How we determine our work programme

Draft annual plan 2024/25.

We draw on what we know from our work

Our role as the auditor of every public organisation allows us to consider performance and accountability matters for the entire public sector. We regularly assess the issues, risks, and opportunities we see from all our work. Our assessment uses the information our auditors and other staff gather, information from our monitoring of risks, and our analysis of public sector performance.

We also draw on our previous work such as reports we have published (including inquiries, performance audits, research reports, and the results of recent financial audits) and our follow-up reports on how public organisations have implemented our recommendations.

We seek advice from those working in, or with, the public sector. Our central and local government advisory groups and the Auditor-General’s rōpū Māori help us to better understand current themes and challenges. Our discussions with select committees and members of Parliament also provide us with important information. As does our survey of New Zealanders where we gather information on their concerns with public sector performance.

We consider the environment the public sector operates in and the risks and challenges that creates

The public sector operates in a challenging and dynamic environment. When we plan our work, we consider the public sector’s operating context and the risks and challenges that environment creates. There are several important themes that have informed our draft annual plan for 2024/25.

Declining trust

Trust in governments is declining around the world. Although New Zealanders continue to have higher levels of trust in the government and its institutions, that is not the case for all parts of our society. We also know, that, for many, trust is vulnerable and can rapidly erode. Maintaining trust in the public sector is critical for the public sector to perform its role.

A challenging economic environment

There is a challenging economic outlook nationally and internationally.

The Government has required the public sector to find cost savings. This will put pressures on agencies to deliver their services with fewer resources and to have an increased focus on the value they are getting from existing and future investments.

Similarly local government is faced with cost pressures and the need to carefully balance rates and borrowing with the need for investment in services and new infrastructure.

Although the economic disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic has lessened, many communities, businesses, and public organisations continue to be impacted by issues arising because of Covid-19 such as backlogs.

Inflation continues to impact on both operating and capital costs.

Public sector change

The public sector continues to evolve.

Te Aka Whai Ora and Te Pūkenga will be disestablished. New entities, such as a Ministry of Regulation, have been established. Reform of key legislation in a range of areas has been signalled or is in progress. The Government has set targets for public organisations to work towards and be measured against.

Local government continues to adapt to new legislative requirements and there are further proposed changes to how water services are delivered.1

Climate change

In the last few years we have seen the significant impact, disruption, and cost of adverse weather events on New Zealand. Recent reports reflecting on those events have highlighted the challenges in New Zealand’s emergency management system to respond to such events.

New Zealand has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to global efforts to slow climate change. The costs of addressing climate change and meeting emissions targets present a potentially significant fiscal risk to the Crown.

Central and local government organisations need to work together to effectively address the challenges of climate change. This will include determining how to mitigate and adapt to climate change and determining what level of resilience and adaptation can be achieved with the available resourcing.

Value for money of infrastructure investment

Historical underinvestment in public infrastructure creates risks of services failing or experiencing significant disruptions. Public organisations in both central and local government will need to make strategic decisions to ensure that their investment in infrastructure represents good value for money while dealing with other challenges such as a tight fiscal environment, inflation, and capacity constraints.

Technological change  

Increased use of artificial intelligence and other rapidly developing technology present significant opportunities and risks to the quality of, and trust in, public services. The public sector has started using artificial intelligence for some services. Although technology can streamline and improve the quality of services, there are significant risks related to data security, bias, and privacy. Good governance will be needed to ensure that the benefits of new technology are realised and the risks are well managed.

Persistent inequality

Long-term disparities in outcomes, for example by ethnicity, gender, or geography, continue in many areas including housing, education, health, and justice. Addressing inequity of outcomes is critical to ensuring that all New Zealanders have trust in the public sector and government.  

Security challenges

New Zealand has benefited from a rules-based international environment. Increasing geopolitical tensions and strengthening national interests create risks to our economic and social well-being.  

In this environment, strong institutions that act to protect the integrity of our systems of public administration are critical to an effective and efficient public sector.

We consider the views of the public

We survey members of the public on topics that are relevant to our strategy. For this year’s survey, we asked what New Zealanders would like us to include in our work programme. Survey respondents were most interested in:

  • health services, including mental health services;
  • justice (law and order), including community safety;
  • education; and
  • housing and urban development.

Our annual plan remains flexible

Our draft annual plan reflects what we currently know and consider to be a priority for us. However, if new information or risks come to light through feedback or new issues emerge, we may decide to change some of this work. We report on any changes to our final annual plan in our annual report.

1: These are drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater.