The briefings to incoming ministers revealed

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Dec 2017, 2:30PM
The Government Ministers on the day they were sworn in. (Photo / Getty)
The Government Ministers on the day they were sworn in. (Photo / Getty)

The briefings to incoming ministers revealed

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Dec 2017, 2:30PM

Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released.

Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims) which were released today on the the Beehive website.

Bims are released after a general election or a change in minister.

They provide an introduction to each portfolio and summarise key areas of policy and policy issues.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her new government on October 25.

Here are some of the highlights:


  • Health care waiting lists have recently become one of the most prominent complaints made about District Health Boards, the Health and Disability Commissioner has told the new Health Minister.
  • There were also issues which needed addressing within the midwifery care, aged care, disability support services, primary care, mental health, workplace culture and leadership and seamless service delivery, the commissioner said.


  • State housing agencies said the new Government's plan to increase its social housing supply by 1000 a year could impact the cost and speed at which it happens.
  • A new report to the housing minister showed - a total of $21.6m was spent on emergency housing grants in the six months to September this year - driven by higher demand than expected.
  • Housing New Zealand has identified a need for a long term sustainable financial strategy as it grapples with an increased need for social housing.

In the state housing agency's briefing to the new housing minister Phil Twyford released today it said rents alone were not sufficient to cover its operating costs "let alone costs of land, and building".


  • State-owned universities and polytechnics have embarked on a building spree that will increase their combined debt by more than half, from $452 million at the end of last year to $697 million next year, the Tertiary Education Commission says.
  • The Education Review Office says it is still concerned about the quality of some home-based early childhood education services. A review of home-based early education is one of the office's six immediate priorities, along with reviewing learning support, Special Education Grants, guidance counsellor funding, teacher training and more effective school evaluation.
  • Education Minister Chris Hipkins will receive an Education Ministry report this month setting out a business case for education growth in Auckland over the next 10 years.
  • The Education Ministry says it planned to provide a Cabinet paper for Education Minister Chris Hipkins last month on extending the voluntary bonding scheme to all Auckland schools.

Former minister Nikki Kaye told teachers before the election that the scheme, which pays up to $17,500 off student loans for beginning teachers who work for at least three years in decile 1 schools, would be extended to all Auckland schools to meet a desperate teacher shortage, but the National Cabinet did not consider the proposal before the election.

Hipkins said there was no Budget funding for the proposed extension, creating "a $37.5 million hole" in the education budget. He has promised a pre-Christmas package to tackle the teacher shortage which may include extending the grant scheme.

Crime and Justice

  • The prison population is expected to soar to more than 12,000 by 2026, Corrections has revealed to its new Minister.
  • In the Labour Government's first 100 days in power, police are keen to address firearms legislation and policy with their new Minister.

And the organisation will seek the Minister's views on a range of other issues affecting the frontline including gangs and family harm, fleeing drivers and road policing.

  • Pressure on the criminal justice system pipeline is currently the sector's most "significant challenge".

In 2015/16 the number of cases completed by Crown Solicitors increased, on average, by 6 per cent.

And In the 2017/18 financial year, there is expected to be an increase of 358 cases on the previous financial year.

  • There will be less focus on the resolution of historical treaty claims, but the role and place of Māori in relation to contemporary policy issues – whether health, the environment or the justice system – will become increasingly important.
  • The Crown Law Office will receive $300,000 to deliver Solicitor General guidelines on the prosecution of sexual violence cases and training for Crown prosecutors based on these guidelines.


  • The Ministry of Transport has told new Transport Minister Phil Twyford that rapid technological changes are making it more difficult to estimate future infrastructure demand, raising the risk of over-investing in some physical projects and a poor return. Things like smart vehicle-to-vehicle technologies allowing more vehicles to travel of roads, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing are on the horizon.
  • The Ministry of Transport says "we are reaching the stage where expensive land acquisitions or tunnels would be required to expand major transport corridors, making these developments prohibitively expensive or disruptive" "In Auckland, there are few opportunities to build or expand transport corridors due to its challenging geography. Auckland's motorway network will be largely complete once the Western Ring Route is constructed."
  • Helicopter accidents are a particular focus for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Of the 13 open aviation inquiries at the end of July, 10 involved helicopters, four of which relate to Robinson helicopters. Robinson helicopters were added to watchlist in 2016 as a result of accidents involving a phenomenon known as mast bumping. Three helicopter accidents in the past 12 months have been in the tourism sector.

  • The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is also making inquiries involving cruise ships and safety at rail level crossings.


  • Environment officials have recommended their new minister begin by addressing a tax on bottled water, amid dire warnings about growing demands for freshwater in New Zealand.

They also believe regional councils should have increased powers, so they could potentially claw back consents where catchments are over-allocated.

