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New Zealand Design Report 2018-2020

New Zealand’s third action plan focuses on three core areas: participation in democracy, public participation to develop policy and services, and transparency and accountability. An improved action plan development process yielded two commitments of twelve with a transformative potential impact. Future action plan development could benefit from iterative dialogue between civil society and government throughout the development to further improve the cocreation process, a formalised multi-stakeholder forum that better reflects the country’s diversity, and full reform of the Official Information Act.

Table 1. At a glance
Participating since: 2013
Action plan under review: 2018-2020
Report type: Design
Number of commitments: 12Action plan development
Is there a Multi-stakeholder forum: Yes
Level of public influence: Involve
Acted contrary to OGP process: NoAction plan design
Commitments relevant to OGP values: 12 (100%)
Transformative commitments: 2 (17%)
Potentially starred: 2 (17%)Action plan implementation
Starred commitments: N/A
Completed commitments: N/A
Commitments with Major DIOG*: N/A
Commitments with Outstanding DIOG*: N/A

*DIOG: Did it Open Government

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. New Zealand joined OGP in 2013. Since then, New Zealand has implemented two action plans. This report evaluates the design of New Zealand’s third action plan.

General overview of action plan

Development of New Zealand’s third action plan took place in an environment of high governmental openness and transparency. New Zealand is a full democracy and scores highly on international indices measuring transparency, anti-corruption, and good governance. The action plan’s 12 commitments are structured under three broad themes of open government: participation in democracy; public participation to develop policy and services; and transparency and accountability. Deficiencies remain around the scope and applicability of the country’s official information legislation; all previous IRM reports have recommended reforming the law.

New Zealand’s State Services Commission (SSC) remains the lead agency responsible for the country’s OGP activities. The State Services Commissioner or delegate chairs the invitation-only Expert Advisory Panel (EAP), commissioned during the previous action plan cycle, which functions as the multi-stakeholder forum. Though the maximum capacity of the EAP has been six civil society members, it currently has only four. The SSC has sought nominations from the public to fill the vacancies.

The SSC’s public engagement to develop the action plan started four months ahead of formal consultations with a survey of its 800 mailing list subscribers on how to engage on developing the plan. The Associate State Services Minister (Open Government) sought wide engagement with the public to determine the action plan contents through official workshops and social media outreach and was actively involved through to her resignation around the time the plan was being finalised. A total of 200 people attended regional workshops with civil society in the four main centres to gather commitment ideas and 449 submissions were received at these meetings or online. At least one EAP member attended each of the five regional workshops. Delegates from the workshops attended a synthesis workshop with the EAP and government officials where they confirmed the action plan priority themes which government had collated from the submissions and voted on commitment proposals presented by government officials that day. While the SSC and EAP were active and engaged widely in the development of the action plan and provided feedback on the proposals received through the initial consultations and regional meetings, civil society stakeholders had no further opportunity to determine the final contents of the plan after the synthesis workshop.

The three commitment themes of the action plan continue the focus of the previous action plan with most covering access to information and civic participation. Of note are a commitment relating to the government’s use of operational algorithms, a burgeoning area of open government, and the creation of a master dataset of government organisations, to be released as open data. Eleven agencies now lead action plan commitments, representing almost one third of core public service agencies. New activities for consideration during the development of the fourth action plan include an enlarged multi-stakeholder forum, continuing to strengthen media reporting of local government, and activities building on commitments in the plan: reforming official information law, creating a public engagement community hub, next steps for civics education learning and continuing to progress the secondary legislation work.

Table 2. Noteworthy commitments

Commitment description Moving forward Status at the end of implementation cycle.
4. Making New Zealand’s secondary legislation readily accessible

Publish all secondary legislation (from mostly non-central government bodies) on the New Zealand Legislation website.

The commitment currently does not apply to local government legislation so a potential future commitment could explore options for making local authorities’ legislation and by-laws accessible to the public. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.
11. Authoritative dataset of government organisations as open data for greater transparency

Develop a master dataset of all central and local government organisations that is publicly available in machine-readable format.

The government could consider shortening the timeframes for agreeing upon the open data standards to apply to the dataset, who will maintain the dataset and release ownership data earlier than proposed. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.
8. Review of government use of algorithms

Work with civil society to review the use of operational algorithms by the government toward increased transparency.

As a new frontier in open governance that closely relates the latter to e-governance, deeper engagement with the public on how algorithms are used as well as making their usage(s) publicly available is recommended. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Recommendations

The IRM recommendations aim to inform the development of the next action plan and guide implementation of the current action plan.

Table 3. Five KEY IRM Recommendations

Reform official information laws
Strengthen the role and mandate of the EAP as it continues to act as New Zealand’s Multi-stakeholder Forum.
Create a joint civil society/government public engagement Community of Practice or Hub
Apply civics education learning at community and local government level
Strengthen high-quality public media reporting by continuing the Local Democracy Reporter pilot to ensure transparency and public accountability of local government.

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Filed under: IRM IRM Report

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