling reach beyond the individuals concerned to their family, friends and workmates, and can ripple throughout a community.

Gambling and gambling venues can be targets for criminals. A wide range of criminal activity can exploit the sector. Examples of criminal activity directly related to gambling operations are theft of gambling profits, cheating and grant fraud. Criminals can use venues to carry out various forms of crime, including drug dealing and money laundering. Problem gambling may also be associated with a variety of offences including theft from family or employers. The costs of gambling-related crime include trauma and stress to the victims, loss to the community of funds that would otherwise be distributed as grants, financial loss to businesses, and the cost to the justice sector of investigation, court action and imposing penalties.

The Gambling Act 2003 and the Racing Act 2003 regulate gambling. The Department advises the Government on gambling policy and administers the Acts. It provides information on how to comply with the legislation, licenses some forms of gambling, audits and monitors gambling operations, investigates alleged breaches of the Gambling Act 2003 and related offences, and takes appropriate enforcement action. The Department maintains a strong strategic overview of the operating environment and is well positioned to continue its lead role in shaping the future of gambling in New Zealand.

We contribute to creating safer communities through the effective regulatory management of gambling. We aim to create an environment where gambling is safe, fair, legal and honest, harm is minimised and benefits are maximised.

The following graph shows gambling expenditure over the past six years for the four major forms of gambling. What the graph does not clearly show is that recently, coinciding with the economic downturn, there has been a clear downward trend in spending on non-casino gaming machines, while spending on other forms of gambling has remained relatively steady or increased. We will continue to closely monitor this trend to gauge its impact on the gambling sector, our operations and the public.

Gambling Expenditure

Gambling Expenditure

Our key activities during the year are highlighted in the following sections.

Integrity of gambling/preventing and minimising gambling-related crime

We want to ensure we deliver cost-effective compliance with the Gambling Act 2003 (the Act), so our approach to regulatory management uses a range of tools to deliver this objective. We use regulatory interventions to focus on the prevention or reduction of offending associated with gambling. This includes a range of interventions, from encouraging voluntary compliance to taking a stronger enforcement role. Our aim is to promote responsible and compliant behaviour by gambling operators and to take action that is proportionate and appropriate in any given situation.

Consequently, in relation to non-casino gaming machines the Department has sharpened its focus on licensing and compliance at the gaming machine operator level. We initially concentrated on venue compliance and encouraging venues to understand the new harm prevention and minimisation requirements in the Act, including regulations relating to signage, identifying problem gamblers and appropriate supervision of and access to gambling areas. Our initial expectation that gaming machine operators, with community trustees on their Boards, would voluntarily comply with the purposes of the Act has in many cases not been realised. In focusing on operator compliance, the Department has taken action to suspend, cancel or refuse to renew licences where breaches of the Act’s requirements are found. This approach is already encouraging changes in operator behaviour, and we expect to see further improvement in the integrity of the sector.

In addition, the Department has taken a risk-based approach to allocating resources for enforcement action. For example, drawing on the results of a major intelligence project, we reviewed our casino work programme to focus less on routine audits and more on the high-risk areas of criminality and harm prevention and minimisation.

Examples of our enforcement action resulting from casino and non-casino activity in 2008/09 include:

  • 390 warnings given
  • 71 infringement notices issued
  • 17 venue licence suspensions
  • five venue licence cancellations.

Our intelligence-based approach to crime prevention and detection ranges from community-based initiatives to working with international agencies.

The Community Engagement Model is a programme designed to ensure that the Department connects with communities to target its regulatory approach, shares information with other regulatory agencies and gains a clear understanding of a community’s perspective of its gambling issues. The programme has been carried out in Christchurch East and has commenced in the Far North, Porirua and Dunedin, on a trial basis. In the coming year, we will evaluate the benefits of this activity and refine the model to enable more effective community engagement.

Our Intelligence Unit produced a report for the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering showing money laundering and counter-terrorism financing vulnerabilities for casinos internationally. The report has been ratified by the Financial Action Task Force (the international anti-money-laundering body) and will gain further importance as anti-money-laundering legislation becomes operational, informing the Department’s analysis of money-laundering risks in New Zealand casinos.

