Perhaps the United States has the right idea.

When there is a change of government, whether from democrats to republicans or the other way around, out go the senior administrators; the bureaucrats. These know that along with the outgoing government they have to clear out their desks too.

The incoming government wants officials they believe will work to deliver the manifesto they campaigned on. That the voters felt was worth changing the government for.

Not so in New Zealand. We pride ourselves on having a highly skilled, professional apolitical public service. We wouldn't entertain doing anything like the United States. Yet to achieve what you want as a government you will always require new thinking from those charged with driving through and implementing the changes you want to see.


I think the government needs to be reassured they have bureaucrats on board who know how to take their ideas and turn them into workable policies.

It's all very good and well promising the earth to voters but turning good intentions into strategy with a clear set of actions to be delivered over a specific time frame requires innovative thinking.

We expect this from the business community so why not start demanding it of our senior public servants. If they know their job is riding on the successful delivery of the government's work programme then I believe we would see better and more successful outcomes than we have in the past few decades. In many of the social services areas we have made little real progress. And these are costing the taxpayer an arm and a leg.

Heads of government departments and senior officials must be able to seek out the best possible solutions to address the changes the government wants to pursue. Turning ideas into action. If they can't come up with new ways of doing things nothing will change.

Delivering the same old policies, albeit tweaked around the edges from time to time, and expecting miracles to happen is naive. Nothing will change. We can sense change is in the wind but it won't happen if the same bureaucrats remain in the top jobs in Wellington. As it stands they have nothing to lose. But the country does. And the government knows it.

When you have a growing underclass in society, a widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots, someone is not doing their job.

Heads of departments have failed to deliver in key social service areas over many years. Their inability to help the government bring about positive, long-term change has cost New Zealand dearly.

A government minister should be able to rely on heads of departments to come up with different innovative approaches to bring about change. That's what they're paid to do. With the right people heading departments we should not be in our current situation.

All political parties have heard what New Zealanders are concerned about, including the housing crisis, low wage economy, meaningful jobs and training for our youth, a perceived health system in crisis, uneven accessing of mental health services, little change in recidivism numbers and the degradation of our lakes, rivers and waterways.

These issues could have been addressed over the past nine years had the government had the courage to pull the plug on poor performing departmental heads.

Yes, we blame the government and that's as it should be. But the government must also be prepared to jettison senior bureaucrats if they can't or don't make the changes the government requires of them.

Heads of departments are preparing briefing papers now for the incoming government. The papers will set out the department's current work plan and highlight the issues the government should be aware of.

These CEOs will be watching closely in the final run-up to the election. They know our next government, whether National or Labour will be more demanding. It will want to hear what they intend to do differently. The government should no longer tolerate spectacularly unsuccessful CEOs.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua Lakes Council councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.