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Planning for difference

Gender analysis tools
Ethnic perspectives
Pacific consultation guidelines
Handling local issues

It is one thing for policy advisers to work to establish needs, develop policy, plan activities and establish priorities to achieve outcomes for the ministries who employ them. It is another thing to offer advice that works for different groups of New Zealand’s population on whom a ministry's policies might impact – such as women and men, Māori, Pacific migrants, other ethnic minorities or people with disabilities.

Chafing under the notion that one size fits all, activists have encouraged government to form policy units or ministries to monitor the performance of mainstream ministries, and to ensure that all intended Parliament action considers the impact on minority groups. All legislation proposals must now be accompanied by a Policy Impact Statement exploring the impact on different population groups as well as its social, environmental and economic impact.

The New Zealand Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ministry of Pacific Islands Affairs, the Office of Disability Issues and the Ethnic Affairs unit of New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs are among those who feel more could be done. They foster the formal and informal use of specialist tools of analysis – such as consultation guidelines.

Gender analysis tools
Gender analysis is a tool for effective decision-making. It also helps policy to meet legislative requirements. A gender implications statement (as part of the Policy Impact Statement) is required for all papers submitted to the Cabinet Committee on Social Development.

Because the lives and experiences of women and men are different, government policy will often affect them differently. Gender analysis provides a method of examining systematically and consistently how women and men are likely to be affected, and communicating that information to decision-makers.

Gender analysis:

  • improves advice to Minister
  • improves outcomes for different groups in society.

All government departments need to apply gender analysis, and the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MWA) monitors progress.

Gender analysis is an essential part of quality policy development in part because of international commitments to promote the integration of gender analysis in public policy.

Find out more!

For further information on gender analysis, see Ministry of Women’s Affairs website.

Ethnic perspectives
The vision of the Office of Ethnic Affairs is to create a climate in which people from ethnic communities can fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of New Zealand life. It also wants to:

  • improve access by ethnic minorities to key services
  • develop a better informed and more responsive public service
  • raise awareness of ethnic diversity.

Its Ethnic perspectives in policy is a strategic policy tool, designed to help government agencies.

The strategy is based on steps such as requiring ethnic perspectives to be considered when preparing policy.

Discrimination against ethnic groups based on nationality, religion, race or colour and ethnic or national origin is prohibited under the Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act. The State Sector Act also promotes equal employment opportunities in the state sector.

The Minister for Ethnic Affairs says the Office provides policy advice and information on issues related to ethnic groups, and identifies implications of government policy for ethnic communities. It consults ethnic communities, and seeks to anticipate emergent issues. It has much in common with Ministries dealing with Māori and Pacific peoples.

Pacific Consultation Guidelines

New Zealand’s Ministry of Pacific Islands Affairs provides a Pacific Analysis Framework, and Pacific Consultation Guidelines, both available on its website. In its consultation guidelines the Ministry says it is hard to develop effective and comprehensive policies without direct involvement with the people whose responses, behaviour and attitudes will ultimately make the policies work. Consultation is not just a statutory requirement. It is one of the prerequisites for good and smoothly implemented policy-making.

Good consultation among Pacific peoples involves the creation and the maintenance of relationships. It involves a significant investment at the outset because consultation among Pacific peoples is time consuming. But the return on investment is high, lasts for a very long time and is repaid many times over. So policy advisers and others are urged to take the time to observe protocols which uphold spirituality through prayers, recognition of church and community leaders and through thank you gestures or koha.

Find out more in DecisionMaker How participation works for more details about these guidelines.

Handling local issues
There is other legislation and practice that recognises difference, and supports measured steps by citizens to handle local issues according to local judgement. There is a case to be made for handling some issues as close to the action as possible. The Local Government Act provides a range of community planning steps - some looking a decade, some three years and some a year ahead in which people in a territorial local authority can work out how they want to handle local issues. As those local issues may be interdependent with approaches being taken by people in other places - perhaps locally in a district health board, perhaps nationally in a central government agency, or internationally through a Treaty the New Zealand Parliament may adopt or have adopted - the planning needs to take account of its context.

Communication between different levels of government, between culturally diverse people, between business and government may make a difference in handling local issues successfully or otherwise.

Find out more about handling local issues, and cultural diversity

Content and links expanded 21 December 2005