Understanding gambling in New Zealand and monitoring its development

Better data collection and analysis mean compliance and investigations are increasingly able to strengthen the intelligence-led, risk-based approach. During 2008/09, we reviewed the data we gather so we are able to better measure our progress towards our outcomes. Our redesigned stakeholder survey, which now samples a wider range of stakeholders, has provided valuable qualitative data. This year’s survey provided a benchmark for measuring our future performance against desired outcomes.

Electronic monitoring of Class 4 (non-casino) gambling has helped inform and improve the design and implementation of focused and effective regulatory activities. For example, information obtained from our Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) is used in building profiles for the Community Engagement Model. We have also used EMS information in designing audits around our outcomes. The audit process has been reviewed to better align resources towards high-priority compliance issues such as excessive costs in gambling operations and the manipulation of grants.

Working with others

We work with gambling operators, community groups, problem gambling service providers, local government and other government agencies to achieve our outcomes. Throughout the year, we continued to build networks within local communities, taking a collaborative approach to addressing gambling-related issues, such as problem gambling and community funding, at a local level.

One of our aims is that communities will be engaged, empowered and informed in relation to gambling. This year’s stakeholder survey, which included stakeholders from the gambling sector, the community and local government, tells us that, while 42 per cent of respondents agree that ‘local communities are engaged in local gambling issues’, 40 per cent are neutral or don’t know. In addition, only 30 per cent of respondents to the survey believe communities are able to effectively influence where gambling profits go. These figures show that there are opportunities to improve the level of community engagement in gambling issues.

The effectiveness of gaming machine funding is an issue that continues to concern the public. The Department’s focus is on ensuring that community benefits from non-casino gaming are maximised, and establishing systems and processes that will better measure the impact of grants on the community.

Our Strategic Funding Engagement initiative aims to ensure that community benefits from non-casino gambling are maximised by encouraging gaming machine operators to improve the quality of their funding – that is, its contribution to community capability and genuine community needs.

We commenced discussions with gambling operators and other funding organisations, with the aim of improving community engagement and establishing cooperative relationships between funders over time.

Education and information are valuable and cost-effective regulatory tools to increase voluntary compliance, integrity and good practice in gambling operations. We gave 20 formal presentations throughout the year to Police and gambling operators. In addition, regular meetings between Departmental liaison officers and the gambling sector maintained relationships and opened another channel for communication. We also ran regular meetings and forums with non-casino gaming machine operators, casino operators and sector groups.

We work in partnership with the Ministry of Health to monitor and address public health and other policy issues related to gambling. During the year both agencies worked together to develop standard information packs to assist territorial authorities with their gambling policy reviews, and to host six Stakeholder Reference Group meetings. This Group includes representatives of treatment providers, local government, Asian, Pacific and Māori communities, consumers, academic institutions, gambling operators and the Hospitality Association of New Zealand. The Group’s core focus is harm prevention and minimisation.

We further developed our relationships with international law enforcement agencies to detect and investigate crime associated with gambling.

Supporting legislative change

As is common with new legislation, a number of issues have emerged since the Gambling Act was passed. The Gambling Amendment Bill (No 2) – currently before the House – makes a number of small policy amendments and many technical amendments to the Act. These aim to allow the Act to operate as originally intended. The Department will implement changes to policies and processes arising from the passage of the Bill.

Harm from restricted and objectionable material has been minimised

Censorship issues reflect the values of our communities. As a regulator of these issues, the Department’s role is to protect people from objectionable and restricted publications.

Children are particularly at risk from the threat posed by objectionable material – firstly, because the production of such images often involves actual physical and sexual abuse of children and secondly, because viewing the material may be traumatic.

Effective regulation and enforcement prevent and minimise the harm caused by restricted and objectionable material, and directly contribute to creating safer communities. Our approach to regulation is underpinned by information and education and is strengthened by a commitment to intelligence-led and risk-based deployment of resources. In 2008/09, we continued to carry out a range of activities to encourage voluntary compliance and to tackle offenders. In this way, we maximised our impact in a cost-effective way.

The Department uses a range of regulatory tools to achieve compliance with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. Our Censorship Unit informs, educates, investigates and takes enforcement action to ensure compliance with the Act. The Unit also ensures the publication industry complies with the Office of Film and Literature Classification’s (OFLC) decisions on classifications.

Additionally, the Department provides administrative support to the Film and Literature Board of Review and monitors the performance of OFLC.

