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Participation means partnership

Participation depends on citizen’s wanting to participate – and government officials making it possible for them to participate.

Prime Minister Helen Clark says, “You have to set the tone from the top,” to help people participate in public affairs.
"This is a government that wants to be involved in and work alongside the community – rather than foisting a whole lot of unpopular ideas down its throat. New Zealand had enough of that in the 80s and 90s.”
“ I think by and large the public service has accepted that’s the way we work. Sometimes it will take a structural change. I avoid structural changes if at all possible,” she says.

Selective structural change

“ But sometimes a structural change is needed, as for example with the so-called Department of Work and Income,” she says.
“ This was a case of where the big change in culture came when WINZ was made a part of a Ministry of Social Development, which brought the policy people back together with the people who did the operational work and paid out the benefits.
" The next need was to appoint a head who was competent and farsighted. And that place is really going. I mean, it is just so much better,” she says.

Central-local government partnership

The first and second Clark coalition governments have been very clear that they wanted central government to work alongside local government.
“ Local government always felt like the spare wheel on the bike. Central government agencies in a district did not co-ordinate with local councils,” she says. “We were very clear that we wanted local government to be a partner.”
She notes that indications from local government leaders were that the change happened as early as a year into the first term of the Labour coalition government.
“ There was a feeling that out in the regions the government agencies were coming to local government, and the relationships were better,” she says.



"This government sets the tone from the top. This is a government that wants to be involved in and work alongside the community – rather than foisting a whole lot of unpopular ideas down its throat."