Incorporating the views of the public into our performance audit work

This year, we consulted with the public in a different way before the publication of our annual plan. We surveyed a nationally representative sample of just over 1000 New Zealanders to ask them about the “performance areas” they thought the Auditor-General should prioritise in our work programme.

The performance areas broadly covered areas of work we were considering, based on our own work scanning public agency performance.  The survey we carried out was a useful way to test whether our work programme includes topics that New Zealanders are interested in.

Below is a summary of the results of the survey.

We will continue to consider ways we can collect views from New Zealanders to inform our work.

Performance focus areas for the Auditor-General: key findings

AK Research and Consulting



  • Results in this report are based upon questions asked in the nationally representative AK Research online omnibus survey of adults in New Zealand.
  • The sample size for the online survey was n=1006, with the margin of error for a 50% figure at the 95% confidence level being +/-3.0%.
  • The fieldwork was conducted from the 16th to 22nd of March 2022.
  • The nationally representative sample has quotas for region, age and gender. Other demographics include ethnicity, household income, housing status, occupation, current work situation and dependent children under 18 years.

Note on interpreting the charts:

  • The chart percentages do not add up to 100% due to the multi response nature of each question. The percentages in the charts indicate the proportion of those who selected that performance focus area or topic from those who responded to that question.

Note on rounding

  • All numbers are shown rounded to zero decimal places. Hence specified totals are not always exactly equal to the sum of the specified sub totals. The differences are seldom more than 1%.
  • For example 2.7 + 3.5 = 6.2 would appear 3+4=6


  • The Office of the Auditor-General together with Audit New Zealand provide parliament and the public with an independent view of how public organisations are operating. This year the Office of the Auditor General as part of developing its performance audit plan for the coming year sought input from New Zealanders on what performance focus areas could be included in the performance plan. The intent is to identify what issues New Zealanders care about.
  • The set of questions was developed by the Office of the Auditor General team with input and suggestions from AK Research. It was designed to identity key priority areas and then within those priority areas a subset of topic areas for the Office of the Auditor-General to focus on.
  • Respondents were first asked to select their two focus areas from a list of 13 overall performance areas.
  • Respondents were then routed to their two priority areas and asked to select two main topics from a list of 4-6 topics covered by that performance area.

Key findings

Three key performance areas identified - housing, health, and Covid-19 response

  • From the list of 13 performance areas there were three where at least one in five respondents selected that as the area to prioritise.
    • Over a third of respondents (37%) selected ‘housing’;
    • Nearly a quarter (24%) selected ‘health’; while
    • Twenty percent selected ‘Covid 19 response and recovery’.
  • A second tier of performance areas garnered between 10%-15% support. These included; ‘climate change and environment’ (15%), ‘family violence and sexual violence’ and ‘reducing inequalities in NZ society’ (both on 14%), ‘justice’ (12%), and ‘infrastructure’ and ‘local government’ (both on 10%).
  • The lowest priority areas were ‘education’ (8%), ‘agriculture, fisheries and conservation’ (7%), ‘how Māori and the Crown are working together’ and ‘immigration’ both on 6%.
  • The following charts and tables summarise the performance areas and their related topic areas in order of preference.
  • ‘Other specified’ was included to ensure all respondents had the opportunity to add topics of interest that were not in the main question set. Looking at the ‘Other specified’ the majority could be included to some extent with some of the topics of interest or provide additional context to current topics. A few others illustrate the strength of feeling on some issues.

Housing was the top performance area followed by health and the Covid-19 response

The Auditor-General independently looks at the performance and achievements of local and central government agencies that provide services to the New Zealand public. The following questions are about performance areas the Auditor-General is considering focusing on. Out of the following performance areas, please select two areas you think the Auditor-General should focus on the most OR be priority areas. (%)

Housing 37
Health 24
Covid-19 response and recovery 20
Climate change and environment 15
Family violence and sexual violence 14
Reducing inequalities in NZ society 14
Justice 12
Infrastructure 10
Local government 10
Education 8
Agriculture, fisheries, and conservation 7
How Māori and the Crown are working together 6
Immigration 6
None 1
Unsure 6

Demographic differences:

  • Women were more likely to select health (30%) than men (18%), while men were more likely to select infrastructure (14%) than women (7%)
  • Renters were more likely to select housing (46%) than homeowners (33%).
  • Aucklanders were more likely to select infrastructure (16%) than other regions.
  • Those living in a rural area/district with less than 2,000 people were more likely to select agriculture, fisheries and conservation (15%) than larger populated areas (6%).
  • Asians were more likely to select immigration (13%) than other ethnicities.

