New Zealand Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

Country : New Zealand
Dates Under Review : October 2016–June 2018
Report publication year : 2018
Researcher : Keitha Booth

Overview - New Zealand Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

New Zealand’s second national action plan addressed issues ranging from access to information, budget transparency, and civic participation. While the government took major steps toward improving access to legislation, at the midpoint of implementation of the plan nearly half of the listed commitments saw limited completion in the first year. Going forward, it is important that the NZ government includes meaningful reform in areas such as whistleblower protection, the Official Information Act, and citizen education. 


In April 2016, the time frame for finalising New Zealand’s second action plan was extended and the SSC sought public input on the proposal on its website.1 After an initial June 2016 workshop to explore possible commitments with civil society,2 advance notice was given to the public across many consultation channels. Actual consultation took place for one month with stakeholders from civil society and the private sector, and ended with a co-creation workshop of government officials and civil society. The SSC invited the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) and the Officials Group, and subsequently finalised the plan with no further involvement from the public. 

New Zealand did not act contrary to OGP process

A country is considered to have acted contrary to process if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The National Action Plan was developed with neither online or offline engagements with citizens and civil society
  • The government fails to engage with the IRM researchers in charge of the country’s Year 1 and Year 2 reports
  • The IRM report establishes that there was no progress made on implementing any of the commitments in the country’s action plan

Level of Input by Stakeholders

During Action Plan Development
No Consultation
Who was involved? 
Civil Society Involvement
Beyond "governance" civil society
Mostly "governance" civil society X
No/little civil society
Narrow / little government consultation Primarily agencies that serve other agencies Significant involvement of line ministries and agencies
Government Involvement

The State Services Commission (SSC) is the lead executive agency responsible for New Zealand’s OGP commitments. A core team of three SSC staff worked on the development of the action plan, supported by other teams in the SSC, and staff in the agencies with responsibility for commitments. The multistakeholder forum was limited to the six-member Expert Advisory Panel (EAP), commissioned by the SSC. Online engagement platforms garnered participation from stakeholders representing interests in open data, access to information, public participation, and increased transparency and accountability.

OGP Co-Creation Requirements Followed 

Commitment Performance 

New Zealand’s second action plan comprised seven commitments, with five from the public’s 87 OGP submissions and two from the government. Official Information Act compliance, public participation in policy making, and increasing access to open data were the most important themes. Only one of the seven commitments was assessed to have a potentially transformative impact on opening government.

Commitment Completion 

Current Plan
Year 1: 0%
Year 1: 0%
Year 2: 0%

Commitment Ambition 

Current Plan
Year 1: 14%
Year 1: 0%

Starred commitments 

Current Plan
Year 1: 14%
Year 1: 0%

IRM Recommendations 

  1. Expand the Expert Advisory Panel to include greater civil society representation
  2. Reform official information laws and refocus the Open Data and Information Programme to publish social, environmental, and budget expenditure data
  3. Develop standards for public consultation on policy initiatives
  4. Include anti-corruption commitments in the next action plan, covering whistleblower protection and a public register of company beneficial ownership
  5. Introduce citizenship education to increase democratic participation

Commitments Overview

Commitment Title Well-designed * Complete Overview
1. Open Budget No No The government has carried out research with 35 stakeholders on improving the accessibility of budgetary information and published its findings. Additionally, three Budget At-a-Glance documents were published and other budget documents were published on the website.
2. Improving official information practices No No In response to the administrative burden, abuses, and delays in official information requests, the government developed Official Information Act (OIA) guidance and increased accessibility to responses to information requests, published OIA statistics, and produced a policy for proactively releasing information.
3. Improving open data access and practices No No This commitment aims to review New Zealand’s open data principles and potentially adopt the Open Data Charter (ODC), using public feedback. Formal adoption of ODC has not occurred yet, presumably as the responsible institution changed halfway through the assessment period.
4. Tracking progress and outcomes of open government data release No No As with the previous commitment, the change in responsible institution has delayed completion of developing an open government data action plan and monitoring agencies’ subsequent progress in opening up data stores.
5. Ongoing engagement for OGP No No To increase public engagement during the development of the next action plan, the State Services Commission had begun work with the Department of Internal Affairs, decided how to best report progress on OGP commitments, and begun to develop the approach for the next action plan.
✪ 6. Improving access to legislation Yes No This commitment aims to improve access by publishing all subordinate instruments on, thereby modernising agency practice, improving public access, and significantly changing the process of publishing official notices. The Legislation Bill was introduced into Parliament on 20 June 2017.
7. Improving policy practices No No As part of the Policy Project, this commitment aims to improve consultation practices by creating accessible guidance material for policymakers. However, the guidance material will not be developed collaboratively and stakeholders have noted the commitment’s internal focus.

* Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact
✪ Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as being specific, relevant, potentially transformative, and substantially or fully implemented

IRM Report - New Zealand Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

I. Introduction 

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP provides an international forum for dialogue and sharing among governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

New Zealand began its formal participation in October 2013 when then Prime Minister John Key declared his country’s intention to participate in the initiative.[Note1: Right Honourable John Key, letter to the Open Government Partnership Co-chairs, 22 October 2013,] Its first action plan was published on 31 October 2014.[Note2:]

In order to participate in OGP, governments must demonstrate a commitment to open government by meeting a set of (minimum) performance criteria. Objective, third-party indicators are used to determine the extent of country progress on each of the criteria: fiscal transparency, public officials’ asset disclosure, citizen engagement, and access to information. See Section VII: Eligibility Requirements for more details.

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that elaborate concrete commitments with the aim of changing practice beyond the status quo over a two-year period. The commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.

New Zealand developed its second national action plan from 15 July 2016 to 26 August 2016, having been granted a three-month extension by OGP. The official implementation period for the action plan was 1 October 2016 through to 30 June 2018. This year one report covers the action plan development process and first year of implementation, from October 2016 to June 2017. Beginning in 2015, the IRM started publishing end-of-term reports on the final status of progress at the end of the action plan’s two-year period. Any activities or progress occurring after the first year of implementation after June 2017 will be assessed in the end-of-term report.  The Government published its self-assessment on 2 October 2017.[Note3:]  The draft self-assessment sought public comment from 19 July to 1 August 2017.

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with Keitha Booth, who carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of New Zealand’s second action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, the IRM researcher met with Wellington and Auckland-based citizens and groups and sought comment via social media. The researcher reviewed the second action plan and the midterm self-assessment as well as the minutes and progress reports available on The report frequently uses content from those documents. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around development and implementation of future commitments. Methods and sources are dealt with in Section VI of this report (Methodology and Sources).

II. Context 

The implementation of the second national action plan occurs in an environment of high standards of openness and transparency. While current commitments focus on improving access to information, budgeting and civic participation, the scope does not adequately address reforming information laws and measures strengthening whistleblower protections.

2.1 Background

New Zealand participates in the OGP starting from a high baseline of openness. As a representative democracy, it has a tradition of active civic engagement through three-year national and local election cycles, as well as participation by civil society groups and the public in parliamentary and local legislative processes.

The country consistently ranks highly on various indices measuring transparency, anti-corruption, and other good governance ratings. New Zealand ranks first, together with Denmark, as the least corrupt country in Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index.[Note4: Accessed 16 January, 2018,] As of 2016, New Zealand ranked nearly at the 100th percentile on indicators such as voice and accountability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and rule of law, as shown in the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators.[Note5: Accessed 16 January 2018,] The government provides the public with extensive budget information and publishes all eight key budget documents consistent with international standards.[Note6: Open Budget Survey,]

New Zealand’s OGP eligibility criteria (budget transparency, access to information, asset declaration, and citizen engagement) remain unchanged[Note7: Open Government Partnership ‘2010-2016 Eligibility Master,’ accessed 16 January 2018,] with the country retaining 100% score.

