The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua | Department of Internal Affairs

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Resource material › Corporate Publications › Chief Executive’s Overview

(Extract from Department of Internal Affairs Annual Report 2003/2004)

In 2007, the Department of Internal Affairs will celebrate 100 years under its present name. The Department was formed in 1907 from the former Colonial Secretary’s Office on the same day on which New Zealand became an independent Dominion.

The Department’s traditional diversity arose from its role as ‘the mother of all departments’ from which others can trace their administrative ancestry.

In 2007, I expect that we will still be recognised as a department able to develop new and important agencies for government. I also hope to be able to point to a more widespread understanding of the Department and its role in linking citizens, communities, local and central government.

The appraisal of the New Zealand public management system, the Review of the Centre, identified four areas for improvement in the public service:

  • greater focus on results and outcomes;
  • becoming more citizen and community centred;
  • building the culture, people and leadership;
  • better integration of structures and processes.
The Department is continuing to improve its work in response to this challenge. Our outcomes – the difference we intend to make for the good of the country – are being more clearly defined because our thinking is now more strategic and our understanding of our role and potential is more sophisticated. The aim of our work is apparent: a stronger, safer nation.

The Department of Internal Affairs has widespread recognition as an effective manager of operations. The Department is now lifting its perspective from operational efficiency to wider strategy. By doing this the impact of our work on government goals becomes clearer, and needed improvements in our work come into sharp focus.

New international threats highlight the need for this strategic perspective, especially in our core services. Many of these services are the base on which other security efforts are built. Activities once considered by some to be merely operational with no link to strategy, such as the registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages and Citizenship have now come into focus as significance defences for New Zealand. Our technological advances are not merely responses to the demands of business efficiency, but are essential to the protection of citizens.

We need stability in the face of terrorist and environmental threats. The Department supports stability by helping build cohesive and self-reliant communities that respect ethnic and other diversity. It supports effective, trusted and ethical central and local government. These are strategic assets for New Zealand in dealing with the new threats from abroad.

Over the past year, we have built our capability and a structure that supports our strategy. The Department recognises that it is entirely dependent on the work of its staff to make the improvements needed to meet government expectations. We need to ensure our people feel safe and valued in their workplaces, are skilled, competent for the tasks and challenges they will face and have the attitudes needed to contribute to individual and team capability, effectiveness and success.

Internal Affairs’ new approach

The Department’s old structure and procedures were not adequate to respond to the new challenges we face. New Deputy Secretary positions have been established to lead our work in Local Government and Community and in Regulation and Compliance. Policy functions have been integrated with operational work. We have a new model for the effective provision of business services. Effectiveness for Mäori programmes throughout the Department have heightened our ability to respond to Mäori citizens.

Shared strategies, outcomes and accountabilities are now guiding more and more of our work. The two new Branches, along with Identity Services, Executive Government Support, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and the Office of Ethnic Affairs are working more closely. We are learning to support government outcomes as one agency, rather than through the separate parts of a divided organisation.

The view of these business groups as separate entities with their own independent roles, legislative imperatives and accountabilities is now understood to be a barrier to achieving a more effective, strategic approach. The Department has re-grouped to build on our common strengths to support and connect our varied activities.

New laws strengthen Internal Affairs’ role

During the year, the government strengthened the Department’s ability to serve New Zealand. The promotion, passage and implementation of several major pieces of legislation underscored the importance of the work of the Department. New laws for Local Government, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Gambling, Censorship, Passports, and Citizenship reflect a strategic intent to promote resilience and well-being at an individual, family and community level.

The new legislation is strongly focused on outcomes. Not only is our structure changing because of this new emphasis. We are improving the design and delivery of operational processes, our planning, and the language we use to communicate.

Internal Affairs leadership of ethnic policy confirmed

The outcome we seek of strong, sustainable communities is now understood in a quite different way, and seen as far more important than it was a decade ago. Social cohesion of disparate community groups is now a matter not only of human rights but of strategic importance for many nations. Government agencies and local authorities have a critical role in enhancing the opportunities for ethnic communities, and therefore require the relevant knowledge in order to develop effective policy and service delivery. The government’s decision to place the Office of Ethnic Affairs permanently within the Department has further strengthened our ability to work with all communities and to support government-wide initiatives.

Ethnic people achieve a sense of belonging and acceptance through joining people of all our cultures as New Zealand citizens. Mayors welcome our new citizens as representatives of both the local community and New Zealand as a whole. The Citizenship Unit within Identity Services has developed, launched and promoted a new guide on appropriate ways to conduct formal citizen ceremonies. The Department’s procedures are customer-focused. They recognise the dignity and mana of new citizens and of citizenship itself.

