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Effective and efficient public sector vital

Effective and efficient public sector vital to our social and economic development, says King

The Government's promise to rebuild an effective public service sector after it was run down badly by the market-led reforms of the 1990s is now being achieved, says State Services Minister Annette King.

"Voters told us in three successive elections that they wanted effective public services rebuilt. That's what we’ve done, and I make no apologies for the extra doctors and nurses, the extra frontline police, customs officers, social workers and education specialists that have been employed under our watch," she says.

"Our success as a people and a country depends on a high-performing State Sector. We have high expectations on both the quality and range of services provided, and the effectiveness in which they are delivered. Now the resources are being provided, I am confident the sector is performing well."

Ms King says the State Sector workforce has grown at a slightly slower rate than total employment as a whole over the past five years. The Government now employs 17.8% of the labour market, compared with 17.9% in 2000, but the telling point is the number of state servants now employed in front line areas.

Examples of increases in frontline staff 1999 to 2005 include:

- About 5,225 more doctors and nurses.
- An extra 3040 teacher classroom positions have been created since 1999 above what is required for role growth. Another 455 are coming from Budget 2006. The addition of Special Education Services to the Ministry of Education in 2002 has built frontline staff numbers by an additional 2000.
- About 1600 more police.
- 956 Customs Officers (up 132%)
- 580 Quarantine and Agriculture Ports Officers (up 60%)
- 1698 Social Workers (up 55%)
- 2536 Prison Officers (up 25%)
- 2898 Case Workers (up 11%)

Ms King says while some claim there has been a disproportionate increase in administrative and support areas, these figures prove most are frontline positions, delivering the improved services that the public has asked for.

Much of the expansion of the Public Service has been a direct result of the Government's policy decisions of recent years. A higher focus on biosecurity, for example, has led to increased capacity and capability in Biosecurity New Zealand. In education, the requirement for decreased class sizes and reduced contact hours has led to more teachers being employed.

Ms King says accommodating public servants is a challenge, with rental costs in Wellington increasing in recent years. Government agencies, like the private sector, have been affected.

"Government departments need to be close to Parliament, which means they're in the CBD, where they're subjected to these increasing charges. We have to be realistic about the modern workplace and what is required to attract and sustain good quality people."

More public sector staff will be employed in the coming years.

"The message to Mr Brownlee is that there is more to come. Over the next three years there will be 1250 additional police staff, with more people in our Defence Forces and more recruitment of additional teachers and doctors."

While National Party leader Dr Don Brash said in the last election campaign that if elected, the party would not cut public servant's positions, Ms King says that given their track record, the public need to question National's real agenda.


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