Key announces super ministry

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 12:50 15/03/2012
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A new ministry of business, innovation and employment will swallow up four existing government departments within months, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

In a speech this afternoon, Key announced three major changes to the public sector.

A single, dedicated ministry of business, innovation and employment would integrate the work of the economic development ministry, the department of labour, the science and innovation ministry and, in a major surprise, the department of building and housing (DBH).

"This new department will help to drive the Government's priority of building a more productive and competitive economy," Key said.

The new ministry, expected to be in place by July 1 this year, followed similar models set up in Australia and the UK, he said.

"It will strengthen the public service's ability to work on business policy, regulation and engagement, so the Government will get a much more co-ordinated and focused resource."

He also announced ten "specific results" for the public sector to achieve in the next three to five years. The results would focus on five themes - reducing long-term welfare dependency; supporting vulnerable children; boosting skills and employment; reducing crime and improving interaction with government.

Key said Education Minister Hekia Parata had set a target of 85 per cent of 18 year olds having NCEA level 2 or equivalent in five years.

"The current figure is around 68 per cent so achieving the target will be very tough."

Thirdly, the cap on "core government administration" jobs would be lowered.

The new cap would be for no more than 36,475 full time equivalent positions, which would include most people working in government departments and some Crown entities. It would not include "frontline staff" like teachers, police, hospital staff or prison officers.

The new cap replaced an earlier one set at 39,000.

There would be law changes to the State Sector and Public Finance Acts to help implement the new approach.

Key said staff at the four departments coming under the new ministry had been informed by chief executives.

The Government intended having the new ministry in place by July. A due diligence report was expected to be before Cabinet by April.

The due diligence would provide detailed advice on the future location of some functions of the DBH, such as social housing policy and the tenancy service.

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Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, who is expected to lead the new ministry, said the new model had been agreed in principle by Cabinet.

"If we want more and better jobs for New Zealanders we need to encourage more businesses to be based here. That means making it easier for businesses and companies to access innovative ideas, markets, capital, skilled workers, resources, and the supporting public infrastructure," Joyce said.

The new ministry would provide "clear, co-ordinated and focused government policy leadership" with a commitment to economic growth and innovation. It would be of a similar size to the justice ministry.

10 PUBLIC SECTOR TARGETS:

The Government has set 10 targets for the public sector over the next three to five years.

They are:

* Reducing long-term welfare dependency - those on a working age benefit for more than 12 months.

* Increasing participation in early childhood education

* Increasing infant immunisation rates and reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever

* Reducing the number of assaults on children.

* Increasing the proportion of 18 year olds with NCEA level 2 or its equivalent.

* Increasing the proportion of 25-34 year olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees at level 4 or above.

* Reducing the rates of total crime, violent crime and youth crime.

* Reducing re-offending.

* Improving interactions with government so businesses have a one-stop online shop for all government advice and support they need to run and grow their business.

* Improving interactions with government so New Zealanders can complete their transactions with the government easily in a digital environment.

Ministers and a public sector chief executive have been made responsible for each result.

- Stuff

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