Access to Information

New Zealand’s Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) scores 94 out of 150 according to the Global Right to Information (RTI) rating, and is the highest among developed, English-speaking countries.[Note8: Accessed 16 January 2018,] However, government agencies have been criticised for taking longer periods of time to respond to information requests than allowed by the OIA. Agencies’ and ministers’ compliance with OIA continues to be a public concern.[Note9: David Fisher, ‘Government needs to live by the spirit of the Official Information Act,’ NZ Herald, 26 October 2017,],[Note10: Gavin Ellis. Complacent Nation. Wellington: Bridget William Books, 2016. Reprinted 2017.] The independent authority, the Office of the Ombudsman,[Note11: The Ombudsman acts as an independent authority helping the community in its dealings with government agencies.] publishes biannual data on OIA complaints against ministers and agencies. In 2017, State Services Commissioner (the Chief Executive) publicly chided a department for not releasing information under the provisions of the Act.[Note12: Benedict Collins, ‘Transport Ministry accused of dodging OIA request,’ Radio New Zealand, 19 July 2017, ] The previous IRM report recommended reforming the OIA to improve public access to information. Commitment 2 in the current action plan focuses on improving government agency practices around requests for official information, but the action plan falls short of addressing a comprehensive reform of the law.

Public concern about the availability of information from Parliament continues. One case in August 2017 that attracted considerable comment related to a draft report prepared by an independent adviser to the Officers of Parliament Committee about the suitability of the Auditor-General (an Officer of Parliament) to continue to hold the role based on his career history and performance. The background to this review was that, during his previous tenure as Chief Executive of the Ministry of Transport, one of his senior managers had committed a major fraud. The adviser’s draft report was provided to the Auditor-General, without it being seen by members of the committee, so he could have the opportunity to respond. The Auditor-General resigned and the committee therefore concluded its consideration of the matter without receiving the report, and it was not made available to the public.


The draft report was prepared in connection with parliamentary proceedings and was not official information held by an organisation under the OIA. However, the level of public commentary about this case nevertheless ignited the issue of the availability of information held by parliamentary agencies.[Note13: ‘Speaker defends committee's call to keep fraud-handling report secret,’ Radio New Zealand, 4 August 2017,] The Law Commission noted in 2012 that “there are legitimate and significant public interests that weigh in favour of a principle of availability of information held by Parliament and its administration just as much as in the case of the Executive”[Note14: The Public's Right To Know: Review of the Official Information Legislation, Wellington: Law Commission Te Aka Matua O Te Ture, June 20102,, ¶14.39.] and made detailed recommendations to apply the OIA to certain parliamentary information.[Note15: Id. At Recommendations 124-129.] It should be noted, though, that the draft report prepared for the Officers of Parliament Committee probably would still not have been official information if the Law Commission’s recommendations had been incorporated in the law. The public has not had access to this investigation which included the Chief Executive’s actions taken in a government agency covered by the OIA before he became an Officer of Parliament.

While media freedom thrives, New Zealand dropped eight places to 13th in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, a change explained by delays and the fees journalists must pay when requesting information.[Note16: Accessed 16 January 2018,] The Intelligence and Security Act, which became law on 28 March 2017, creates a new offence of wrongful communication, retention, or copying of classified information. This applies to individuals specifically cleared to have access to classified information or who have been provided with such information in confidence to comply with the obligations to protect the information. The surveillance powers of the intelligence services are extended, their powers to receive complaints or disclosures from employees strengthened, and independent oversight mechanisms strengthened.[Note17: Intelligence and Security Act 2017, New Zealand Government, 28 March 2017,  ]

Decreasing Trust and Low Voter Turnouts

While traditionally New Zealanders have had a high-level of trust in government, recent studies indicate that public distrust of government has been growing. Survey results published in April 2016 show that government ministers and members of parliament had the largest declines in trust, with about 50% of respondents reporting decreased levels of trust for both groups.[Note18: Michael Macaulay, ‘New Zealanders’ distrust in government growing,’ Victoria University, 5 April 2016,  ]

An associated concern is a decline in voter participation in the general and local elections. In the 2014 general election, turnout of the votes cast as a proportion (VAP) of the total voting age population was 72.1%, the second lowest since the Second World War after the 69.6% turnout of the VAP in 2011. In total, almost a million people did not vote in 2014; 250,683 were not enrolled, while 694,120 were enrolled but did not turn out to vote.[Note19: ‘Final Results for the 2014 New Zealand General Election,’ Parliamentary Library Research Paper 2015/01,, 12.] Lowering the voting age to 16 or 17 years to rejuvenate the voting system was raised by the Children’s Commissioner, but any change ahead of the 23 September 2017 general election was rejected by the then Prime Minister, Bill English. Massey University’s Design+Democracy Project was formed in response to the Electoral Commission’s call in 2013 for academic and research communities to tackle declining voter participation. ‘On the Fence’, one online tool emerging from this project, helped ‘young undecided and first-time voters engage directly with issues’ in 2017.[Note20:  Design + Democracy, ‘On the Fence,’ Massey University, accessed 16 January 2018,] As of 20 September 2017, 220,000 voters under the age of 30 still had not enrolled to vote in the election.

Action Station, the citizen-led social media group, celebrated three years of action ‘to put people power back at the heart of New Zealand’s democracy’. This includes an ongoing transparency campaign,[Note21: ‘Transparency,’ ActionStation, accessed 16 January, 2018,] and encouraging youth to vote in general elections.[Note22: RockEnrol, accessed 16 January 2018, ]

Whistleblowing Revelations

The IRM’s OGP Progress Report 2014-2015 noted stakeholders had serious concern about a growing culture of fear preventing many experts from speaking out in ways that the government might find objectionable. Since then, there have been several public whistleblowing investigations including: the possible unauthorised disclosure of information relating to the proposed reorganisation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which was subsequently criticised by the Ombudsman;[Note23: Office of the Ombudsman: Tari o te Kaitiaki Mana Tangata, ‘Investigation into SSC conduct of MFAT leaks inquiry,’ June 2016,] four Ministry of Transport staff who raised early concerns about a senior manager who was subsequently imprisoned for fraud;[Note24: ‘Media Statement: Report of investigation into whistle blower treatment within the Ministry of Transport,’ State Services Commission, 20 July 2017, ] and into the Chief Executive of the above Ministry concerning his handling of the allegations against that same senior manager.[Note25: Benedict Collins and Craig McCulloch, ‘Auditor-General resigns over fraud investigation,’ Radio New Zealand, 3 August 2017, ]

The Whistling While They Work 2 research project, which looked at public interest whistleblowing, highlighted weaknesses of the New Zealand Protected Disclosures Act 2000. The study showed wide diversity of results among New Zealand agencies with many scoring well but also many scoring more poorly on categories of incident tracking, support strategy, risk assessment, dedicated support, and remediation. Professor Brown of Griffith University notes that these tend to suggest ‘agencies are operating without the support and guidance provided under stronger legislative regimes elsewhere’.[Note26: Amy Speer, ‘New Whistleblowing Rankings Shine Light On New Zealand: Research Launch,’ Griffith University, 4 July 2017,]

Some consequential work on the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 (PDA), has followed. The State Services Commission (SSC) issued standards for agencies on how to improve their PDA policies and processes using the current law and is developing options to modernise the PDA. Additionally, the Ombudsman plans to seek funding for more staff to carry out its legislated PDA roles.[Note27: Ged Cann, ‘Kiwi whistleblowers left vulnerable by 'weak, patchy, and out-of-date' legislation,’ Stuff, 4 July 2017, ]

