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Do we need another government department? – The Ministry for Public Input

By August 18, 2014June 4th, 20193 Comments


According to new research published by Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment from the University of Auckland, New Zealand needs another government department to be able to help us further engage with the government.

When we heard about this idea for another government department, we couldn’t help but think what good is this going to do? Will it make things better? How much is this going to cost? and all the random questions that one would be asking about creating such a department.

However, reading into the research we became converts to this idea of centralising the whole submission and engagement system between you and government. The Ministry of Public Input as proposed would be a centralised ministry where all consultation and engagement with the public would come from. Instead of every single government department managing their own consultations and engagement practices, this ministry would handle it all from the one place to pass onto everyone else.

The Ministry of Public Input report is made up into different parts with research conducted into government officials across the world and interviews with over 40 current or ex ministers to ask them what they think of how they engage with the public and how they make the decisions we pay them to make.

This research makes us wonder how such a ministry would ever work within a New Zealand context but by the sounds of it would work quite well. The report identity’s a number of things that make The Ministry for Public Input a good idea and recommendations on how it could work best for the public. As follows:

1. Our current ways of gathering peoples views/ideas wastes resources

According to the research, our current system for the gathering of peoples views and ideas is unproductive and is a waste of money. Our system at the moment is made up off lots of different little ministries in Wellington trying to gather everyone’s different views on every single little thing,.
For example, if IRD put out a request for some public input into how to engage with young tax payers and the Ministry of Social Development put out another request for peoples views on a subject, it is a double up of resources trying to chase the same type of people.This research recommends that the Ministry of Public Input be tasked with the management of all engagement and public consultation processes. According to the research, our current system isn’t tailored to the political realities that MP’s go through while making a decision and so a lot peoples views are just wasted.

2. Have one standard system for the gathering and management of public consultation

Having a Ministry of Public Input would allow for one collection point of everyone’s views allowing for more clearer data and is easier to communicate to the government of the day. In order for it to work, the ministry would need staff decided to gathering peoples views and staff decided to the management of collation of peoples views to the government.

3. A Minister of Public Input must be appointed (Most likely on a salary over $260,000 pa. + Crown BMW, House, Flights and all the resourcing that comes with being a minister)

For such a ministry to work, the research recommends the creation of an additional ministerial portfolio under the title of the Minister of Public Input. This minister would be the main person responsible for ensuring the public are able to engage with the government and departments.This minister would be the person who would sit at the cabinet table on level 10 of the Beehive and voice your views to government. Whilst the idea of having another minister on the taxpayers payroll might not sound attractive, in other countries such as Canada and the UK, they already have ministers responsible for similar things as the Minister of Public Input would be responsible for.

4. Any such ministry would need to be at arms length from the government

Associate Professor Lees-Marshment recommends that any such ministry be operated as a department that is independent from the government. Such model could look like the Electoral Commission which whilst is funded by the government, its primary role is to run a fair and clean process for elections of politicians across the country.

5.  In order for the ministry to obtain results. All MPs need to be involved and active within the community to get a clear picture

The report identify’s in our view the biggest factor behind a potential success or downfall of any such ministry working. The MP’s themselves! The report as a result with discussions with politicians identify’s the need for politicians to not be ‘know it all’s’ and accept they can’t know everything.In addition, the report suggests the government tries and broaden the ways it obtains the views of the public with the tools such as Citizens Panels, Budget Simulators and Community Surveying (All of which we at PublicVoice provide and are always happy to help with).One of the key things that the research has recommend is that any such ministry should be looking at the quality of the feedback received from the public compared to just the numbers received. Finally, the research recommends that we listen to the feelings and opinions of officials based out of Wellington more as they have a wealth of knowledge that is unbiased and built up over time.

We think that this research is a good place to start the debate about how we can as a community find more ways to help each other engage with other more. For a copy of Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment research, Please click here.

Or for more information on how PublicVoice can help you engage with your community more and put into practice some of the key recommendations of the report. Please feel free to contact us.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Roger Tweedy says:

    Whilst agree on your heading I have yet to fully read the Jennifer’s Report. (will do so by tomorrow night)
    My only input at this time is that the most impact I have seen over a decade of involvement was when under Geoff Gallop, West Australian State Govt established a unit with the Premiers Office to centralise all facets of P2. This had major affect of the quality of engagement and was very good for the professionals and businesses working in this space – and we hope the public.

  • Thanks for your feedback Roger. It was an interesting session with a good Q&A session at the end. The way I see it a Ministry of Public Input would be an attempt to centralise the activity which is already occurring. It then becomes an argument of de-centralised vs. a centralised approach. While a de-centralised approach can often be criticised as being chaotic. I have always thought that a little bit of chaos is essential for innovation to thrive. BTW – we took some photos on the day. You can check them out at

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