Increasing public awareness

Compliance can be increased, and risk to vulnerable people decreased, when we use our capabilities and networks to get our message across.

Children are better equipped to protect themselves online with the information we have developed with the Ministry of Education and Netsafe, an organisation which works with stakeholders in the public and private sector to promote cybersafety. In 2008/09, we raised awareness of Internet safety, and supplied schools with Internet safety resources. For example, we helped produce an Internet safety DVD for pre-primary school children with the Ministry of Education, and provided presentations for Netsafe and a number of schools. We also provide information to the public via leaflets and through our website.

Informing and educating the sector

Information and education to the publication industry are cost-effective tools to encourage voluntary compliance. The Department’s website is a primary source of information about censorship issues. We use the inspection programme as an opportunity to provide the business community with information that helps them remain compliant. Our inspection programme of publication outlets showed that out of 946 inspections, 854 outlets were complying.


A vital tool in our regulatory management ‘toolbox’ is enforcement. We pursue those who commit offences and work extensively with other government agencies, both in New Zealand and overseas, to detect and prosecute those involved in the trade and possession of objectionable material.

The Department’s work attracts significant media attention. We publicise our successes and inform the public about Internet and censorship offending through proactive media releases relating to court cases and national and international investigations. We believe that this publicity also serves as a deterrent to some potential offenders.

In this reporting year:

  • no cases we brought before the courts were dismissed
  • 43 cases were resolved in court
  • 42 cases resulted in convictions
  • 16 cases resulted in a term of imprisonment
  • in 11 further cases a term of home detention was imposed.

Since penalties for censorship offences were increased in 2005, we have seen a rise in the number of defended hearings. We have incurred significant costs in these cases and the average cost of each prosecution has continued to grow, placing pressure on existing resources. However, in 2008/09 we secured future funding to relieve this pressure. The costs of prosecutions have also been mitigated by cost-effectiveness measures such as speeding up computer forensic examinations, proactively seeking earlier guilty pleas, and our strategy of targeting our investigations and offence action on New Zealand-based offenders and according to risk.

In 2007, we took on the regulatory management of ‘spam’ (unsolicited electronic messages). An Anti-Spam Compliance Unit was established under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 to monitor the sending of ‘spam’. In 2008/09, the Department undertook Operation Herbal King, an investigation into one of the world’s largest spamming operations. This resulted in a New Zealand citizen, resident in Australia, admitting his part in the sending of more than two million emails, marketing pharmaceutical products, to New Zealand computers. He paid a financial penalty of $100,000 plus almost $8,000 in costs.

Research and profiling

We continue to develop an expert understanding of the producers, traders and users of objectionable material. For example, our profiling research provides information on demographic and other characteristics of offenders, and the collation of search terms used in P2P (peer-to-peer) networks is assisting in the detection of offenders.

Working with others

Our work relies on forming collaborative partnerships with other enforcement agencies in New Zealand and internationally. We use these networks to target potential offenders and develop new forensic and computer technologies. The Department has gained considerable prestige internationally due to its law enforcement successes and its innovative approach to investigative techniques.

We have taken a leadership role in training and developing partnerships with agencies in relation to forensic computer analysis. In addition to our membership and training status with the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS), we are also trainers for the International Training Initiative of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and Interpol. This year we provided training to the Prosecutors’ Office of South Korea and IACIS students and presented to the World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, held in Rio de Janeiro, November 2008.

The Department recognises the value of continued learning from like-minded organisations to improve our performance. Both US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI have provided training to staff in New Zealand.

We continued to establish joint operations with the New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Police, and to take an active part in the international collection and dissemination of intelligence.

Harnessing technology

In order to meet the emerging risks that this operating environment presents, it is essential that we develop capability to remain at the forefront of technical innovation. The Department will continue to invest in resources to ensure inspectors receive up-to-date training and have access to the latest software.

Our own technical innovations have found international success. We have made further refinements to Super Squirrel Hunter (the detection software the Department developed for peer-to-peer networks). Both Super Squirrel Hunter and Websniper (software that captures the targeted area of a website for use as evidence) are available to enforcement agencies overseas, via the secure Censorship Internet portal.

In conjunction with several Internet Service Providers (ISPs), we have piloted the use of website filtering software to block user access to specific websites known to provide child sexual abuse images. In 2008/09, the Department secured future funding to implement and roll out website filtering, which will be available to ISPs on a voluntary basis.