Transparency of Trusts and Beneficial Ownership

The Panama Papers (2016) revealed that New Zealand foreign trusts were used for channeling illegal funds and tax avoidance. This led to vocal public concern about the absence of a formal registration process for foreign trusts. In the wake of this revelation, the Government tightened disclosure requirements on the New Zealand resident trustee of foreign trusts.[Note28: Paul McBeth, ‘Government to adopt Shewan's foreign trust recommendations,’ NBR, 13 July, 2016,] Fewer than 3,000 foreign trusts (compared with more than 11,000 in 2016) met the 2017 deadline to provide more information about their structures and activities. However, the Government did not create the searchable public register sought by anti-corruption groups like Transparency International New Zealand. Exploring the establishment of a public central register of company beneficial ownership information was one of New Zealand’s eight commitments at the London 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit.[Note29: ‘London Anti-corruption summit revisited,’ Transparency International: New Zealand, 13 September 2016,] Little progress has been made in this direction.[Note30: ‘Promise to Practice,’ Transparency International UK, September 2017,]

In parallel to the action plan, the Government has been promoting OGP values. The Digital Government work programme is exploring new ways to improve people’s experience with government,[Note31: Pia Andrews, ‘Lab+: Potential future states for government service delivery,’ New Zealand Government: Web Toolkit, 21 June 2017,] and follows the Government ICT Strategy and Action Plan to 2017, [Note32: ‘Strategy and Action Plan: What we are doing,’ New Zealand Government, 12 June 2016,] which was Commitment 2 in the first action plan.

It is important to note that Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister of New Zealand, on 26 October 2017, leading a new Coalition government following the general election on 23 September 2017. Ms Ardern replaced Bill English who had become New Zealand’s Prime Minister on 12 December 2016 following the resignation of John Key. During his term, Mr English issued a Joint Statement with Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister, agreeing that ‘Australia and New Zealand will collaborate on public data initiatives to better align agendas, share lessons learnt on best practice, and work together on data commitments as part of the Open Government Partnership.’[Note33: Joint statement by NZ/Australian Prime Ministers, February 2017] The new administration, which promotes a transparent, open democracy that is free from corruption and abuse of power, signals a singular opportunity to pursue open government issues.[Note34: Clare Curran, ‘Address to Nethui 2017, Aotea Centre, Auckland,’ 9 November 2017, New Zealand Government, ]

2.2 Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

The action plan touches upon important areas such as access to information, budget transparency, and civic participation. The scope does not extend to tackling all issues that would benefit from more openness and government accountability. These include meaningful reform of the Official Information Act, better whistleblower protection, transparency of beneficial ownership of companies, and strengthening the environment for more active civil society engagement.

Public and government officials agree that the OGP action plan is meant to stretch current government practices and test new ways for government and civil society to work together. The government states it uses participation in OGP to provide another avenue to develop and strengthen the country’s democracy.[Note35: National Action Plan 2016-18 Mid-term self-assessment, Open Government Partnership: New Zealand, 2 October 2017, ] A future OGP action plan could promote citizenship education and increase youth participation across all ethnicities at local and community levels, with an aim to increase voting levels in the 2019 local government and the 2020 general elections. This work could build on existing initiatives such as the October 2016 Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy workshop.[Note36: Sally Hett, ‘Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy workshop report back,’ McGuinness Institute, 25 November 2016,]

New Zealand’s size, small population (4.8 million), and low levels of philanthropy (compared with many other nations), constrain the ability of many civil society groups to work to adequately represent the public. These groups generally compete for funding from the same sources. As the provision of government services is increasingly outsourced to civil society groups, concern has grown that the highly sought-after funding contracts may include ‘gagging clauses’ which reduce recipients’ ability to make public comment.[Note37: Dr Sandra Grey and Dr Charles Sedgwick, ‘Fears, constraints, and contracts: The democratic reality for New Zealand’s community and voluntary sector,’ Victoria University of Wellington, 26 March 2013, See also ‘Open Government Partnership – Hui E! proposal,’ Hui E!, 25 August 2016,, Proposal 5; Janine McGruddy, Transparency International, speaker at launch of Bridges Both Ways: transforming the openness of New Zealand government, by Max Rashbrooke, hosted by Victoria University of Wellington, 20 June 2017.] A future OGP action plan should consider this concern openly before the 2019 funding round. For example, over this period, the appropriate clauses in the Government’s standard procurement and funding contracts could be reviewed and new clauses inserted, where necessary, to address this issue.

Other issues raised during consultation on either the first or the second action plan, and still highlighted as priority issues, are:

·       To increase financial transparency, publish actual budget expenditure data and details of all government procurement contracts. While the Government releases detailed Budget estimates, the details of actual Budget expenditure are less well known. With a few exceptions, such as contracts for community social services that the government funds,[Note38: ‘Home,’ Contract Mapping, New Zealand Government, accessed 16 January, 2018,] government does not release details of its public procurement;

·       Develop sustainable and regular high-level interaction between government officials and civil society representatives by building on existing models such as the Iwi Chairs Forum, a platform for sharing knowledge and information between the tangata whenua of Aotearoa.[Note39: ‘Nau mai, haere mai, tauti mai He waka kōtuia kāhore e tukutukua ngā mimira,’ Iwi Chairs Forum, accessed 16 January 2018,] This could strengthen civic engagement by co-creating policy development; and

·       Link OGP work to government’s work programme on the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, to provide access to justice for all.[Note40: ‘Sustainable Development Goals,’ United Nations, accessed 16 January 2018,] New Zealand’s programme is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. New Zealand government agencies are reviewing the goals and their alignment with existing Government priorities.[Note41: ‘Sustainable Development Goals,’ New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade, accessed 16 January 2018,] It is an opportunity to align OGP and SDG work.

Future action plans will need to address these priority issues as well as continuing to stretch New Zealand’s open government practices.

III. Leadership and Multistakeholder Process 

In April 2016, the time frame for finalising New Zealand’s second action plan was extended and the SSC sought public input on the proposal on its website.[Note: ‘Change of timeframe for New Zealand’s Second National Action Plan,’ State Services Commission, 21 April 2016, ] After an initial June 2016 workshop to explore possible commitments with civil society,[Note43: ‘Seminar Report,’ Inspiring Communities, 22 June 2016, ] advance notice was given to the public across many consultation channels. Actual consultation took place for one month with stakeholders from civil society and the private sector, and ended with a co-creation workshop of government officials and civil society. The SSC invited the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) and the Officials Group, and subsequently finalised the plan with no further involvement from the public.

3.1 Leadership

This subsection describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in New Zealand. Table 3.1 summarises this structure while the narrative section (below) provides additional detail.

Table 3.1: OGP Leadership

1. Structure



Is there a clearly designated Point of Contact for OGP (individual)?





Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?





Is the head of government leading the OGP initiative?



2. Legal Mandate



Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through an official, publicly released mandate?


Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through a legally binding mandate?


3. Continuity and Instability



Was there a change in the organisation(s) leading or involved with the OGP initiatives during the action plan implementation cycle?

[Note44: Full responsibility for Commitments 3 and 4 was assumed by Statistics NZ.]


Was there a change in the executive leader during the duration of the OGP action plan cycle?

[Note45: Peter Hughes replaced Iain Rennie as State Services Commissioner on July 4, 2016.]


Legislative authority in New Zealand is vested in an elected, unicameral (single-house) Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. Prime Minister (PM) Jacinda Ardern announced a new ministerial portfolio of Associate Minister, State Services (Open Government).[Note46: ‘Ministerial List: 26 October 2017,’ 26 October 2017,; ‘Hon Clare Curran,’ New Zealand Parliament, 8 December 2017,]

The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand following the election of PM Ardern, includes an agreement to work together on specified goals including Goal 20 to ‘strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information’.[Note47:] This agreement will aid the administration in fulfilling its OGP responsibilities.

