Fixing CYFs: Paula Rebstock is asked to “rescue” another state agency



I MUST CONFESS to being unimpressed by Paula Rebstock. The only time I have ever encountered her in the flesh was at a seminar organised by the Child Poverty Action Group’s Susan St John. Ms Rebstock mumbled through a page or two of deadly-dull bureaucratese, failed to answer a couple of questions, and left.

This lacklustre performance confirmed my view of Ms Rebstock as, ideologically-speaking, a safe pair of hands. Her review of New Zealand’s welfare system is as bloodless a piece of neoliberal “analysis” as any right-wing government could hope for – and its ramifications are still reverberating through beneficiary households across New Zealand.

Not that Ms Rebstock will ever witness the effects of her recommendations. Not for her the moral anguish of Work & Income case-workers forced (on pain of becoming beneficiaries themselves) to purge as many of their “clients” from the benefit rolls as possible. She’s never there to hear the sobs of a woman already down on her luck, when the fine-grinding machinery of the MSD delivers an even bigger sack of shame and misery to her door. It will not be Ms Rebstock who ends up staring into the twin muzzles of a double-barrelled shotgun wielded by a crazed beneficiary with nowhere left to go and absolutely nothing to lose.

The Rebstocks of this world are spared the close-up consequences of their recommendations. They are experts at reading between the lines of their terms of reference to discover exactly what it is that their commissioning ministers are expecting from them – and delivering it. So it was with Paula Bennett’s welfare review, and so it will be with Anne Tolley’s review of Child Youth and Family (CYF).

Once again in the lead role, Ms Rebstock will not have to work too hard to decode the meaning of Ms Tolley’s comment that: “CYF has drafted its own internal modernisation strategy and while it is a good starting point, it doesn’t go far enough.”

It is an axiom of the neoliberal credo that civil servants are the last people one should consult to discover what is wrong with the civil service. Where others might see a group of dedicated professionals struggling to do their jobs with insufficient staff and dwindling resources, the neoliberal sees only a clutch of self-aggrandizing empire-builders, hell-bent on squandering as much of the taxpayers hard-earned cash as they can hood-wink their ministers into giving them.

For the neoliberal “reviewer”, any “modernisation strategy” prepared by CYF’s own staff could only be a thinly-disguised plea for more staff and more resources. Even worse, it would, almost certainly, be based on the professional judgement of its miracle-working “back room” managers, and informed by “front-line” experiences of its exhausted social workers. Obviously, such people lack all objectivity – not to mention the “extensive governance experience” of Ms Rebstock. When it comes to developing a “modernisation strategy”, or constructing an “improvement framework”, she will know, to the millimetre, exactly how far is “far enough”.

TDB Recommends

It’s possible, of course, that Ms Rebstock has grown tired of churning out reviews which blithely recommend the application of market instruments, metrics and incentives to the State’s dysfunctional delivery of social services. Perhaps, determined that this commission will be her last, she won’t present a report telling the minister what she wants to hear, but what she needs to know.

That would entail a comprehensive critique of New Zealand’s post-colonial economic and social system, and the fate of the colonised within it. It would expose the profound lack of realism in CYF’s official mission by acknowledging the futility of attempting to repair the damage inflicted upon children and young persons by broken families, when the forces responsible for breaking those families in the first instance cannot in any way be restrained.

Such a review would point out the impossibility of accomplishing genuine healing in circumstances where the only people in a position to rehabilitate the victims of abuse and neglect are people who were themselves the victims of abuse and neglect – not only by their own families, but by the State.

If Ms Rebstock really wanted to be rid of the burden of delivering reports which offer no better solutions than ever more draconian sanctions for the delinquent behaviour of an underclass entirely lacking the wherewithal to be anything other than a social disaster, then she would write a report that demanded for children, young persons and their families the dignity of work; the security of a well-appointed and affordable dwelling; a comprehensive mental health service for those whose minds are damaged; and a CYF agency in full possession of the staff and the resources needed to fulfil its legal and moral obligations to this nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

In other words, Ms Rebstock and her fellow review panellists ( Police Commissioner, Mike Bush; Charity Director, Duncan Dunlop; Maori Advisor, Helen Leahy; and Psychology Professor Ritchie Poulton) would need to present a report recommending the dismantling of the entire neoliberal régime.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.


  1. I’ve worked at management level in the public sector and you’ve described it perfectly. I couldn’t face a career of brown nosing to politicians so I left to become self employed. Sad, because I did actually like my job, but it’s hard when you are being forced to make compromises (e.g. sack people) that you don’t believe in.