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New  Zealand’s approach to identity is trusted and well led

As kaitiaki of New Zealanders’ core identity information (life events such as births, deaths, marriages or the record of their citizenship), the Department plays a crucial role in ensuring this information remains safe and secure. The information we maintain:

  • enables the New Zealand public to apply for individual entitlements
  • facilitates economic activity
  • provides important input to official statistics, social services planning and research that will underpin national economic goals for the future
  • eases international travel
  • helps individuals to trace their lineage and establish their identity.

We support the outcome New Zealand’s approach to identity is trusted and well led through the quality of the services we provide from day to day: registering births, deaths, marriages and civil unions and providing access to life event information, issuing passports and other travel documents and managing applications for New Zealand citizenship. Achieving this outcome is wholly reliant on the accuracy and reliability of the identity information we hold for New Zealanders and this, in turn, depends on our professionalism and the integrity of our staff, data and systems.

In its role of administering the Citizenship Act 1977, which sets out entitlements to and requirements for New Zealand citizenship, the Department assists in the settlement of migrants and contributes to the development of social cohesion through its citizenship activities, which promote a sense of belonging to New Zealand. Our citizenship activities contribute to the outcome of Strong, sustainable communities/hapū/iwi by raising awareness of what citizenship means amongst the vast majority of New Zealanders, who have acquired their citizenship by birth, so that they value it as much as those who have acquired it by choice.

This work also contributes to the Department’s Safer communities outcomes. The integrity of our people, data, systems and services, together with our work on identity information management across government, helps to protect New Zealanders against identity crime and threats to their privacy.

Our work also has economic benefits. For example, New Zealand continues to meet the passport security requirements needed to maintain membership in the United States of America Visa Waiver Programme. We conservatively estimate that continued access to the Programme saves NZ$87 million per annum, benefiting New Zealand’s economy by allowing a large number of New Zealanders unfettered business travel to the United States.

Good governance of identity information for all New Zealanders

Sector leadership in identity information management

Secure and protected records of identity, and the fast and accurate provision of identity documents, provide the confidence for New Zealanders and the commercial sector to conduct business openly and freely. However, our work extends well beyond the maintenance of life event registers, issuance of passports and management of citizenship applications. For example, we support the development, promotion and delivery of good practice in the management of identity information across the New Zealand State sector.

A strategic approach to managing identity information needs to be well led. The Department has continued to ensure, through initiatives undertaken in the past 12 months, that there is widespread understanding of the security and integrity needs, and good practices, in relation to designing, implementing and monitoring systems and processes for identity information management. Our skills, expertise and knowledge in this area helps other agencies understand the associated risks and demonstrate best practice.

The Identity Assurance Framework (IAF) provides a structured approach to identity assurance across government. After extensive consultation with government agencies, the IAF document was published in December 2008. It underpins many of the initiatives that the Department has developed, and is the basis of our contribution in reducing vulnerabilities and building a seamless approach to identity information management across government.

Better coordination in identity information management will improve the level of service the New Zealand public receives when interacting with government agencies and will also lead to better investment by government in identity-related systems and processes.

Over the last year the Department’s role as chair of the Cross-Government Biometrics Group (CGBG) supported the development of Guiding Principles for the Use of Biometric Technologies for Government Agencies, researching biometric standards and developing good- practice-guidance material. This work recognises that the fast-evolving technological environment and the technical nature of biometrics present an opportunity for government agencies to enhance customer facilitation and minimise identity-related risk.

We facilitated the appropriate and safe use of identity information through the Evidence of Identity (EOI) Standard. The EOI Standard is a good-practice guide to the establishment of the identity of people accessing government services. As custodian of the standard we assist agencies that issue documents or maintain records that may be used to establish or verify identity. We do this by identifying any weak links in their business process that may cause identity assurance issues in respect of their own agency or for other government agencies.

During 2007/08, we successfully piloted the EOI Standard with three government agencies: Inland Revenue (the IRD number issuance process), the Citizenship Office within the Department of Internal Affairs (the citizenship by descent process) and New Zealand Transport Agency (the driver licence issuance process). This subsequently led to the implementation of a new EOI process at Inland Revenue and Citizenship in 2008[4]. The Department is seeking the acceptance of the EOI Standard as a ‘Recommended’ e-GIF (E-government Interoperability Framework) standard. Over time, implementation of the EOI Standard will lead to an increase in the quality of agencies’ identity establishment and verification processes. Application of the standard will also help to provide consistency of customer experience when seeking services of a similar nature from different government agencies.