Social cohesion has been promoted through the Office of Ethnic Affairs’ establishment of Language Line, set up in response to the needs of the estimated 50,000 people in New Zealand who speak no English, and the further 250,000 who have only limited English. Offering an interpreting service in 35 different languages, it enjoyed rapid success and now provides a service to ten government agencies. The Department’s Identity Services Contact Centre is a major user.

The Translation Service continued to provide translation services to Ministers and third parties in more than 70 languages. The Translation Service plays a key role in ensuring that New Zealand translation standards are of the highest quality, building understanding both within New Zealand and with communities overseas. This work is reinforced by the Authentication Unit that, with diplomatic posts, is responsible for the reputation for accuracy and integrity of official New Zealand documents for use in other countries. It shares with Identity Services the outcome of ensuring New Zealand and international communities trust the integrity of New Zealand’s official documentation.

New laws support Internal Affairs as the central/local government link

The Department advises Ministers, other government agencies and local government on appropriate legislation, monitors the local government system and works in partnership with the local government sector to implement new legislation. We also have a role to work with the local government sector to develop tools and knowledge to perform effectively for their communities. During 2004, most local authorities will design community outcomes processes and invite central government and others to comment, provide information and participate.

By mid-2005, all local authorities will need to start developing their Long Term Council Community Plans. These are due by July 2006 and flow from the community outcomes process. The plans show how a local authority will contribute to furthering community outcomes. Government policy encourages central government to develop a partnership relationship with local government. A number of departments are well advanced in establishing regional capability for local/central government engagement. The Department is developing the capability to take on a facilitation role.

During the year, the Department prepared for the first official Single Transferable Voting (STV) to take place in New Zealand for more than 75 years. New Zealand STV has been supported by the Department’s development of certified software to count the votes, and preparation of an extensive education and information campaign. Close liaison with local authorities and their staff will ensure success for this campaign.

Internal Affairs supports community control of lotteries and other grant money

The community funding administered by the Department has gone through a number of important changes to reflect an increasing community focus, an example being the review of the Community Organisation Grants Scheme to ensure it remains an effective mechanism to address the needs of community organisations. One of the priority sectors for the scheme is ethnic and immigrant communities.

We are a major subscriber to the FundView database and support community organisations by making it available through our Local Government and Community Branch. The Lottery Grants clauses of the Gambling Act 2003 signify a move away from funding the traditional ‘charitable purposes’ stipulated in the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1977 and will focus on ‘community purposes’. The Department administers and services the Lottery Grants Board. It has managed the impacts of legislative changes. A new committee structure will put greater emphasis on long-term community development. All this supports the outcome of thriving, safe, sustainable communities

Internal Affairs: regulation for safe and strong communities

The organisational linkages in support of shared outcomes are similarly reflected in the work of the Regulation and Compliance Branch. Ensuring that gaming activities are fair, lawful and benefit the community contributes to the key Government goals of building safe communities and promoting community development. The Gambling Act, passed in September 2003, requires local authorities to consult with their communities to develop their gambling policies and make decisions about the locations of machines, new venues and the closure of gambling operations in some venues. As a condition of licence, gaming machine societies that make grants to community groups are required to ensure that information about access to grants is made available to the public.

Focusing on the outcome of minimizing harm to the community, the Censorship team has continued to work closely and share information with many overseas jurisdictions, as well as nationally. Amendments to the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 are proposed for enactment towards the end of the 2004 calendar year. These changes will assist the Department in achieving its outcomes by giving our inspectors broader powers, creating new offences and introducing greater penalties for those caught possessing, making and distributing objectionable publications.

But safety needed to be promoted in other ways as well. Local and central government have made children safer from the threats posed by dangerous dogs. The Dog Control Amendment Act 2004 received royal assent in July 2004. Together with the Dog Control Amendment Act 2003, this legislation lays out a new inventory of tools for local councils to use to better control unregistered dogs, roaming dogs, and irresponsible dog owners. We are also assisting in the promotion of good practice and public awareness of dangerous dogs by, for example, supporting a website that contains a range of features and resources on dog safety.

Internal Affairs’ citizenship and identity role is at the heart of security and international trust

Trust in New Zealand government – locally, nationally, and internationally - is essential if leaders are to be effective in dealing with the new risks facing democratic nations.

