Chief Ombudsman's Strategic Intentions - 2022 to 2027
As Aotearoa New Zealand’s Ombudsman, I give effect to a number of key democratic and human rights measures aimed at safeguarding the rights of people and promoting government accountability and transparency.
I am appointed by Parliament to carry out activities balanced between:
- a reactive focus on resolving complaints from the public about government administrative conduct and access to official information, as well as disclosures about serious wrong-doing; and
- a proactive focus on identifying, resolving, and investigating systemic issues, monitoring compliance and good practice, and providing advice, guidance, and training.
Over this year and the next four years I will maintain and strive to continually improve my existing practices in the areas of complaints-handling, systemic investigations, OPCAT examination, disability rights, and provision of agency learning and advice. I will also continue to expand my proactive activities, including my increased responsibilities for monitoring key agency activity in a principled and effective manner.
Parliament recognises the important work I do which helps ensure Aotearoa New Zealand continues to be one of the best democracies in the world in terms of openness, transparency, and accountability. My role in the area of examining the treatment of people in detention continues to adapt and change in response to lasting effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic and what is considered a ‘place of detention’ for isolation or quarantine purposes.
I will continue to build focused oversight of complaints-handling and systemic oversight, monitoring and intervention of those agencies involved with supporting children in care, in particular Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children. I am also now resourced to grow my expanded role in the area of protected disclosures, and that will be a focus in the years ahead.
I am committed to Te Ao Māori transformation within my office and have made a solid and demonstrable start to our journey. While I am independent of the Crown, I have an obligation to apply the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and certainly to ensure the Crown agencies do. And so, enhancing fairness to Maori will be a continuing strong focus.
My initial four-year programme to develop and sustain a support network with my fellow integrity institutions in the Asia-Pacific region has been extended for a further three years by Parliament through to 30 June 2026. I intend to maintain and enhance these expanded functions. As the Second Vice President of the International Ombudsman Institute I am expected to perform a global leadership role. I shall do this but with particular emphasis on the Pacific.
The global pandemic has had a significant and ongoing impact on Aotearoa New Zealand with continued and new challenges arising in the changing environment. Last year, these events required significant agility within my office to address issues raised by the pandemic across a number of fronts.
I also had to adapt my OPCAT examination approach and priorities to respond to the significant numbers of people who were placed into isolation across the country, culminating most recently in oversight and inspection of alternative isolation accommodation for persons who have not place in which to isolate while COVID positive. I also received the most complaints in New Zealand Ombudsman history with a 31 percent increase compared with the previous year.
With my predictive data modelling, I expect the trend of high complaints to continue this year, in particular with the New Zealand general election in 2023 and the cost of living crisis now being experienced by New Zealanders. Significant efforts will continue to manage any ongoing surge in complaints, with dedicated resources provided by Parliament.
The ability to pivot and adapt my approach and apply my resources granted by Parliament to meet these circumstances is a feature of my organisation that I intend to continue to ensure there is Tuia kia ōrite - Fairness for all in Aotearoa New Zealand.