National Party leader John Key said today he would put a cap on the number of bureaucrats, but stopped short of saying he would cut the current totals.
He claimed the fastest growing sector in the economy since 2000 had been government administration and said New Zealand doesn't need any more bureaucrats.
Mr Key, giving a speech to the National Press Club in Wellington today, said Health Ministry staff have grown by 51 per cent compared to a 28 per cent growth in doctors and nurses employed by district health boards.
"Core bureaucrat" numbers have grown 37 per cent, compared to 10 per cent growth in state sector staff providing frontline services and 22 per cent growth in employment in the economy as a whole, he said.
"My commitment to New Zealanders is this - in the first term of a National government, we will not grow the size of the core bureaucracy.
"Enough is enough. We are going to make do with the resource we have, and work to get more value of it.
"It is time to focus public spending on frontline services that make a real difference to people's lives, rather than paper-shuffling and report-writing that does not."
He said that under a National government the number of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, and police would grow.
"I firmly believe we have enough bureaucrats to do the job already and that the priority for resources in the state sector is the delivery of frontline services."
Keeping a lid on the size of the bureaucracy would, over time, restore a "sensible balance" between the number of state employees giving advice to the government, and the number delivering frontline services, he said.