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Moving mountains

Big change for better futures

State of the State New Zealand 2022

Aotearoa New Zealand is undergoing reform on a scale we’ve not seen in decades. With so much reform in progress across so many sectors, it’s never been more important to consider the key ingredients for successful reform. While the changes are often started by politicians, they impact people, businesses, and communities just as much as they affect our public services.

Executive Summary

Deloitte New Zealand’s State of the State 2022 explores what it will take to do reform well, and is informed by interviews with over 20 senior politicians, public servants, Māori leaders, business leaders, academics and researchers. Their insights have been invaluable as we have built a picture of reform in Aotearoa and developed recommendations for potential reformers.

Reform is all about big aspirations and sweeping changes rather than simple fixes, and they cannot be achieved by just re-ordering parts of the current system. Reform leaders need courage and creativity to build the shared narrative for where we are heading to, and how we will get there. They need to build collaboration and coalitions across multiple parts of the system, from private to public sector, and engage with community in deeper and more meaningful ways. And the new, reformed system must be​ created and operated even as the old system it replaces continues to serve, and impacted​ people are supported through the transition.​

It is costly, high-risk and resource-intensive to move mountains, and reform is not a path to be undertaken lightly. We can learn from the lessons of past reform, the reflections of current leaders of today’s change agenda, and look to other jurisdictions for leading practice. Through this report, we have developed a framework for successful reform that builds the compelling case for reform, establishes the “who”, “how”, and “what” for the reform, and navigates the journey with the right people and tools to deliver results for the long term.

As to whether there are credible alternatives to reform, our interviewees broadly agree: reform is an important lever that needs to be available in Government’s toolkit for achieving large-scale change, and there is no real alternative available today. But the way we carry out reform is not perfect, some reforms are less successful than others, and there are things that we can learn that could help us to become better reformers in future.

Our report paints a picture of successful reform that has been anchored in strong public narratives, a coordinated approach to shifting mindsets as well as legislation, regulation, policy and practice, and a cross-sector approach. We also identify some of the barriers to successful reform that need to be considered. Addressing shortages in talent, creating robust mechanisms for managing results inter-generationally, and creating a blueprint that can help reformers and their actions to remain relevant in a volatile and changing world.

Our conclusions draw on the unique context of Aotearoa – not least the opportunity that Te Tiriti o Waitangi affords us to ground our reforms in a strong and evolving Māori-Crown relationship that moves beyond engagement to collaborative innovation and governance.

One of our key recommendations is the establishment of a Reform Office that can review and challenge reform programmes, capture learning and share insights, hold Government to account for reform outcomes, and contribute to continuous improvement and learning. Because if you are going to take on the challenge of moving mountains in Aotearoa New Zealand, you need to make sure you do it well.

How do we move mountains?

Moving mountains

Big change for better futures

State of the State New Zealand 2022

Chapter one


Aotearoa New Zealand is caught up in the whirlwind of reform in many sectors of the economy. While these dramatic changes are being driven by Government, they impact people, businesses, and social sector organisations just as much as they affect the public service.

Chapter two

Why reform?

If you adhere to our definition of reform being large scale, multi-participant change to sweep aside what went before, then the threshold for proceeding with reform is high. 

Chapter three

A framework for reform

Whatever the nature, focus and extent of reform, all reform stories include three key dimensions – and the degree to which these are appropriately addressed directly impacts the success of the reform itself. 

Chapter four

Lessons from Aotearoa and overseas

Comparisons with other OECD countries show that Aotearoa is not shy about reform  and while there is variation in the reform agenda between countries, there is also a common pattern. 

Chapter 5

Ingredients for success

Our interviewees broadly agree: reform is an important lever that needs to be available in Government’s toolkit for achieving large-scale change. No credible alternative exists that can be deployed at scale as freely and effectively as reform. 

Chapter 6

Conclusion and recommendations

Explore our key conclusions and recommendations for successful reform.