Top tier performance areas and topics

Housing (37%) Health (24%) Covid-19 response and recovery (20%)
65%: How well central and local government agencies are working together to increase housing supply. 53%: Government planning to make sure we have enough specialised healthcare services. 41%: The preparedness for future pandemics.
39%: How well government agencies are managing access to and quality of social housing. 51%: Management of the wait times for health services. 33%: Covid-19 testing.
30%: The effectiveness of systems monitoring landlord obligations for the health and quality of rental properties. 38%: Progress on improving our mental health needs including suicide prevention. 31%: Effectiveness of support provided to specific sectors and individuals experiencing hardship.
24%: How well are government agencies managing access to emergency housing. 20%: How well the government is implementing key healthcare strategies. 30%: Value for money from the significant spending in the response to Covid-19.
5%: How well government agencies are working together to achieve its outlined Māori housing goals. 15%: Effectiveness of planning for the new health reforms announced last year. 27%: Provision of public services during Covid-19.

Second tier performance areas and topics

Climate change/ environment (15%) Family violence/ sexual violence (14%) Reducing inequalities in NZ society (14%) Justice (12%) Infrastructure (10%) Local government (10%)
60%: If government agencies are working together to respond to climate change. 48%: If services provided by government agencies to support victims of family and sexual violence are managed effectively. 58%: If government agencies are effectively tackling child poverty. 51%: Progress in addressing illegal gang activity and other organised crime. 73%: How well do government agencies plan for investing in infrastructure. 61%: Value for money for council spending.
58%: New Zealand’s performance is on addressing climate change against our international commitments. 47%: If government agencies are effectively working together to
address family/ and sexual violence.
42%: If there is effective support to meet the needs of disabled 50%: Systems that support victims experiencing the justice system. 50%: How well government agencies are working together to meet NZ’s future energy needs. 44%: How well council manages and invests in assets and infrastructure.
41%: Management of our freshwater quality. 40%: That government agencies are working effectively with the non government agencies supporting the victims and perpetrators of family /sexual violence. 33%: If there is effective support to meet the needs of the elderly population. 41%: Effectiveness of the Police crime prevention focus and actions. 21%: How government agencies combat and prevent cyber attacks. 32%: How well council services are managed.
21%: If local councils have plans in place to respond to natural hazards. 28%: If services provided by government agencies to support perpetrators of family / sexual violence are being managed effectively. 21%: If there are appropriate and accessible government services reaching the rural areas of New Zealand. 23%: Effectiveness of rehabilitation strategies and services for offenders. 20%: Government agency technology and systems that protect my private information. 22%: Communication with the public and ratepayers.
11%: The effectiveness of programmes to reduce the road toll. 19%: How well councils are helping residents understand council spending.

Third tier performance areas and topics

Education (8%) Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (7%) How Māori and the Crown are working together (6%) Immigration (6%)
48%: How well differences in educational opportunities and achievement are being addressed to improve overall levels of achievement. 53%: The systems in place to ensure New Zealand fisheries are managed sustainably. 37%: How well the public sector is working with Māori. 56%: The management of visa processing.
35%: Management of learning support and Special Educational services. 44%: The effectiveness of initiatives to protect our
animals, plants, and micro organisms for future generations.
36%: How well strategies and programmes that are in place to improve outcomes for Māori are being met. 45%: Planning to meet future population needs.
29%: Support for children experiencing anxiety or mental health issues. 29%: Food safety systems to ensure the food we eat is safe. 34%: How well government agencies are meeting their Treaty settlement commitments. 26%: How well we settle refugees who come to New Zealand.
25%: How well is the government ensuring the quality of early childhood education. 24%: If animal welfare complaints are well managed. 27%: How well the public sector understands the needs of Māori. 17%: Other specified.
15%: Effectiveness of agencies in addressing attendance at schools 19%: If systems are effective to stop pests from entering New Zealand. 24%: Other specified.