  2. Just wiki ed her. This is some info.

    Paula Rebstock, CNZM,[1] is an Auckland-based consultant and company director who served as the Chair of the New Zealand Commerce Commission until March 2009. Originally from Montana in the United States, Rebstock has lived in New Zealand since 1987.[2]

    Rebstock has a double degree in international relations and economics from the University of Oregon,[3] and a Masters Degree in Economics from the London School of Economics.

    After graduation she initially worked in New York before moving to New Zealand in 1987 where she was employed by the Treasury as an economist. She served in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as an economics advisor and subsequently as General Manager Policy with the Department of Labour.[4]

    In August 1998 she was appointed as an Associate Commissioner of the Commerce Commission, becoming Chair in 2003. She was re-appointed as Chair in 2006 until 2009.[5]

    Paula is the Deputy Chairwoman of New Zealand Railways Corporation, Chairwoman of the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman Commission, Chair of Probation Expert Panel (Probation Service) and a Member of the Shared Services Establishment Board (Health).

    She was formerly Chair of the Commerce Commission and a Director of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. She has also held positions in Treasury, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Department of Labour.

    Paula Rebstock is based in Auckland.

  3. With regard to the CV of Paula above. She is from the US, educated elsewhere, and seems to be on the board of some of the most under performing companies or organisations in NZ!

    Paula is the Deputy Chairwoman of New Zealand Railways Corporation,

    Hello, railway is a joke in NZ!

    Chairwoman of the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman Commission,

    Savings in NZ are a joke and look at the insurance industry too and Chch!

    Chair of Probation Expert Panel (Probation Service)

    Didn’t escaped murderer Phillip Smith just go off on a trip to South America after being on Probation?

    and a Member of the Shared Services Establishment Board (Health).

    Health system is in crisis.

    Get some guts, and put in Kiwi raised and educated Kiwis who can actually get REAL results not just Fuck everything up by cutting costs and move on and claim zero responsibility!

    What an underwhelming CV! CYPS are fucked with her doing the ‘review’!

    • 1000% SaveNZ.

      “With regard to the CV of Paula above. She is from the US, educated elsewhere, and seems to be on the board of some of the most under performing companies or organisations in NZ!

      Paula is the Deputy Chairwoman of New Zealand Railways Corporation, Hello, railway is a joke in NZ!

      Kiwirail Board is equally as devoid of anyone who would be experienced to run a railway in the first place.

      Chair is Avery nasty man with no history of rail John Spencer.

      We have had the First “selected CEO” handpicked by Nasty NatZ Jim Quinn who was senior management of Courier Post before so he didn’t have any previous Rail history either.

      So you see a pattern here of hiring numb nuts who know absolutely nothing about the industry they are in charge of and everything about obeying their masters the Government who tell them what to do to wreck our railways.

      That is because this Government hate rail and who know absolutely nothing about running an efficient railway system, so this says that rail has been set up to fail by this criminal Nasty NatZ Party.

      There was a seismic shift in Politics last Saturday as Winston sailed home to run Northland with their broken Railway, and now has vowed to come save our broken Napier Gisborne railway also.

      Watch this space. “Help is on its way” Northland and HB/Gisborne rail.


        You have done excellent work here by posting these two links.

        Now,instead of two speeches that are easily forgotten,you
        have provided documentation of what is in Winston’s mind and
        some crucial policy of NZF that would kick start NZ to a better
        place for all.

        I am sure that under his leadership the railway workshops
        would never have been shut down and those new trains would
        have been built here saving us huge amounts of money.
        Not only was their tender cheaper, those trains were endless
        Not only having to widen tunnels but problems of cutting out tracks and other malfunctions.
        It was a no-brainer to keep the manufacture here with our
        highly skilled people and with other job spinoffs.

        The other biggy he talked about was the monetary system
        he knows is detrimental to us all,especially our main base of
        farming and exporters.

        He also knows that proper transport policy/infrastructure is one of the most important assets any successful and thriving
        country can have. (just ask Germany)

        So well done, mate.
        Now we have a resource to point any doubting Thomas’s to
        Winston’s sincerity.


        • Yes Iain,

          And The time line for destruction of our rail seems to be inline with this Government’s deliberate pouring of excessive amounts of money into Truck freight routes after they passed the ludicrous HPMV longer heavier “High productivity Motor vehicle” amendments twice in 6 yrs now that have forced us to need to upgrade all our country’s bridges for free as this Trucking industry is privately owned as well as a great proportion are overseas owned.