The institutional arrangement for OGP in New Zealand in the second action plan is the same as for the first plan. The State Services Commission (SSC) is the lead executive agency responsible for New Zealand’s OGP commitments. The OGP role sits in the Integrity, Ethics and Standards team, formed after the development of the action plan.[Note48: The 2017-21 plan notes the SSC is undergoing a transformation over the next four years.] As a central agency,[Note49: NZ has three central agencies, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury and the State Services Commission which work across the government system to promote high-performing, trusted and accessible government agencies.] the SSC is well placed to co-ordinate the government’s OGP response. (See Table 3.1 on the leadership and mandate of OGP in New Zealand). The SSC derives general oversight authority from legislative statutes and directives from Ministers and Cabinet. The agreement to join the OGP and the first and second national action plans received Cabinet approval, which in effect serves as a binding, executive-level directive for public servants. The Cabinet Papers were also publicly released on the SSC website.[Note50: Judith Collins, Minister of Justice, ‘Agreement to Join Open Government Partnership,’ 22 August 2013,; Paula Bennett, Minister of State Services, ‘Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership,’ 17 January 2017,; Rachel Clarke, Committee Secretary, ‘Minute of Decision: Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership,’ Cabinet Committee on State Sector Reform and Expenditure Control,19 October 2016,]

Overall, total staffing and total monetary support across government for implementing the OGP activities is not collated in one budget. A core team of three SSC staff worked on the development of the action plan. The core team was supported by other teams in the SSC, staff in the agencies with responsibility for commitments, and other potential agencies. There is no dedicated line in the SSC’s budget for OGP activities beyond allocation of $200,000 per annum for 2016/17 and 2017/18 for New Zealand's membership of the OGP.[Note51: The Estimates of Appropriations 2017/18 - Finance and Government Administration Sector B5 Vol 5, p234-5:]

The 2017/18 budget for Stats NZ includes an allocation for a new Open Data Programme of $2,667,000 for 2017/8, $2,367,000 for 2018/19 and $2,166,000 for 2019/20.[Note52: The Estimates of Appropriations 2017/18 – Maori, Other populations and Cultural Sector B5 Vol 8, p215:]  Its actual work on Commitments 3 and 4 is not itemised within this larger budget. New Zealand’s other OGP commitments, including payments to consultants and fees paid to the multi-stakeholder forum members, are funded by agencies, but not itemised in their annual budgets.

Stakeholders want a designated realistic budget that is publicly announced and on going funding to engage appropriately, using modern customer/citizen-centric methods.

3.2 Intragovernmental Participation

This subsection describes which government institutions were involved at various stages in OGP. The next section will describe which nongovernmental organizations were involved in OGP.

Table 3.2 Participation in OGP by Government Institutions

How did institutions participate?

Ministries, Departments, and Agencies


Judiciary (including quasi-judicial agencies)

Other (including constitutional independent or autonomous bodies)

Subnational Governments

Consult: These institutions observed or were invited to observe the action plan but may not be responsible for commitments in the action plan.

3[Note53: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Maori Development, Auckland Council]





Propose: These institutions proposed commitments for inclusion in the action plan.

7[Note54: State Services Commission, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury, Land Information NZ, Statistics NZ, Ministry of Justice, and the Department of Internal Affairs.]





Implement:  These institutions are responsible for implementing commitments in the action plan whether or not they proposed the commitments.

8[Note55: State Services Commission, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury, Land Information NZ, Statistics NZ, Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary Counsel Office, and the Department of Internal Affairs.]





In New Zealand participation in OGP was limited to government departments. Table 3.2 above details which institutions were involved. It references the number of institutions directly consulted for the OGP action plan, not necessarily the development of the specific activities that were later included in the OGP action plan.

Departmental responsibility for Commitments 3 and 4 changed on 10 March 2017 with Statistics New Zealand and the Department of Internal Affairs assuming full ownership, and Land Information New Zealand ceasing its role. Membership of the Officials Group of agencies leading commitments was expanded in 2017 to include Te Puni Kokiri, which leads Māori public policy and advises on policy affecting Māori wellbeing, and the Auckland Council.[Note56: National Action Plan 2016-18 Mid-term self-assessment, Open Government Partnership New Zealand, 2 October 2017,, 4.]

During implementation, the Officials Group and the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP)—a group commissioned by the SSC to advise relevant OGP matters—continued their separate meetings, and also held some joint meetings from 2017. These meeting agendas, brief minutes, and progress reports (following approval at the next meeting) are published on the OGP/NZ website.[Note57: ‘What's happening: 2017,’ Open Government: New Zealand,’ accessed 17 January 2018, The relevant pages at are not up-to-date.]

3.3 Civil Society Engagement

Countries participating in OGP follow a set of requirements for consultation during development, implementation, and review of their OGP action plan. Table 3.3 summarizes the performance of New Zealand during the 2016-2018 action plan.

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

Key Steps Followed:  7 of 7


1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advance Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation



Advance notice of consultation





3. Awareness Raising

4. Multiple Channels

Government carried out awareness-raising activities



4a. Online consultations:





4b. In-person consultations:




5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided





6. Regular Multi-Stakeholder Forum

6a. Did a forum exist?[Note58: See discussion about this forum at Section 3.4.]



6b. Did it meet regularly?          






7. Government Self-Assessment Report

7a. Annual self-assessment report published?        



7b. Report available in English and administrative language?





7c. Two-week public comment period on report?



7d. Report responds to key IRM recommendations?







On 30 June 2016, the terms of appointment for the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), which advised the first national plan, ended[Note59: ‘Terms of Reference for New Zealand Open Government Partnership Stakeholder Advisory Group,’ State Services Commission, April 2015,, 3.] and the SAG (appointed following a public-invitation process) was replaced by a new invitation-only Expert Advisory Panel (EAP). The new EAP’s terms of reference state that the SAG has ‘transitioned to an EAP to better reflect SSC and Government accountabilities in relationship to New Zealand’s OGP commitments’.[Note60: ‘Open Government Partnership Expert Advisory Panel Meeting,’ State Services Commission 27 July 2016 and 8 August 2016,, 2.]

The six-member EAP was commissioned by the SSC to advise the second action plan process, the midterm and final review of the second action plan, and any other relevant OGP matters.[Note61: ‘Expert Advisory Panel,’ Social Services Commission, 2 March 2017, ] The EAP met five times in person in Wellington during the development of the action plan, but only one meeting was attended by all members.

Activities prior to consultation started on 21 April 2016 with the SSC seeking public input on the decision to extend the consultation period.[Note62: ‘Change of timeframe for New Zealand’s Second National Action Plan,’ Social Services Commission, 21 April 2016, ] Only four stakeholders responded—they expressed concern about the delay in developing the next action plan and sought more comprehensive engagement so that the action plan would be co-created with civil society.[Note63: Emails regarding comments on engagement process for second OGP national action plan, 14 May 2016 - 1June 2016,]

The first engagement activity occurred when the Engage2 team, the external company brought in by the SSC, approached 17 stakeholders to get their input regarding the design of the engagement process. These stakeholders included academics, environmental and social organisations, the OGP Expert Advisory Panel, private sector, and local government staff. Ten stakeholders responded.[Note64: Engagement report - Civil society engagement in the Open Government Partnership, Engage2, 2016,, 17.]

Actual consultation on the action plan did not commence until 21 July 2016 when Engage2 asked for details of interested parties, provided the ‘rules of the game’ through online engagement platforms, and extended invitations via community newsletters, email, and social media. Engage2 reported that they informed 845 civil society and private sector people about the OGP process and maintained very regular contact with participants throughout the process.[Note65: Id.] The IRM researcher observed this extensive activity over this period.