The Department chairs the Identity at the Border (I@B) work programme, which aims to provide consistent and fit-for-purpose identity-related standards and processes for all border activity. During the year Identity Information Management Principles were developed to facilitate a common understanding and approach to identity activities in the border sector. A particular focus of the I@B work programme has been to inform the design and development of new business processes and systems in the border agencies, including the trans-Tasman travel initiative. This will lead to a fast and seamless border crossing experience for the traveller, while maintaining the security of the New Zealand border.

The Department manages identity records that can be shared with other government agencies to help carry out core functions. Over the past year we have developed the igovt Identity Verification Service (IVS), as part of the All-of-government Authentication Programme. The IVS will enable people to use the Internet as a more convenient way to verify their identity to government agencies online, and in real time, to a high level of confidence. This will enable New Zealanders to conduct business with government agencies more easily and in a more cost-effective and timely fashion, avoiding the costs and inconvenience of repeatedly verifying a person’s identity face to face with multiple agencies, and hence will provide value for money for individuals, agencies and government.

Benefiting from international linkages

Over 2008/09, the Department continued to strengthen New Zealand’s international relationships in relation to identity information management to support our ongoing work. Engagement at this level is important as it enables the Department to:

  • keep up to date and learn from others – for example, the Passports Manager is chair of the Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group (ICBWG) of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This enables the Department to learn from, and inform, other ICAO projects. This engagement is particularly critical in the issuance of emergency travel documents. In 2008, we completed a project enabling Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff to access up-to-date data, including images, for emergency travel document applications. We support and learn from the experiences of others with the expectation that, should the need arise, we will also receive support.
  • have an influencing role in other jurisdictions – the Department’s expertise in identity information management is recognised internationally. For example, the General Manager of the Department’s Identity Services Group is currently the chair of the ICAO Technical Advisory Group on Machine Readable Travel Documents.
  • share knowledge in areas of joint interest – for example, we provide resource to assist the Vanuatu Government’s review of passport legislation and implementation of a new passport system that will allow Vanuatu to have machine readable passports compliant with international standards. This work is funded mainly through NZAID.
  • monitor international trends – we work collaboratively with the Five Nations Passports Group, Five Nations Citizenship Group, the Australasian Biometrics Institute, ICAO and the Council of Australasian Registrars for Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • keep pace with standards and best practice in identity information management – continued recognition of the accuracy, security and reliability of New Zealand travel documents ensure that New Zealand maintains its international reputation as having one of the most highly regarded travel documents in the world.

Reliable and accessible identity services

Although the Department’s name, ‘Internal Affairs’, implies a focus within New Zealand’s borders, in fact many aspects of the Department’s work are affected by the global environment, such as the current global economic downturn, and we must be able to respond to these events and overseas trends. We do this by keeping our products relevant and in line with international standards and providing services that are reliable, accessible and are of a consistently high quality.

Reliable and accessible services are achieved in a number of different ways including: timeliness of processing and product delivery, quality of products, and the ease with which the public can access their information and services. The efficiencies of our systems and processes in turn provide cost effectiveness that directly benefits the public.

In 2008/09, the Department issued a total of approximately 824,000 identity-related products.

Identity Services Delivery

Identity Services Delivery

Fluctuating demand has a significant impact on our activity levels and it is important for the Department to respond to the changing environment. While the economic situation may reduce demand in some areas, there is also the potential for increased activity due to legislative or other changes.

For example, while the current economic downturn has had a negative effect on the number of passports issued, over time we expect a progressive increase in demand for passport services, in particular when the first renewals of five-year passports occur from April 2010 (resulting from the April 2005 move to a five-year passport). We are currently implementing a Passport Redevelopment Programme to help us handle this increase in application volumes with improved efficiency.

Similarly, changes to citizenship legislation in 2005, increasing the residency requirements for a Grant of New Zealand Citizenship from three years to five years, resulted in a sudden increase in applications for Citizenship by Grant before the new legislation came into effect. Due to this increased demand, application processing times were pushed out. Our focus during 2008/09 was to return the processing times to normal standards, and we achieved this by the end of the financial year.