Organised crime has become more international and sophisticated. Significant focus over recent years has been concentrated on managing the threats countries face as a result of international crimes such as terrorism and people trafficking, which use identity fraud as a means of operating. This translates into increased risks to the integrity of New Zealand’s identity related documents, particularly because the international reputation for integrity of our documents makes them a serious target. Apart from undertaking considerable work this year to enhance the integrity and stewardship of records, we have adopted new technologies to meet the objectives of the E-Government Strategy and move to provide online services. We have led an inter-agency group to develop guidance material for agencies on how best to establish the identity of users of government services. We have also continued to collaborate actively with the Five Nations Passports and Citizenship Groups and the Australasian Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages, sharing information with our overseas counterparts to ensure we learn from each other’s experiences and address challenges internationally.

Internal Affairs works with communities to safeguard against disaster

Changes in climate and the environment have heightened awareness of the risk of natural disasters to society and its infrastructure. Stronger Departmental support for the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) will strengthen the response to emergencies. This works towards our outcome of safer communities. The Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002 places greater emphasis on pre-event planning and risk reduction, and provides MCDEM with a mandate to work with local authorities, emergency services and utilities, to contribute to the further outcome of reducing the vulnerability of communities to hazards and their risks.

Local government, central government and communities could be seen in action together literally battling the impact of floods on citizens during the year. The National Crisis Management Centre, which was established by MCDEM during the year to manage a national level event, was activated to ensure central government response to the February flood event was well informed and coordinated. The Department’s role was essential to success and was assisted by the contributions of many staff throughout the wider organisation. MCDEM has also contributed personnel to a number of Pacific Island emergency events and in this way has also contributed to the outcome of maintaining New Zealand’s international reputation.

Internal Affairs supports and responds to executive government

The year saw excellent examples of the variety of ways in which the Department responds to the demands of Cabinet when specialised agencies are required, be they temporary or permanent, semi-judicial or operational.
  • The Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct was established by our Executive Government Support group very quickly in response to urgent need. The Department continues to provide administrative support to the Commission, based on more than a century of experience in this work. We also provide advice to other agencies in support of similar initiatives.
  • The government has decided the final placement of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS) as part of the new Department of Building and Housing. This Service was established by the Department of Internal Affairs through legislation passed in urgent response to what was seen as a critical leaky homes situation. Staff were presented with the daunting prospect of having to deal with the ‘unquantifiable’ and engaging with customers experiencing personal distress. As at the end of June 2004, the WHRS, established in November 2002, had 1892 active claims and 940 assessment reports had been sent to homeowners. In addition, 119 resolutions had been completed: 81 using mediation, 9 through adjudication and 29 resolved by other means. The Service is preparing for the settlement of many more disputes in the months ahead, and will provide a team of highly qualified and dedicated staff to transfer to their new Department.
  • An independent Gambling Commission was established by the Gambling Act 2003 to deal with appeals and complaints with the way the Department is regulating the sector. The Department has worked to ensure that the Commission has been set up as a new effective stand-alone agency, supplying management, communication and administrative support during its establishment phase.
Internal Affairs provides Ministerial Services

During the year, the Department implemented organisational changes to improve the way we deliver transport, communication and support services to Ministers. Further progress will be made, as we try to ensure that Ministers are able to travel, communicate and work supported by the best and most effective systems and equipment.

Alongside this, the Department coordinated and managed programmes for 72 overseas guests involved in official government visits during the year. This included two Royal visits, six Prime Ministers, two Presidents, and six Heads of United Nations agencies. We had a substantial involvement in New Zealand hosting the Pacific Islands Forum.

Internal Affairs’ internal support services improved

During the year, a great deal of work and consultation was done to examine the way our business services are delivered. Proposals for consultation were distributed in June, and decisions will be made and implementation begun early in 2004/5. The proposed changes reflect the need for the Department to develop a strategic approach to the delivery of business services, ensuring that both operational needs and the needs of the Department and the government as a whole are met in all our work.

The years ahead

We are well along the road mapped out by the Review of the Centre. We have a stronger and strategic focus on results and outcomes; our concentration on citizens and communities has continued. Fresh approaches are uniting the Department in a new culture led by managers in positions with a new strategic focus. Our new structures integrate not only our internal policy and operational work, but with the work carried out by other government agencies.

2003/04 was a year in which the Department continued its efficient delivery of services, responded to the unexpected and re-positioned itself in preparation for future accountabilities and challenges. The Department is moving decisively in a new direction, with renewed confidence, cohesion and strengthened capability.

Christopher Blake
Chief Executive
Secretary for Internal Affairs
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