With regard to the online engagement platforms, Engage2 stated that 110 people used the Twitter hashtag, @ogpnz, hundreds of people visited the website and online engagement platforms, 28 people provided 29 submissions, and 87 actions were suggested on the two platforms.[Note66: Id.] Most stakeholders represented interests in open data, access to information, public participation, and increased transparency and accountability, and the majority were based in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Whangarei, and Nelson.[Note67: Id.] The IRM researcher has no further information about the diversity of views represented during this process. IRM interviews with stakeholders confirmed this range of stakeholder interests.

Between 21 July and 26 August 2016, events held in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch included six teleconferences and workshops. A total of 26 stakeholders from the local government, private, and NGO sectors participated in these events.

The final stakeholder engagement was the co-creation workshop held on 26 August, attended by 14 members of the public who had suggested commitment actions, 11 officials from the lead agencies, and three EAP members. They arranged the 87 public submissions suggested on the two platforms into eight themes, drafted in advance of the workshop by Engage2. These were:

·       Civil society capacity and participation (16 submissions);

·       Involving citizens in public policy and programme development (15 submissions);

·       Transparency (13 submissions);

·       Official Information Act (13 submissions);

·       Open data (13 submissions);

·       Fiscal transparency (8 submissions);

·       Standards and culture around open data/open information (8 submissions); and

·       Ongoing engagement (1 submission).

These very broad themes covered the breadth of the 87 public submissions but did not recognise the work by the HuiE! civil society organisation to prioritise proposals. Over the tight engagement period HuiE! ran a consultation process involving 18 - 20 national civil society organisations and drew up a list of 13 prioritised recommendations.[Note68:] HuiE! advised the IRM researcher that "in effect, having been excluded from the EAP when it was created to replace the SAG we, at the suggestion of the Deputy Commissioner, created a parallel Expert Panel comprising civil society representatives. The very professional set of proposals we developed and carefully prioritised, over a series of meetings, were not acknowledged at the workshop as a coherent input from civil society leaders - the prioritisation was ignored and the proposals were inserted randomly into the papers for the workshop. Further, some of the proposals that had been allocated the highest priority by the civil society consultation process were not discussed at the workshop, and so none of the civil society proposals made it on to the table when SSC worked with the EAP to finalise the set of commitments”.[Note69: Dave Henderson, former External Relations Manager, HuiE!, email, 1 February 2018, expanding on HuiE!’s meeting with the IRM researcher on 6 July 2017.]

At the workshop, following vigorous debate on the themes, members drafted 14 templates which built on some of the 87 submissions. After the workshop, the SSC finalised the seven commitments with its officials and the EAP. There was no further public participation. Five of the final commitments related to elements of the eight themes drafted by Engage2. Commitment 6 (improving access to legislation) and Commitment 7 (improving policy practices) were not discussed at the workshop.

There are no online minutes of any EAP meeting that approved the final action plan. The minutes of the 20 September 2016 meeting note discussion about potential commitments.[Note70: ‘Open Government Partnership Officials Group Meeting Minutes,’ 20 September 2016,] There were no further formal meetings before the Minister of State Services released the final action plan on 20 October 2016.

Despite Engage2’s intensive activity, well supported by the SSC, actual civil society participation was low, and knowledge of the engagement was unknown beyond the usual participants, notwithstanding HuiE!’s laudable work. Stakeholders who knew about the engagement process generally felt that this action plan, the programme to develop it, and the commitments were a significant improvement on the first plan. They applauded the SSC for committing to improve the process and broaden stakeholder involvement. The IRM researcher also notes that stakeholders interviewed who had not known about the engagement process had no comment on it, nor recommendations to improve the process. Their feedback related to the individual commitments.

However, all stakeholders felt the constrained timeline limited its impact and that the online engagement tools favoured individuals’ proposals over the prioritised proposals developed by civil society organisations. The IRM researcher concludes that these were key factors in the final set of commitments not addressing the wider open government issues raised during this and the first action plan development.

There was also concern that all the final commitments were central government and Wellington-based, and many felt disappointed that there was no further communication until the action plan was released in October, nor feedback to individual submitters. A member of the HuiE! civil society organisation, who had been a member of the earlier Stakeholder Advisory Group, met with SSC staff after the workshop to discuss a complaint he had laid about the process.

Overall feedback from the EAP on the engagement process was mixed: some praised the process, saying it engendered ‘robust discussion’. Another member also was impressed with the standard of commitments. However, other members also raised weaknesses of the process, such as it being too ‘top-down’. One member said, the ‘government needs to appreciate co-ownership with the public’. Another noted that ‘a key achievement of the SSC was to find a set of commitments, co-created between government agencies and civil society, that Cabinet would approve and support verbally (even if not financially)’.

Table 3.4: Level of Public Influence

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) ‘Spectrum of Participation’ to apply to OGP.[Note71: ‘IAP2's Public Participation Spectrum,’ iap2, 2014, ] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for ‘collaborative’.

Level of public input
During development of action plan
During implementation of action plan

The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.




There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.




The public could give feedback on how commitments were considered.



The public could give inputs.



The government provided the public with information on the action plan.



No Consultation

No consultation



3.4 Consultation During Implementation

As part of their participation in OGP, governments commit to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. This can be an existing entity or a new one. This section summarizes that information.

The New Zealand government appointed the EAP for the purposes of enabling a regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation (in addition to other activities), and there has been a visible improvement from the last OGP process. However, membership is limited and there is no evidence that the EAP is adequately reaching out to civil society groups for greater co-creation and participation.

The EAP has a different mix of civil society representation from the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) that it replaced. The SAG was appointed from those who responded to a public invitation and was comprised of two academics, two civil society leaders, a political commentator, and an ICT practitioner. The group of five men and one woman included two members from outside Wellington and one of indigenous ethnicity. Members of the EAP are appointed by the State Services Commissioner. They are based either in Wellington or Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. As of June 2017, the EAP consists of four women and two men, including a deputy Commissioner from the SSC (Chair). Members represent the following: Transparency International New Zealand (two members—one in Wellington, one in Auckland), Victoria University of Wellington (Chair in Digital Government), and the private sector (a Wellington public affairs company, and an Auckland open data business). Ethnicities include Māori and Pacific Island representation. Two SAG members were reappointed to the EAP. There was no opportunity for the public to express interest in joining this panel, and it has narrow civil society representation.

The EAP has formal procedures for participation, and its agendas and brief minutes are published online after approval at each meeting. There is no evidence that members of the EAP have undertaken any activities to seek out the views of civil society organisations or the public, nor provide information on the implementation work (beyond the regular advocacy by Transparency International New Zealand members at their meetings and in their newsletters).

As of 30 September 2017, the EAP has met three times with the interagency Officials Group to monitor implementation. One progress report on each commitment for the period March to May 2017 has been posted online.[Note72: ‘Our Progress,’ Open Government Partnership: New Zealand,] The IRM researcher attended the joint EAP/Officials Group meeting on 24 August 2017 and received the progress reports covering the period June to August 2017, but these have not yet been posted online.

The IRM researcher notes that there has been little government publicity since the action plan was released in October 2016. As of 30 September 2017, there have been four tweets by @ogpnz, one Ministerial press release, and five press releases on the SSC website. The quarterly updates on the commitments for June to August are not yet on the OGPNZ website.

As the second year of implementation gets underway, the IRM researcher recommends stakeholder contribution beyond the EAP so that there is a more representative voice for the public. The SSC is meeting separately with some other civil society groups, as per Commitment 5 activities. Some stakeholders have praised the SSC’s willingness to meet regularly with civil society organisations and start discussing the next plan, as well as the government’s commitment to better engagement.[Note73: Meetings in Wellington with HuiE!, CommVoices, 5 July 2017; Volunteering NZ, 22 August 2017; PSA/CTU, 1 September 2017.] One EAP member sees the work as an ‘opportunity to look at new things in the future’.

