Annual Report 2010/11
1. Chief Executive's Foreword
In recent years the Department has developed into a more integrated organisation, providing consolidated, strategic advice on the labour market and improved frontline services.
The Department makes a significant contribution to the Government's overall goals by helping to grow the economy and improve the quality of New Zealanders' lives through a high-performing labour market and immigration and accident compensation systems.
Economic and fiscal uncertainty, the Pike River Coal mine tragedy, and the Canterbury earthquakes are all testing the Department. However, the Department has remained committed to delivering the Government's priorities and improving organisational performance. Resources were reprioritised, and staff demonstrated commitment and resilience to ensure core services continued to be provided.
I am pleased to report that the Department has delivered on ministerial priorities and achieved most of the performance measures set for the organisation. This was all achieved while undertaking significant organisational change that is designed to position the Department to deliver targeted and higher-quality services.
Maximising our outcome contribution
Our focus over the year has been on developing:
- a more effective immigration system
- a more effective labour market
- a better performing accident compensation system.
To achieve a more effective immigration system, the Department - through Immigration New Zealand - made significant improvements to service delivery, best illustrated by the improvements in the quality of our visa decision-making. These changes have seen an overall increase in the satisfaction levels of both clients and employers in the services that we offer.
Vital to achieving a more effective immigration system was the implementation of the Immigration Act 2009. This Act provides a modern legislative framework for Immigration New Zealand to function effectively in an increasingly complex global market.
This progress to a more effective immigration system has seen some real benefits for New Zealand. Over the last two years, Immigration New Zealand has attracted $660 million in potential investment capital through its Business Migration Package. In the last year, over 11,500 migrants came to New Zealand under the Skilled Migrant Category. The Department has also increased its support to the tourism and export education sectors to maximise their economic contribution.
Developing an integrated labour market perspective enabled the Department to provide advice to decision-makers on welfare reform and Auckland's economic potential.
The Department focused on improving the quality and performance of the labour market through regulatory and legislative changes, primarily to the Holidays Act 2003 and Employment Relations Act 2000.
The Department continued to develop innovative initiatives to bring down the death and injury rates in our workplaces. The Harm Reduction Programme was introduced which targets key sectors, such as agriculture, that have persistent health and safety problems. Health and safety has had a high profile over the last year and it is encouraging to see more employers being proactive in addressing hazards.
The Department provided policy advice about future options for the accident compensation scheme, including the introduction of choice into the Work Account and extending the successful Accredited Employers' Programme.
Responding to external events
The Pike River Coal mine tragedy and Canterbury earthquakes have placed extraordinary demands on the Department. In both cases, our staff mobilised to provide operational support to the first responders to the events, and followed up with quality policy initiatives to support Canterbury.
The Department's investigation into the Pike River Coal mine tragedy is one of the largest it has ever undertaken. An independent safety audit of other underground coal mines concluded there were no immediate dangers in the mines. The Department is supporting the work of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River Coal mine tragedy by providing information about the mine and the Department's regulatory framework. At year end, the Government provided financial support for the Department to establish the High Hazards Unit. This unit will improve the Department's capability and capacity to discharge our duties in the extractives and petroleum/geothermal sectors.
The Department's response to the Canterbury earthquakes was across the spectrum of our services - health and safety, employment relations, immigration, and labour market advice. The Department supported businesses by providing health and safety and employment advice, and also has a continuing role to ensure damaged buildings are assessed and demolished safely and efficiently. Immigration New Zealand issued automatic six-month visa extensions for any foreign national whose visa application could not be processed because of the earthquake. The Department worked closely with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to assist with labour market issues.
It is a credit to the professional commitment of our staff that the Department successfully managed these significant impacts while continuing to transform the organisation and meet service and advisory commitments.
A changing organisation
I have continued to drive organisational and operational change with the assistance of my Strategic Leadership Team. I am determined that the Department's structural base and operational processes are fit for purpose and enable us to deliver improved services with sustainable funding.
Our policy and research teams were consolidated into a strategically focused Policy and Research Group with clear objectives. The new structure is a better framework for providing the Government with authoritative and credible advice.
The Labour Group has begun a restructuring process that will conclude in mid 2012. The intent is to develop a Group that provides more direct, targeted, high-quality services delivered more efficiently and effectively.
Immigration New Zealand has addressed nearly all the recommendations from reviews undertaken internally and by the Office of the Controller and Auditor-General, the State Services Commission, and Ernst and Young. A new leadership structure and team is in place. There have been improvements in core service delivery, increased focus on attracting the skills and investment the country needs, and enhancements to the integrity of the immigration system.
Corporate functions were centralised to provide shared services and eliminate duplication.
Improving value for money
The Department is operating under a fixed baseline with significant cost pressures that are being managed within the context of Four Year Budget Plans.
The staff ceiling cap for the Department has also reduced from 2,044 at the end of 2009/10 to 2,024 at 30 June 2011 and is forecast to reduce further over the next year. Despite the cost pressures and reducing staff numbers, the Department will continue to deliver its outputs in a cost-effective way.
The Better Administrative and Support Services (BASS) benchmarking report released by the Treasury in 2010 found that a more efficient public sector could return significant savings. On the basis of these results the Department established a target of one percent savings per annum for administrative and support costs (refer Statement of Intent 2011-2014).
The Immigration and Labour change programmes are focused on business process and operational improvements to provide more flexible, lower-cost delivery models over the medium term.
We can take pride in what the Department has achieved in 2010/11. The organisation has demonstrated resilience and flexibility in delivering planned services and new initiatives, while responding to unprecedented demands from external events.
I will be leaving the Department of Labour at the end of 2011 to take up a position as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
I am proud of how the Department has developed and want to place on the record my thanks to all those who have helped the organisation improve its performance over the last four years. In particular, I want to thank staff for their dedication and professionalism in helping to achieve my vision for the organisation.
I believe the Department is now well positioned to deliver targeted and high-quality services to its customers at reduced cost. It can provide integrated and collaborative leadership to build a more flexible and dynamic labour market that is capable of delivering a better standard of living for all New Zealanders. I look forward to it realising that potential.
Secretary of Labour