          So Government will use our hard earned tax dollars to subsidise the road transport privateers while they throttle rail a state owned asset, this clearly shows how National intend to kill rail dead and leave road as a monopoly predator to screw us all to the deck with a “cartel” transport pricing, since rail won’t be there as competition if they get away with killing rail.

          SaveNZ said;

          “Just wiki ed her. This is some info. Paula Rebstock, CNZM,[1] is an Auckland-based consultant and company director who served as the Chair of the New Zealand Commerce Commission until March 2009. Originally from Montana in the United States, Rebstock has lived in New Zealand since 1987”


          The time line should be looked into here also,
          As this woman looks a lot like John Key in her actions as another smiling assassin?

          She leaves her homeland US in 1987 and John key sets up the infamous Currency raid on the NZ dollar partnered to Andy Krieger the ruthless currency trader at this time also in 1987, and then left US also?

          Are these two similar characters of Rebstock/Key that both wound up here after departing the US at the same time 1987 actually working behind the scenes against us all?

          • This is a good link in principle , but if you look at thebottom of the article ,its almost like spying, saying they use us to work out advertising etc,check that out but don’t reply to them .

          • CLEANGREEN;

            Well said.
            And another bloody good link-again!
            Except for the Key ‘spin’ at the end,off course.


  4. Anne Tolley smugly responded to the suggestion that the restructuring of CYF might be for cost saving reasons by saying that the new structure (involving the use of more contracting private providers) might not save money. Indeed it might be more expensive.

    Hardly a surprise there, since the changes appear to be principled by doctrine rather than effectiveness. The private providers have to make a profit, after all.

    This “incremental extremist” attack on the State sector reminds me so much of life under Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble. After years of passively watching others consigned to the scrap heap, the “restructuring” police finally arrived at your door.

    Meanwhile, like the experimental rats, we blithely swam round in the pot while the water little by little by little got warmer.

    • I understand Tolley expects a first deliverable to be a High Level Business case. Excuse me we use this terminology / approach when assessing IRR, Payback etcetera. The wellbeing and future of Children and Families are not fungible with Monetary / Business Case goals. That Tolley views the review in such a way strongly indicates that she is unsuited to set the terms of reference and appoint / engage investigators. Another strong indicator of her unsuitability is the absence of professionals from the department.

    • NICK;

      Yes,this contracting out to ‘private providers’ has to be one of the
      insidious ways any country loses control of it’s own future.

      It ALWAYS costs more and ALWAYS to the detriment of the population!

      Even more reason to get Key and co out sooner rather than later.


  5. One is tempted to compare Rebstock to the likes of Pinochet’s minister of everything–José Piñera Echenique in respect of her mobility through different branches of right wing academia, think tanks and the periphery of government itself.

    Certainly Pinochet had an armed dictatorship to help usher in his Chicagoesque reforms where as at this stage the Key/ACT lot just have manufactured consumer consent with state forces/surveillence back up if anyone takes freedom of speech and association too seriously.

    But none the less, Rebstock is the filthiest of ‘change managers’ laying waste to the public service legacy of generations of kiwis.

  6. Memorandum of Understanding needs to be recognized with the Ministry Government it’s employees, and the People they Serve. Puao-te-ata-tu needs to be upheld in honored so they never lose focus of the Child’s Welfare and their Social development needs. Helping to keep the Government accountable for better delivery of service, including improved whanau support services.

  7. How much has Rebstock been paid over the years, by we the people, for having her snout in the public trough?

  8. The key to improvement in contentious services (education, health, prisons, benefits of various sorts etc) is to seek and ensure that those who are least benefiting from the current structure are at the heart of the decision-making process. (This almost inevitably leads to the holistic analysis that Chris is writing of). It is not only about money, it is also about control, buy-in and focus.

    This kind of responsiveness is even less likely to be achieved when a layer of private providers is imposed on an overwhelmed and under-resourced system.

  9. Thank you Chris. Everything I had suspected explained with crystal clarity.
    In the past such anti-establishment views may have been given expression to the public by formerly independent news outlets like TVNZ or the Listener. Healthy debate.

    Fat chance now. All effectively governed by the nasty, anti-social elements who employ people like Rebstock to do their societal damage.

  10. Once again, it wouldn’t need fixing if it hadn’t been allowed to fall into disrepair in the first place. Why not send Mr Fix-it (Steven Joyce) to do the job. Oh, I forgot, he’s not Mr Fix-it anymore, he’s become Mr F….it up”

  11. Once again the pure white middle class deciding what is best for working and unemployed classes

  12. Chris
    Your article has been shared with lots of people who were at the CPAG welfare symposium you mentioned. We were astonished at her low energy and disdain of the day when she had been given the chance of communicating her welfare working group ideas to a group that were very very keen to hear from her. Top people from Australia had given of their time to come to the day but she left learning nothing and giving nothing.