We experienced unprecedented demand for Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) documents during the year. This was primarily due to the launch of the BDM Historical Records Online website in February 2009. Public demand for printouts of historical records has soared, from around 2,000 a month to over 4,500. In addition, certificate production was more than 10 per cent above what we expected, reflecting high levels of birth and death registrations and the impact of newly available products, primarily the new decorative birth certificates.

The Department met all of its performance targets with respect to the timeliness and quality of citizenship, passport, birth, death, marriage and civil union services. In order to fully assess our service performance, we combine these operational measurements with customer perceptions obtained via surveys to monitor our overall success and identify areas for improvement.

The Department conducts its own Customer Satisfaction Survey every six months. The most recent (November 2008) customer satisfaction survey showed:

  • 93 per cent of customers felt that finding information about our services is easy
  • 85 per cent of customers felt that they could trust us to keep their personal details secure and confidential
  • 87 per cent of customers are pleased with the overall service they received
  • 88 per cent of customers felt that forms are easy to understand and complete.

Though virtually all (99.9 per cent) passports were delivered to customers on time in 2008/09, the latest survey indicated a drop from 87 per cent to 75 per cent in overall customer satisfaction with the time taken to receive a passport. This response may correlate with the significantly higher than usual number of respondents who needed to get an urgent passport (31 per cent, compared with 12 per cent for the previous survey), where delivery timeframes are tighter.

The Department also takes part in independent, external assessments to provide additional information about the performance of its customer service counters in four centres in New Zealand, two overseas regional offices (Sydney and London), and a national contact centre in Wellington. We have a ‘mystery shopper’ programme and have entered the annual CRM Contact Centre Awards since 1997[5] to better understand how well we are performing. The results have consistently shown a high level of performance. Our average score from mystery shoppers over the past two years is 87 per cent, which indicates a ‘very good’ level of service (90 per cent is needed for an ‘excellent’ rating).

The Identity Services Contact Centre participates in the CRM Contact Centre Awards to provide an annual snapshot of how New Zealand contact centres are responding to customer enquiries over the telephone and Internet and also provide a measure of the quality of our services. Our Contact Centre won the overall award for the best Public Sector/State-Owned Enterprise Contact Centre in both 2007 and 2008. In March 2009, a pre-audit was completed for the 2009 CRM Awards, resulting in the Contact Centre winning the 2009 Diamond Award in the CRM Supreme Award for the first time (only contact centres with 50 seats or more are eligible for this award). These outstanding achievements show our commitment to quality service and our integrity as a whole strengthens the Department’s reputation as an authoritative, trusted source of identity information for New Zealanders.

Another means of assessing public satisfaction with service quality is the Kiwis Count survey, run by the State Services Commission[6]. This allows us to benchmark our customer services against other State sector agencies. This survey differs from the Department’s Customer Satisfaction Survey in that it is drawn from a random sample of the public, not identified ‘customers’. In the 2007 Kiwis Count Survey respondents rated their satisfaction with Passport and Citizenship services at 72 per cent[7]. This compared with an average rating of 68 per cent for State sector services as a whole.

As with our own survey, issues were raised about the cost of both citizenship and passport applications, particularly for families applying, when applications are made for all of the family members at once. In the case of the New Zealand passport, the cost includes security features necessary to meet international standards, and to the passport’s shortened ‘life’ from 10 years to five years. With the redevelopment of the New Zealand passport and its new security features, passport holders continue to enjoy visa waiver access to over 50 countries worldwide.

Developing new services and improving efficiency

The majority of our services are funded from fees charged to members of the public. It is therefore especially important that the services we provide reflect our commitment to quality, consistency and cost efficiency.

We have improved online accessibility to Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) records. In addition to the launch of the very popular BDM Historical Records Online website, the Department has also developed the capability to receive online notification of births by hospitals. The online birth notification service is designed to increase efficiency, improve data quality and enable speedier lodgement of birth notification information by District Health Boards (DHBs). In February 2008, this service was officially implemented and since then work has been underway with DHBs to assist them in taking up the service. Uptake with DHBs and midwives is gradual as they upgrade their IT systems to allow for the electronic submission of birth information.