3.5 Self-Assessment

The OGP Articles of Governance require that participating countries publish a self-assessment report three months after the end of the first year of implementation. The self-assessment report must be made available for public comments for a two-week period. This section assesses compliance with these requirements and the quality of the report.

The government’s draft midterm self-assessment was published online on 19 July 2017 and was open for comment until 1 August 2017.[Note74: ‘Consultations - have your say: Open Government Partnership NZ: National action plan 2016-18 mid-term self-assessment,’ New Zealand Government, 20 July 2017,] It was advertised on the government consultation platform (, with feedback invited on that platform, by email and by post. Three responses were received and published online. They comment on progress achieved to date, look ahead to the process for the development of the third action plan and identify key areas of interest for the next plan. Two responses note concern about an absence of consultation with civil society in the commitment to improve policy practices. Government published the midterm self-assessment report online on 2 October 2017. The final version describes the feedback received.

The midterm self-assessment summarised the consultation process during the action plan development and provided links to the two consultation sites and the online submissions. It reviewed consultation during implementation to date, describing its multi-stakeholder consultation forum and officials group, and linking to their minutes on NZ’s OGP website. It provided details of external government-to-government work, but did not refer to the separate meetings with the SSC that other civil society organisations reported to the IRM researcher. It discussed progress on all commitments and linked to public documents relating to all the commitments. It explained the reasons for rescheduling Commitments 3 and 4. It was realistic about progress on Commitments 1 and 6, which have long milestones, but unrealistically optimistic about future progress on some of Commitment 3’s activities (i.e. commitment activities three and four). The assessment included ‘Next Steps’ and an additional information section for each commitment.

3.6 Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

Integrated into Next Action Plan?


Reform official information laws by extending them to parliamentary bodies and adopting the Law Commission’s recommendation to create an official information authority responsible for training, culture, advice, best practice guidance, and identifying necessary reforms.




Create a set of robust and government-wide practices in collaboration with civil society concerning timely public consultation on new bills, regulation, and policy; base them on international best practice; make them mandatory where feasible; and include an effective complaint resolution mechanism or Ombudsman.




Commit to regular, standardised, technically independent, ‘state of the nation’ reporting on social policy and the environment.




Develop an express and public cross-government policy formally permitting public servants and those receiving public funding to speak out on significant public issues without facing any form of retaliation.




Strengthen the transparency of political party funding from donations and parliamentary revenues.



The previous IRM researcher’s key content recommendations were not adopted in the second action plan. While activities in the 2016-2018 action plan’s second commitment begin to address the first recommendation (including suggestions from the 2012 Law Commission’s report), they are restricted to improving government agency practices when responding to requests for official information. 

The third key recommendation was partially covered by the 2016 Social Report, published in June 2016, but this report has been discontinued.[Note75: As advised by the Ministry of Social Development on 28 September 2017.] The Environmental Reporting Act 2015 requires the Ministry for the Environment to publish one domain report every six months and a synthesis report on New Zealand's environment every three years,[Note76: The Social Report 2016, Ministry of Social Development, June 2016,; ‘Reports: New Zealand's environmental reporting series,’ Ministry for the Environment, 19 October 2017,] but neither of these activities has a direct link with the action plan.

The public submissions made during the development of the action plan included ‘Standards for Public Participation’ across central, regional, and local government; a public-sector voice that is de-politicised, free and frank, without fear or favour; and political finance openness (or political party openness). These submissions are similar to key recommendations two, four and five and they were included in the 14 templates discussed at the 26 August co-creation workshop. However, they were not retained by the government in the final action plan.

IV. Commitments 

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Governments begin their OGP action plans by sharing existing efforts related to open government, including specific strategies and ongoing programs.

Commitments should be appropriate to each country’s unique circumstances and challenges. OGP commitments should also be relevant to OGP values laid out in the OGP Articles of Governance and Open Government Declaration signed by all OGP-participating countries.[Note77: Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015),]

What Makes a Good Commitment?

Recognizing that achieving open government commitments often involves a multiyear process, governments should attach time frames and benchmarks to their commitments that indicate what is to be accomplished each year, whenever possible. This report details each of the commitments the country included in its action plan and analyses the first year of their implementation.

The indicators used by the IRM to evaluate commitments are as follows:

·       Specificity: This variable assesses the level of specificity and measurability of each commitment. The options are:

o   High: Commitment language provides clear, verifiable activities and measurable deliverables for achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Medium: Commitment language describes activity that is objectively verifiable and includes deliverables, but these deliverables are not clearly measurable or relevant to the achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Low: Commitment language describes activity that can be construed as verifiable but requires some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify what the activity sets out to do and determine what the deliverables would be.

o   None: Commitment language contains no measurable activity, deliverables, or milestones.

·       Relevance: This variable evaluates the commitment’s relevance to OGP values. Based on a close reading of the commitment text as stated in the action plan, the guiding questions to determine the relevance are:

o   Access to Information: Will the government disclose more information or improve the quality of the information disclosed to the public?

o   Civic Participation: Will the government create or improve opportunities or capabilities for the public to inform or influence decisions?

o   Public Accountability: Will the government create or improve opportunities to hold officials answerable for their actions?

o   Technology & Innovation for Transparency and Accountability: Will technological innovation be used in conjunction with one of the other three OGP values to advance either transparency or accountability?[Note78: IRM Procedures Manual. Available at: ]

·       Potential impact: This variable assesses the potential impact of the commitment, if completed as written. The IRM researcher uses the text from the action plan to:

o   Identify the social, economic, political, or environmental problem;

o   Establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan; and

o   Assess the degree to which the commitment, if implemented, would impact performance and tackle the problem.

Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. In order to receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

·       Starred commitments will have ‘medium’ or ‘high’ specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgement about its potential impact.

·       The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.

·       The commitment would have a ‘transformative’ potential impact if completely implemented.[Note79: The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information visit: ]

·       The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of ‘substantial’ or ‘complete’ implementation.

Based on these criteria, NZ’s action plan contains one starred commitment (Commitment 6).

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its progress reporting process. For the full dataset for NZ and all OGP-participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.[Note80: OGP Explorer:]

General Overview of the Commitments

Government positioned the action plan and commitments as discrete pieces of work building on NZ’s high international transparency and accountability ranking and complementing existing major government work ‘to further the principles of open government’, covering access to information, open data and technology.[Note81: National Action Plan 2016-18, Open Government: New Zealand,, 8.] Five commitments linked directly to the public’s 87 OGP submissions, and two were added by government. There was no further work with civil society on the remaining actions they had proposed. The IRM researcher’s interviews with around 34 stakeholders from academia, the private sector, and civil society felt that these commitments and the process were better than in the first action plan, but in general felt that they were top-down, not co-created and not bold enough. They saw them as useful small steps forward, but not as core ongoing work with the public to improve identified open government issues.


The government states that it is taking an approach of continuous improvement to delivering on its OGP obligations and intends to evolve its practice and improve over successive plan periods.[Note82: Id. at 7.] The IRM researcher agrees that NZ’s commitments are discrete pieces of work with government aiming to cover two or more of the OGP values.

V. General Recommendations 

Starting the development of the third national action plan immediately after the September 2017 general election provides a singular opportunity to pursue open government issues identified by external stakeholders. Under the new administration, it is critical that the government actively collaborates with the public in the development of the next action plan, broadens participation in the OGP process, and includes ambitious commitments on access to information, whistleblower protection, company beneficial ownership, citizenship education and other priority issues.  