    A superb piece that says it all thank you Chris

  13. CYFS is entirely dysfunctional, and has been for some time. The current state of affairs is nothing to do with money, nothing to do with more resourcing. The rot is at the very heart of this organisation, with it’s obsession with politically correct jargon and dogma.

    • Totally agree.
      I know people that have worked there & it sounds like to much PC & Powhiri & not enough helping children in actual need.

  14. Chris;

    Excellent analysis.

    I am afraid we only have to look at what’s happening in UK and America to see that this is an ideology being rolled out to the west and far worse is to come.

    Your comment “the dismantling of the entire neoliberal regime” is of course the heart of the matter.

    So how do we do that?

    I sincerely believe our only option is for us ALL to get in behind
    If Syriza in Greece can do it, so can we.

    See my comment in Martyn’s column “National&the Greens worst nightmare……” march 31.
    Otherwise things will only get worse and go on for ever.


  15. Child abuse is just another Crown run industry. First you drag as many people into welfare/ warfare slavery as you can, then have your banks counterfeit money to cause inflation- making it near impossible to live without somehow breaking the law, mostly welfare laws re work etc. Then you can take the children off the parents hands and do ‘as you please’ with them. When things finally get too out of control- like with 100% inflation in just 7 years with no increase in welfare payments- you finally come out with another tax payer funded ‘investigation’ and review led by one of your top child abuse agents. Pose as the saviors – even as you abuse more children than ever before.

  16. I couldn’t have said it better myself Chris. The neo-liberalist agenda to ‘responsibilise the the citizen’ naturally leads to the situation of governments and agencies ‘iresponsibilising’ themselves from the trauma and stigma created. Linda Liebenberg*, Michael Ungar, and Janice Ikeda (2013) write beautifully on this issue and how the government agenda causes organisations to stop working with people (no matter how distressed they are) and to ‘close cases’ purely due to ‘disengagement’ of the people concerned.

    Where has the community of concern gone? Where is the philosophy of a nation supporting its citizens to fulfil their potential? The hypocrisy of Key, Bennett et. al who both benefitted upon the support of the state to help them find a place in society seems to be lost on the general public of NZ.

    CYF workers continue to work with the most difficult of children and families and in the most harrowing of services with ever decreasing budgets, training, support and ever increasing case loads. No thoughts to being able to work pro-actively, or in a preventative manner, only enough resources to work with the people who are in the gravest of situations.

    As a nation we should be ashamed, the government will probably applaud themselves though…..

  17. Someone posted on the standard that there are currently 5 sitting MP’s with name suppression for child abuse.

    If that is true it is truly awful.

    What a failure of the system to keep kids safe!

    Look at Baron Janner of Braunstone currently being investigated in the UK for child abuse YEARS after it was reported. They would not investigate at the time.

    He is a British Labour politician, lawyer and author. A QC since 1971, he was a Labour MP from 1970 to 1997, since when he has been a member of the House of Lords.

    I guess who you are makes a difference to investigations and putting in Paula R might be some MP’s idea, not just be for ideology but something even more disgusting to make it even more dysfunctional and keep that child abuse going.

    • I met Janner when I was a primary school child living in his constituency. Without saying too much….yuk, in the 5 minutes that he spoke with me, I was expertly groomed…..

      • @Socialworker

        If that is the case, report it! Apparently Janner is senile now and they were not going to prosecute, but it is important that he is held to account in an investigation. Only by brave victims coming forward no matter how minor the abuse was, is a picture established of whether they were guilty or not and the level of offending.

        Look at Rolf Harris, he was abusing woman and kids but just got away with it because he was a celebrity.

        In NZ, the police like Shipton etc getting away with it so long, and the roast busters. It just puts normal police and MP’s in a bad light having this type of abuse being covered up.

    • SAVE NZ;

      Yes it is true and truly awful.
      There is much,much more to come out about this including many
      top people in Europe.
      And some people in very high places.


  18. Heartened by the responses here. Ive been a CYF social worker and now a researcher. I’m close to what is happening and expect to be servicing this “group” and it’s terms of reference with information requests that may or may not be noticed. That the groups T0R includes the Investment Aproach not based on theory but an accounting model is incredulous here as it was in the undertaking of welfare reform. It’s an accounting model will no referencing to outcomes the outcomes we want for all and ourmost vulnerable children.

Comments are closed.