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Public Service Chief Executives' Dinner

Issue date: 
Monday, 20 June 2016
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Nau mai, haere mai rā ki Te Whare Kāwana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.

I specifically acknowledge Mr Iain Rennie, State Services Commissioner and Caroline Rennie: tēnā korua.

Ladies and gentlemen, former colleagues and friends, it is a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House this evening.

Our thanks to Harpist Ingrid Bauer who will be performing for us all this evening.

As my term as Governor-General nears its end, I am taking opportunities to acknowledge and thank people who play significant roles in our public institutions – people who serve New Zealanders. 

It is rare for leaders of the public service to get together in this way, given the considerable demands on your time.  So I am delighted that so many of you could be here tonight.

The themes for my comments are opportunities and acknowledgement.

First of all, tonight is an opportunity for Janine and me to acknowledge and thank you Chief Executives - nga Tāhūhū Rangapū - on behalf of all New Zealanders for the work you do and the leadership you give on our behalf.  We include in that, acknowledgement our thanks to – your husband, your wife, your partner or your friend – who supports you.

Tonight is also an opportunity to farewell Iain Rennie, who has provided leadership and valuable service as the State Services Commissioner.

In New Zealand, we are fortunate that the State Services, and the Public Service in particular, attracts people of the high calibre we need to lead our public service organisations.  Former State Services Commissioner Dr Mark Prebble had this to say about the Public Service: “For New Zealanders to lead healthy and satisfying lives, they need highly professional government agencies.  For government agencies to be world class, they need the best possible systems and the best possible staff, operating with high levels of integrity”.

Increasingly, the challenges Public Service Chief Executives are called upon to solve are multi-faceted, far-reaching and wickedly complex.

We, and some more than others, have all witnessed and experienced huge change in the State sector.  And in the Public Sector, Chief Executives especially have had to manage the challenges and seek out opportunities to deliver to citizens better public services.

A Chief Executive in the Public Sector has to be many things to many people.  You are called upon to be a leader, manager, strategist, an analyst, a confidant, a critic, and even a social-media expert. 

You are the guardian, balancing long-term policy implications within short-term electoral cycles; you put quick solutions in place while stewarding the system for future generations – and all the while, delivering more for less.

You are obliged to keep up with the political affairs of the day – in New Zealand and abroad – and to remain one step removed from, or ahead of them.

Your relationships with Ministers, and with each other, are critical for the smooth functioning of the country.

And as you all know, often is the case that the public only becomes aware of a Public Service Chief Executive when things go wrong – and following on from intense media scrutiny.  It might be more appropriate to say that Public Service Chief Executives need to be all things to all people!

During my time as Governor-General, the public service has become more nimble.  It is making greater use of tools and technologies.  Government agencies consult more widely, including with the people who will be affected by policy change.

The person responsible for providing the leadership and oversight of the State Services during this time of significant change is Iain Rennie.  The Better Public Services campaign is a significant piece of work that has been spearheaded by Iain Rennie.  He’s been personally-involved in monitoring the ten result areas required to build better public services and ensured that the focus across the public sector has remained focused on getting the system working to deliver better results and improved services for New Zealanders. 

From where I sit, I see that your departments are delivering better public services, to and for the public.  In time, your work will lead to innovation and improvement across a connected, collaborative public sector.

Iain’s career has been one of public service since joining the Treasury in 1986.  He has had a distinguished 30-year career and has served in all three of the Central agencies. 

Iain is recognised as someone who can manage relationships, build confidences, and achieve results.  His contribution, experience, and candour have been appreciated by Ministers, colleagues and associates.  The sense I get is that Iain is leaving a lasting positive legacy.  Earlier this year his Minister said: "Mr Rennie has made a significant contribution to New Zealand's State services over his 30-year career and will leave our system of public administration in a strong position to deliver essential services to New Zealanders into the future."

Of course the person who knows best of Iain’s career and its impact is his wife Caroline.  Caroline, we acknowledge the support and inspiration you have given Iain – thank you.  Janine and I wish you all the very best with your plans for Iain for the years ahead. 

And Peter, as the person receiving the baton of leading and overseeing the performance and integrity of the State Services, I wish you every success.  It’s been said that the Commissioner’s job can be likened to the chief herder of cats – very clever and stubborn cats!

Two things before I finish.  First of all a quote from Jack Lew, the current United States Secretary of the Treasury.  He said this of public service: “I think there’s no higher calling in terms of a career than public service, which is a chance to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the world”.  Finally, would you please stand and join with me in a toast - to New Zealand’s Public Service – the dedicated men and women working to make a difference in our world for New Zealanders.  Kia ora huihui tātou katoa, and please enjoy the hospitality of Government House.

Last updated: 
Monday, 20 June 2016

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