New Zealand’s civil service chief wins national public leader award

By on 08/06/2017 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Peter Hughes named public sector CEO of the year in the TransTasman New Zealand Government Departments Review 2017

New Zealand’s top civil servant has been named public sector CEO of the year in an annual review assessing the health and performance of the country’s government departments.

The 2017 edition of the TransTasman New Zealand Government Departments Review singled out the country’s state service commissioner and head of state services, Peter Hughes, for his efforts in raising standards across the state sector.

Hughes was appointed to the role last year, taking over from Iain Rennie – who retired after eight years in the job.

The independent board of advisory to the TransTasman report said that since replacing Rennie, Hughes has “put his stamp on the entire state sector”, introducing new and innovative ways of managing and motivating the workforce.

“New Zealand is lucky to have this guy at the top of the public service tree,” the board noted. “He embodies what true public service leadership is about.”

But the TransTasman review said it is “not all plain sailing for Hughes”, who still faces issues such as a “vast talent gap” at CEO level and pressures from the government of the day.

“Much will rest on the broad shoulders of the new state services commissioner and whether the ‘Hughes Effect’ will create the necessary change to push the public sector to the next level of data-driven, cost-effective services,” the report noted.

Elsewhere in the 2017 review, New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation was named government department of the year, for the third consecutive time. The report said the department had continued its turnaround from a “crisis-ridden department” to a “standout” department for its financial performance and customer satisfaction.

Singled out for criticism was Hughes’ former department, education, which the review described as a “perennial problem child” despite some improvements.

The Department of Corrections, which oversees prisons, also came under fire, described by the review board as having “more challenges than the CEO can handle” and in need of reform “big time”.

The TransTasman 2017 New Zealand Government Departments Review is available at

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See also:

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About Ben Willis

Ben Willis is a journalist and editor with a varied background reporting on topics including public policy, the environment, renewable energy and international development. His work has appeared in a variety of national newspapers including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times, as well as numerous specialist business, policy and consumer publications.

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