This section aims to inform development of the next action plan and guide completion of the current action plan. It is divided into two sections: 1) those priorities identified by civil society and government while contributing to this report and 2) the recommendations of the IRM.

5.1 Stakeholder Priorities

In the current action plan, tangible OIA compliance, routine public participation in government policy making, and more access to public information and data were the most important themes. Stakeholders want commitments one through six carried forward and new public participation activities set for commitment seven.

Stakeholder priorities for future action plans include the following areas:

Increase funding of the OGP programme in NZ

·       Create a dedicated allocation for the OGP programme within the SSC budget;

·       Increase the budget to provide funds to enable regular and effective communication and interaction with civil society and to develop future co-created action plans;

·       Develop mechanisms for incentivising the public and civil society organisations to contribute to developing and implementing OGP action plans. Most are currently unable to redirect limited resources to pursuing new unfunded activities such as work on OGP action plans;

Improve Access to Information Legislation and Practice

·       Extend the Official Information Act (OIA) to parliamentary bodies;

·       Introduce new online tools to modernise OIA request and response practice for the public and for government agencies;

·       Implement the remaining recommendations in the Ombudsman’s OIA report Not a Game of Hide and Seek;

Improve Public Participation in Budgetary Matters

·       Introduce new public engagement practices during the government’s development of the annual Budget Policy Statement and the annual Budget before they are submitted to Parliament, by inviting public input on fiscal strategy and fiscal policies, facilitating more external expert and general public deliberation on these issues, summarising and responding to public inputs, and by government responding to submissions made to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Budget Policy Statement;

·       Expand public participation in annual Budget development by piloting participatory budgeting in central or local government to encourage greater democratic engagement in and understanding of government and of budget creation;

·       Publish actual Budget expenditure details. This information is hard to find if not been made available following Select Committee scrutiny of government agencies’ expenditures;

·       Strengthen transparency and accountability for public procurement by releasing details of government’s procurement contracts;

·       Review clauses in standard procurement and funding contracts to sanction recipients’ ability to make public comment

Other accountability mechanisms:

·       Strengthen whistleblowing legislation;

·       Introduce citizenship education to increase youth and adults’ understanding of democracy and to explain the relationship between the law and themselves;

·       Through case studies and training activities, illustrate how open data encourages transparency and openness through business and community involvement in government decision-making; and

·       Introduce a commitment to the online publication of all Ministers’ diaries.

As for improving the OGP process, the public would like to improve the co-creation process—within and outside of Wellington—by establishing relationships among the government, CSOs, and the general public early in the development of national action plans. Stakeholders expect the government to publish the timetable for participation and co-creation widely and well in advance of the commencement date. They want the process to include dialogue with government about the public’s role in finalising the commitments, and they want the government to work with civil society organisations to implement commitments jointly. This has been an established practice in the New Zealand for its last two action plan cycles, but it requires further improvement and a commitment to co-creation.

5.2 IRM Recommendations

NZ’s second national action plan focuses mainly on improving government practice in the realm of access to information. The IRM researcher identifies specific content recommendations to build on this current action plan, recommendations to enhance civic engagement in the overall OGP process, and recommendations to address ongoing open government issues which previous plans have avoided.

The IRM researcher supports the government’s proposal, expressed by email from the State Services Commission to the IRM on 22 December 2017, that ‘the national action plan would be more representative of a partnership approach if civil society also entered into commitments either on its own or in partnership with government’. The recommendations which follow provide a starting point for that discussion with the public, including how to achieve this result successfully from the perspectives of the government, government officials and civil society. This would include aligning new activities with open government objectives as well as completing current commitments.

Expand the Expert Advisory Panel to include greater civil society representation

As stated in Section III of this report, there is not enough evidence that the Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) has adequately fulfilled its role as a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. While the EAP was involved in the development and implementation of the 2016-2018 action plan, there is no evidence that the EAP is seeking out the views of other CSOs or the general public when conducting its activities. This goes against the co-creation spirit of OGP .

Although the EAP should continue its work beyond June 2018, the IRM researcher recommends the EAP’s current Terms of Reference be amended to add civil society representatives elected by civil society and to ensure that all EAP members undertake regular OGP engagement with the public. This will provide a broader civil society voice than at present and broadcast government’s public engagement commitment. Membership within the EAP should also be regularly rotated and include people who can advise on online access requirements for those with disabilities. The EAP could consider and recommend to Government what incentives could be offered to encourage the broader civil society voice.

This would require an increased budget and resources for implementing NZ’s OGP activities, assisting civil society to contribute, and increasing the profile of OGP in NZ.

Reform official information laws and refocus the Open Data and Information Programme to publish social, environmental, and budget expenditure data

Commitments on access to information and open data practices have been a focus of New Zealand national action plans. While New Zealand traditionally has had high Global Right to Information (RTI) ratings, Section II of this report clearly demonstrates how the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) has been criticized for allowing government agencies to delay information requests, for requiring fees and for excluding some parliamentary information. Due to these criticisms, reforming information laws is a top priority for the new Government. The IRM researcher recommends the following actions when amending the OIA:

·       Align OIA eligibility for requests with eligibility of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (i.e. removing the residence and citizenship requirements to make a request);

·       Apply the OIA to certain parliamentary information, excluding Members of Parliament’s constituency work;

·       Add proactive release to the OIA protection against certain actions (§48);

·       Amend the OIA withholding grounds (§6) to make them subject to a public interest override;

·       Extend the scope so the OIA applies directly to private organisations providing public services under contract; and

·       Provide the Ombudsman with powers to specify what kinds of information government agencies should proactively publish.

The Open Government Information and Data Programme makes public government-held information for people, communities, and businesses to reuse. While this and the first action plan have addressed open data access and practices, the IRM researcher recommends that the next action plan also include commitments on open data and focus on identified user demand. This should include regular open format publishing of government’s open and aggregated social (including housing) data, as anticipated in the previous IRM researcher’s recommendation three and go some way towards addressing the previous Government’s decision to stop publishing The Social Report. Reporting on environmental outcomes should also continue, and reporting on actual budget expenditure and public procurement contracts should be expanded, as suggested during consultation on the first and second action plans. As these datasets are assessed annually in the Open Data Barometer (ODB), this activity may also improve the government’s low ODB implementation score (currently only 58%).

Develop standards for public consultation on policy initiatives

The previous IRM researcher recommended that the NZ government ‘create a set of robust and government-wide practices in collaboration with civil society concerning timely consultation on new bills, regulation, and policy’.[Note181: New Zealand End-of-Term Report 2014-2016, Open Government Partnership, 2017,] As mentioned in Section III, this recommendation was not addressed, nor was it integrated into the current action plan. The IRM researcher recommends the NZ government co-create, adopt, and implement government policy to set out minimum standards for public consultation on policy initiatives and changes to service delivery. This policy should draw on international standards as articulated by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

The next action plan should set a strategic goal to raise its IAP2 level from the present ‘involve’ or ‘consult’ to ‘collaborate’. This could be fully realised over the third and fourth action plans.

The 2018-2020 action plan could include milestones to:

·       trial new approaches to public engagement in policy making, linking the current commitments 1, 5, and 7. This would move beyond the internal focus of commitment 7; look to developing the next OGP Action Plan (commitment 5); and progress realising the vision for commitment 1 (open participatory budgeting). It could bring together the currently somewhat unconnected OGP activities involving the three central agencies (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the State Services Commission, and the Treasury) and the Department of Internal Affairs;

·       review NZ and international experience in direct public engagement in public policy design and implementation (including the innovative use of new ICT tools to facilitate two-way interactions and deliberation).