  • The Department of Conservation says its key challenges are:

- Continued decline of native threatened species 
- Insufficient knowledge of species biology, populations, distribution and threats 
- A biodiversity challenge that extends beyond public conservation lands and waters, that government cannot address alone
- Insufficient understanding of the contribution of our unique nature and heritage to our nation's economic, cultural and social success is not well understood by the public
- The need to deepen effective and enduring relationships with our Treaty partners in a post-settlement era
Unprecedented growth in tourism is changing funding needs, and expectations of the Department – putting pressure on facilities, but creating opportunities to increase investment in conservation 
- Changing demographics, and a fast-moving digital world that is rapidly altering the ways people connect to the world around them

Internal Affairs

  • Archives NZ is in crisis and its ability to function is compromised by the lack of space and earthquake safety issues. New buildings are required. There is no longer space to accept anything new in Wellington, according to a briefing to the Internal Affairs Minister.

Natural disasters

  • The Earthquake commisison accepts that "mistakes and missteps" were made after the devastating Canterbury earthquake sequence 2010-2011. 
    The incoming EQC minister has been told that lessons have been learned from the unprecedented event, including EQC's need for "early, ongoing and effective" communication with residents and for clear and simple claim processes to not add extra stress for people.
  • The Natural Disaster Fund (NDF) is expected to be "fully exhausted" after all Canterbury and Kaikoura quake claims are settled, and will take at least 10 years to replenish.
  • Following the Canterbury earthquake the Human Rights Commission recommended that property rights legislation be improved and the adoption of a human rights approach to future disaster recovery situations to comply with international standards and emphasise non-discrimination, participation and accountability.
  • The mental health of Cantabrians has been severely impacted after the earthquake, the Human Rights Commission reported. Demand for child and youth mental health services has risen 73 per cent since the earthquakes. Around 35 per cent of surveyed Canterbury District Health Board staff had poor emotional wellbeing.

Defence and national security

  • Up to one in six deployed personnel could have some form of long-term mental health issue arising from experiences during service.
  • New Zealand faces significant threats but its security services are managing the risk, the NZSIS and GCSB told new minister Andrew Little.

Four key threats against New Zealand are cyber security, violent extremism and espionage - and one mystery threat which the intelligence community will not release.

The briefing carries a blanked-out section leaving a question mark of the fourth major threat facing New Zealand. That differs from the last briefing which identified six threats to New Zealand and detailed them all.

  • Jacinda Ardern has been urged to keep speaking openly about issues of national security in her role as minister in charge of keeping New Zealand safe.
    The briefing from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet told Ardern that "it has been rare for Prime Ministers and the national security system as a whole to openly provide information about national security issues to the public".

Social issues

  • Families with children, particularly one-parent and Maori and Pacific families, experience much higher levels of discrimination in the private rental market, the Human Rights Commission has told incoming Minister Phil Twyford.

The Commission intends to ask Twyford to enact better rental legislation that gives more security towards tenants with children and vulnerable adults.

  • Steps by police to tackle hate crimes and racism are currently "insufficient", the Human Rights Commission has reported. Details of the crimes need to be recorded by a central system, otherwise the victimisation experienced by these people is largely invisible.

New Zealand's diversity is increasing and tensions have arisen including hate speech, vandalism, desecration of cemeteries and religious places, workplace discrimination and concerns people are being radicalised.

  • There is an urgent need to reduce the risk of radicalisation and violent extremism by using community-based strategies and programmes to support residents, the Human Rights Commission warned. They recommend the Government to develop a national strategy that aligns prevention, inclusion and rehabilitation programmes.

Social tensions can arise between diverse communities as pressures upon housing, social services, misunderstandings of New Zealand's social norms and an increase in cultural and religious differences. The Commission suggested an increased emphasis on education to foster a sense of inclusiveness between and among communities.

  • Almost a quarter of Kiwis identify as having a disability, the Human Rights Commission identified. This is due to increase with New Zealand's aging population.

This group do not fare as well as non-disabled people. They are twice as likely to be unemployed, earn $200 less a week when they are employed and 20 per cent of them are under-utilised and want more work (compared with 5 per cent in the general labour market). Disabled children are more likely to be bullied and the number not in education, employment or training is four times higher than the mainstream.

The Disability Rights Commissioner will focus on education and employment sectors as key areas that determine a person's life course.

  • The Human Rights Commission is challenged by fewer staff than they had a decade ago and tight organisational funding. Since 2007 they have undergone two significant restructures to manage cost pressures and put staff on a performance-based pay system.
  • Using the paid parental leave extension to encourage men to take time off to care for their child is one of the suggestions the new Government has received to improve the lives of Kiwi women. It was revealed in the breifing to the Ministry for Women.
  • New Zealand has one of the highest rates of residential mobility among developed countries. It is nearly twice that of the United Kingdom. This is accompanied by very low levels of social housing tenancies and decreasing levels of home ownership.

Business and finance

  • Inland Revenue confirms it'll shed 25-30% of staff over the next few years as part of its ambitious IT upgrade.

The documents can be viewed at:


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