Another innovation to improve access to our services is the Citizenship Online Calculation Tool. This helps prospective applicants decide whether they satisfy the eligibility requirements for New Zealand Citizenship by Grant. It provides them with a better understanding of the eligibility requirements and helps them to make a more informed decision about their application. The tool produces a report telling prospective applicants whether the various requirements for citizenship have been clearly met.

Initiatives such as EOI and IVS increase the cost effectiveness of our activities, by providing greater consistency across government services and reducing the duplication of identity information management services. We are also increasingly moving to shared services as a way of ensuring interoperability and efficiency. However, one of the greatest, and often underrated, cost efficiencies in our business delivery is the benefits derived from housing three identity-related services within the one organisation. Recognising the commonalities among many of the Citizenship, Passports and BDM business processes allows the Department to better leverage resources and skills across our different business groups.

Identity information management is secure and protects New Zealanders from fraud

Ensuring that identity information management is secure and protects New Zealanders from fraud is wholly reliant on the New Zealand public’s willingness to provide their identity information. This willingness depends, in turn, on the integrity of our staff, data and systems.

Our ongoing activities to uphold the integrity of the New Zealand passport are intended to reduce passport fraud and ensure high levels of confidence in the passport are maintained, allowing New Zealanders to trade and travel overseas with maximum ease.

Several of the Department’s initiatives will deliver ‘backroom’ benefits to customers, such as secure identity validation online, and improving system integrity to provide high levels of assurance around the use and reuse of their identity information. These initiatives include:

  • the computerised moderation of historic death data against birth records, which flags a relevant birth record in a way that makes it clear whether the individual named in the record is deceased or not. This will reduce the opportunity for identity fraud through the use of birth certificates relating to deceased persons
  • a Data Validation Service (DVS), which is a simple and secure web-based service for agencies to validate data on a named individual’s identity documents (i.e. a birth certificate or passport). Used in conjunction with other good practices, the DVS will reduce the opportunities for identity fraud
  • the development and implementation of standards for the establishment and verification of identity through the IAF and the EOI. By strengthening agency processes around the use of identity records, both of these initiatives are expected to have an impact on the incidence of identity-related crime
  • the Passport Redevelopment Programme, which will deliver issuance systems and processes with greatly enhanced efficiency and integrity and a new passport book with new artwork and improved security features. These will help to reduce the risk of identity fraud.

[4] New Zealand Transport Agency has assessed how current business processes can align with the EOI Standard but is unable to implement the standard without legislative change.

[5] CRM Consulting Ltd has run the CRM Contact Centre Awards in New Zealand since 1997. See:

[6] State Services Commissioner, 2007. ‘Public Satisfaction with Service Quality 2007: The Kiwis Count Survey’, The inaugural survey was run in 2007.

[7] Note that the service category, simply labelled ‘Passports & Citizenship’ in the Kiwis Count Survey 2007, also encompassed other government services including ‘Registering a birth, death or marriage’ and ‘A visa or permit to work in New Zealand’.

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Executive Government is well supported

‘Good government’ depends on the effective functioning of Executive Government processes. To support this, the Department provides the Executive with the environment and support to carry out its duties by providing Executive Support Services, arranging official visits to New Zealand by representatives of foreign governments, and managing ceremonial and commemorative events for government.

We also contribute to shared outcomes with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and the Parliamentary Service.

The key influence on our work this year was the change of Executive that followed the November 2008 General Election. Although the Department has well-established processes and protocols to manage such events, this year was significant in the extent of change resulting from the first change in Government for nine years.

Our ability to continue to deliver high-quality services to what was largely a new client base is evidenced by the high ratings incoming Ministers gave us through our annual satisfaction surveys.

Services to the Executive

Our services to the Executive include staffing, transportation, media, information and communications technology, housing and logistical support. They also include supporting the Executive with commissions of inquiry and other ad hoc bodies.

Our work in this area also links to:

  • the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet outcome: Executive Government is well conducted and continues in accordance with accepted conventions and practices
  • the Parliamentary Service outcome: Members have confidence that they will be provided with the advice and support required to achieve their roles as legislators and representatives.

As mentioned above, the 2008 General Election resulted in a change of Government, the first for nine years. The formation of the Executive 11 days after the election was the fastest formation since 1996, when MMP was introduced. The Executive formation has previously taken up to nine weeks.

