In New Zealand, the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is considered effective as it protected people’s lives with limited affectations to the society and the economy. A key factor for achieving these results was the focus on collective goals, grounded in the high-trust relationship that exists between New Zealanders and their public institutions. Still, high levels of trust should not be taken for granted. As new challenges emerge and old ones reappear, people in New Zealand expect the government to build on the lessons from the pandemic to improve service delivery and the resilience of public institutions.

As is the case for many other countries, the economic context in New Zealand is deteriorating, with increased levels of inflation that could undermine people’s living conditions in the short term. In parallel, and despite a recent moderation housing prices have risen drastically in recent years, sparking a debate on intergenerational equality and whether future generations will be able to achieve a standard of living similar to todays. Global warming, moreover, increases the likelihood of environmental disasters intensified by New Zealand’s natural exposure and high reliance on natural resources, raising the stakes on government’s ability to effectively manage intergenerational and global challenges. At the same time, New Zealand continues to address its colonial legacy and strives to reconcile the rights and expectations of all population groups composing the country. Preserving public trust will be essential to maintain the legitimacy of public institutions, nurture social cohesion and effectively address these challenges.

This report draws on quantitative information collected through the 2021 OECD Trust survey implemented in New Zealand alongside 21 other OECD countries. In addition, it relies on the insights provided in more than 40 interviews with government officials, civil society representatives and academics in New Zealand as well as the input provided by the Steering Group created by the New Zealand administration to accompany this project. Following Korea in 2018, Finland in 2021 and Norway in 2022, this is the fourth OECD country study in the series “Building Trust in Public Institutions”. It is the first study to benefit from a large set of comparative data collected through the OECD Trust Survey that allows New Zealand to be benchmarked against other small, advanced economies and other anglophone countries with a similar institutional or cultural background.

Drivers of Trust in Public Institutions in New Zealand emphasises the importance of making public services more responsive by ensuring that all public services use “learning loops” to address citizen feedback. It also recognizes the potential of further integrating long-term thinking into policy making with an emphasis on institutional memory and technical capacity. Finally, it stresses the need to develop a holistic approach to counter the spread of mis- and disinformation and to further strengthen the integrity system.

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