All the King's Horses and All the King's Men: Putting New Zealand's Public Sector Back Together Again

Robert Gregory


In January 2003 the New Zealand government announced that it intended to redress the fragmentation of the state sector that was brought about by the radical state sector reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Eschewing any “big bang” restructuring, over the next five years it proposes to enhance “coordination” among government agencies -- by means that may include the establishment of “circuit-breaker teams” and up to ten “super networks” to manage the proliferation of central government organizations. It proposes to reverse in some instances the policy/operational split that was imposed by the reforms, and seeks to achieve better integration between operational “outputs” and policy “outcomes.” This article discusses the suitability of these suggestions, in the light of a recent report by a government advisory group. This report examines what are, in fact, major flaws in the original reforms yet suggests remedies on the assumption that they are not. The case raises more general questions about the relationship between the theoretical bases of public sector reform, on the one hand, and practical experience on the other.

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