The Department successfully achieved the transition process, which involved the departure and arrival of over 300 staff and Ministers, by working collaboratively with the Parliamentary Service and other agencies. New Ministers also received assistance to guide them through unfamiliar systems and protocols associated with the parliamentary and Cabinet environment, equipped them with competent staff and information and communications technologies (ICT) services and provided residential accommodation where required.

At the same time as the Change of Executive was being managed, an ICT system upgrade was implemented based on Microsoft products. These systems will significantly reduce the effort required to support future Change of Executives as well as offering staff improved capability. A large amount of preparatory work was also undertaken with the Parliamentary Service to prepare for the joint delivery of ICT services to clients on the parliamentary campus.

VIP transport

In 2008/09, we completed the upgrade of the VIP transport fleet with low emission BMW cars. We chose the BMW model because it is fuel efficient, provides value for money and meets the needs of our passengers. To date, we are gaining 20 per cent in efficiency with the BMWs compared with the previous vehicles they replaced. We have received positive feedback from Ministers and drivers about the new vehicles.

Guest-of-Government visits and ceremonial events

Another key aspect of our work is arranging official visits to New Zealand by representatives of foreign governments, and managing ceremonial and commemorative events for government. Our work in these areas also links to:

  • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade outcome: New Zealand’s international connections support the transformation of the New Zealand economy and sustainable economic growth through increased trade and through improved flows of investment, skills and technology
  • the Ministry for Culture and Heritage outcome: The diversity, visibility and accessibility of our culture and participation in cultural experiences are enhanced.

In 2008/09, the Department worked closely with other agencies in the organisation of visits and ceremonial programmes to ensure they met Government objectives. During 2008/09, a total of 56 guest-of-Government visits and 17 commemorative events were arranged and supported. The following example illustrates the significance of these types of events.

The Spanish visit

King Carlos of Spain and Queen Sofia visited New Zealand from 24 to 28 June 2009. The visit strengthened and expanded New Zealand and Spain’s education, science and technology, and cultural links. The five-day visit was declared a success on a number of fronts. A Joint Declaration for closer cooperation was signed by both countries which will result in increased ministerial visits between New Zealand and Spain. Two bilateral agreements were signed: Spain became the 15th European Union Member State to have a working holiday scheme with New Zealand, and Spaniards and New Zealanders gained reciprocal rights to vote in each other’s municipal elections.

Commissions of inquiry

During 2008/09, we continued to provide support to commissions of inquiry and other bodies for which we have responsibility. For example, we supported the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance to undertake extensive public consultation as part of its inquiry process, resulting in:

  • 3,500 public submissions being received
  • 24 public meetings held throughout the Auckland region
  • the hearing of over 550 submitters.

In March 2009, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance delivered its four-volume report to Ministers and key stakeholders and more than 4,000 copies of the report were distributed to the public within the week of its release. The substantive work relating to the Auckland Governance reforms is described under the Strong, sustainable communities/hapū/iwi outcome.

Authentications Unit, New Zealand Gazette Office, Translation Service

The functions carried out by the New Zealand Gazette Office, Translation Service and Authentications Unit all interface with other government agencies and/or external clients in one way or another. In 2008/09, these groups achieved:

  • 9,603 authentications including 64 e-Apostilles (a new service from 13 May 2009)
  • 1,140 congratulatory messages
  • 10,620 New Zealand Gazette notices
  • 7,066 translations from 83 languages.

The following example shows how we are using technology to provide more efficient and effective services to our customers.


Before certain New Zealand documents can be used overseas, document authentication may be necessary. Authentication requests are growing by over a thousand each year. Passports, citizenship documents, and birth, death and marriage certificates make up 40-50 per cent of requests received. The rest are trade and export documents, legal documents such as powers of attorney and declarations, wills, fingerprints taken by the Police, and other documents needed by people so that they can work, marry, travel, study, buy or sell property overseas or add New Zealand-born children to their foreign passports.

Apostille Certificates are available for use in countries that have signed the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legislation for foreign public documents. We have been working closely with the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the National Notary Association of the United States over the last two years to create a unique e-Apostille for New Zealand. On 13 May 2009, New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to implement the e-Apostille system. The electronic authentication system can cross borders securely and seamlessly by email and reduce the length of time for official papers to be processed.

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Last updated: 20/10/2009