Include anti-corruption commitments in the next action plan

Reform whistleblowing laws to increase awareness and protections for whistleblowers

Despite previous IRM recommendations, commitments on whistleblower protection have been largely absent. As noted in Section II of this report, there is public concern regarding insufficient protections for whistleblowers. While some consequential work on the Protected Disclosures Act (2000) has followed the recent whistleblower investigations in 2016, it is essential that the NZ government complete its review. Specifically, the NZ government could reform the current whistleblowing law to address the current barriers people face when raising public interest concerns and make the law itself easier to access and understand.

Take measures to establish a public central register of company beneficial ownership

It has been a year and half since New Zealand attended the Anti-Corruption Summit in London. Compared to other countries in attendance, New Zealand is falling behind in its commitments.[Note182: Suzanne Snively, ‘Public register of beneficial owners saves time and money,’ Transparency International, 5 October 2017,] A particular shortcoming is the Government’s progress on developing a central public register of beneficial ownership. As mentioned in Section II, an important issue facing New Zealand is the exploitation of foreign companies and trusts by corrupt officials, tax evaders, etc. Including this issue in the next action plan will bolster New Zealand’s anti-corruption efforts, which do not currently include a strategy for making a company beneficial ownership register public. A wider, public database of beneficial owners of companies and trusts will save costs and prevent corruption.

Introduce citizenship education to increase democratic participation

As described in Section II, there is recent evidence that public distrust of government is growing and that voter participation in elections is declining. At the 2016 local and 2017 general elections, citizen-led groups initiated online and social media activities to encourage young and first-time voters to engage directly with issues. Government also hosted a Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy workshop on 10 October 2016 in the Legislative Council Chamber at Parliament to listen to different perspectives and discuss next steps towards a civically engaged New Zealand.[Note183: Sally Hett, ‘Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy workshop report back,’ McGuinness Institute, 25 November 2016,] Ongoing work with the Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy Working Group has involved the Ministry of Education and the Electoral Commission.[Note184: ‘Civics, Citizenship & Political Literacy Working Group: About,’ New Zealand Political Studies Association, accessed 17 January 2018, ] This work anticipates changed government practice, in particular, through developing citizenship education, supporting teaching and learning and working actively to mitigate public distrust in government. This kind of government initiative could lead to greater citizen participation and to increased democratic practice. It could build on the Aotearoa Youth Declaration developed in 2017 by UN Youth New Zealand.[Note185:]

The IRM researcher recommends government expands its work with these groups. The very first step would be for central government to commit to working with youth, ethnic groups, and local government to develop this commitment and its milestones.

This work could build on existing initiatives such as the October 2016 Civics, Citizenship and Political Literacy workshop, and could focus on a sub-national project in South Auckland, with specific goals for government and the community to improve voter participation in the 2019 local government elections.

Commitments could be developed for the 2018-2020 and 2020-2022 action plans. As well as the suggested sub-national project in South Auckland, early measurable commitments could include:

·       producing and publishing a Citizens’ Guide to the Budget (led by Treasury). This would be a good early practical example of ‘citizenship education’, by aiming to attract the interest of secondary school teachers of social studies, economics, accounting and related subjects to use it to teach this core component of citizenship in the classroom;

·       reviewing the citizenship education currently in the school curriculum and developing new and expanded content. The outcome of this could in turn be a further commitment in the 2020-2022 Action Plan to implement (some of) the review’s findings.

Table 5.1: Five Key Recommendations


Expand the Expert Advisory Panel to include greater civil society representation


Reform official information laws and refocus the Open Data and Information Programme to publish social, environmental, and budget expenditure data


Develop standards for public consultation on policy initiatives


Include anti-corruption commitments in the next action plan, covering whistleblower protection and a public register of company beneficial ownership


Introduce citizenship education to increase democratic participation  

VI. Methodology and Sources 

The IRM progress report is written by researchers based in each OGP-participating country. All IRM reports undergo a process of quality control to ensure that the highest standards of research and due diligence have been applied.

Analysis of progress on OGP action plans is a combination of interviews, desk research, and feedback from nongovernmental stakeholder meetings. The IRM report builds on the findings of the government’s own self-assessment report and any other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector, or international organizations.

Each IRM researcher carries out stakeholder meetings to ensure an accurate portrayal of events. Given budgetary and calendar constraints, the IRM cannot consult all interested or affected parties. Consequently, the IRM strives for methodological transparency and therefore, where possible, makes public the process of stakeholder engagement in research (detailed later in this section.) Some contexts require anonymity of interviewees and the IRM reviews the right to remove personal identifying information of these participants. Due to the necessary limitations of the method, the IRM strongly encourages commentary on public drafts of each report.

Each report undergoes a four-step review and quality-control process:

1.     Staff review: IRM staff reviews the report for grammar, readability, content, and adherence to IRM methodology.

2.     International Experts Panel (IEP) review: IEP reviews the content of the report for rigorous evidence to support findings, evaluates the extent to which the action plan applies OGP values, and provides technical recommendations for improving the implementation of commitments and realization of OGP values through the action plan as a whole. (See below for IEP membership.)

3.     Prepublication review: Government and select civil society organizations are invited to provide comments on content of the draft IRM report.

4.     Public comment period: The public is invited to provide comments on the content of the draft IRM report.

This review process, including the procedure for incorporating comments received, is outlined in greater detail in Section III of the Procedures Manual.[Note186:  IRM Procedures Manual, V.3:]

Interviews and Focus Groups

Each IRM researcher is required to hold at least one public information-gathering event. Researchers should make a genuine effort to invite stakeholders outside of the ‘usual suspects’ list of invitees already participating in existing processes. Supplementary means may be needed to gather the inputs of stakeholders in a more meaningful way (e.g., online surveys, written responses, follow-up interviews). Additionally, researchers perform specific interviews with responsible agencies when the commitments require more information than is provided in the self-assessment or is accessible online.

The IRM researcher initially sought interested participants via social media (Twitter, Facebook, and the OpenNZ discussion list) on 9 July 2017, then held 28 face-to-face meetings and interviews, eight telephone or online conversations, and six email conversations between 30 May 2017 and 29 September 2017. She spoke with 18 civil society representatives or groups, five academics, seven private sector representatives, 10 government agencies and attended one meetings with the Ombudsman, an independent authority. She received formal submissions from the NZ Law Society and the National Council of Women. She held regular email conversations with the SSC, the agency with lead responsibility for the action plan. She directly contacted 16 commentators on New Zealand’s budget with respect to Commitment 1.

The following criteria were applied when selecting national level stakeholders:

·       They had made submissions during the development of previous action plans;

·       They presented regularly to Parliamentary select committees;

·       They were regularly meeting with government to participate in future OGP work; and

·       They were key stakeholders for specific commitments.

She also presented to the Aorangi Club, Auckland (approximate attendance of 120) on 18 July, and attended a presentation by the Ombudsman, Judge Peter Boshier, on 25 July at which she asked OGP-related questions.

Each meeting was documented in a spreadsheet or separate report and then used for the progress report, with many quotations from stakeholders.

About the Independent Reporting Mechanism

The IRM is a key means by which government, civil society, and the private sector can track government development and implementation of OGP action plans on an annual basis. The design of research and quality control of such reports is carried out by the International Experts Panel, comprised of experts in transparency, participation, accountability, and social science research methods.

The current membership of the International Experts Panel is

·       César Cruz-Rubio

·       Hazel Feigenblatt

·       Mary Francoli

·       Brendan Halloran

·       Hille Hinsberg

·       Anuradha Joshi

·       Jeff Lovitt

·       Fredline M’Cormack-Hale

·       Showers Mawowa

·       Ernesto Velasco

A small staff based in Washington, DC, shepherds reports through the IRM process in close coordination with the researchers. Questions and comments about this report can be directed to the staff at