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The NZ Public Service – a Century of Resilience

The Centenary of the NZ Public Service – a Century of Resilience

Marking 100-years since the enactment of the Public Service Act in 1912 which formally launched the public service in New Zealand, State Services Commissioner and Head of State Services Iain Rennie today paid tribute to the public service saying its heritage of resilience has helped the country weather tough times.

In the context of current issues confronting the public sector, the Commissioner said that while New Zealand does have some challenges which are very important such as the Pike River tragedy, he believes the country is still better off compared to the seriousness of the issues other countries are facing.

“In much of the world today, governments are struggling and economies are failing, but New Zealand has remained resilient amidst challenges and for me, this can be attributed to a great extent to the quality and stability of our public service system,” Mr. Rennie said.

Mr. Rennie related that through the past 100 years, which saw, among others, two world wars, an economic depression, and more recently a global financial crisis, the public service has adapted to the times and transformed, but it has remained true to the enduring principles of a unified, professional, and politically-neutral public service -- the cornerstones of New Zealand’s public service enshrined in the 1912 Act.

Honouring public servants of the past, Mr Rennie said: “A hundred years of public service, as we have had it, was not mere chance. It was established, moulded, enhanced, and built to what it is today. We are grateful for the pioneers who trail blazed the public service, for all those who have gone before us, for their contribution.”

Turning to the current ranks of the public service, the Commissioner issued a challenge: “As we stand at this crucial juncture in our nation's life, the challenge for us contemporary public servants is to live up to our role - to be a strong link between those who have gone before and those who will follow us.”

As part of the celebration, SSC asked historian Redmer Yska to write a brief history of the New Zealand public service. The first two chapters will be available on the SSC website today. Subsequent chapters will be published in the coming months leading to April 1, 2013 which marks the 100th year since the establishment of the Public Service Commission, the precursor of the SSC.


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