67 000 State servants isn’t enough! NZ needs more State capacity – not less!


Here’s what our 63,000 public servants actually do – and why we have so many of them now

The new government is determined to reduce the number of public servants, decrying the serious growth seen under Labour. But the debate usually skips past who they are and what they do. Henry Cooke explains what a public servant is, what they do all day, how they grew under the last government, and how ours compare to others.

The first problem is working out who on earth we mean when we talk about “public servants”.

Do we strictly mean people in Wellington helping ministers develop policy? Or do we include, say, the caseworker at the MSD office down the road, or the security guard outside the door? It’s clear that someone writing policy at the Ministry of Education is a “public servant” – but what about the teachers? What about the folks at State Owned Enterprises like Transpower which runs the national electricity grid? What about the cops?

The lesson from Covid was that we need more State Capacity, NOT LESS!

We don’t just need more teachers, drs and nurses, we need new hospitals, now schools and new capacity!

New Zealand has an egregious infrastructure deficit in NZ!

The Left have to make the argument for a bigger capacity State funded by taxing the mega wealthy. They have to show where the money will come from and they have to show they will have a plan ready to go.

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Because our under regulated capitalism has been robbed of revenue by a rigged economic system that benefits the rich, we are desperately needing more hospitals, more passenger rail, roads, schools, storm repair, tens of thousands still waiting for State Houses

The reality is that we are not spending nearly enough and we need a far larger State capacity, not less of it!

There is a class war happening right in front of our eyes as the wealthy pour millions in donations to National and ACT while Climate Denying Federated Farmers join ACT and National push for landlords to have the power to evict when some of their biggest donors are Real Estate pimps.

The political project of the right is to amputate the State’s capacity to raise revenue so that it can’t be redistributed in the first place.


There are 14 Billionaires in NZ + 3118 ultra-high net worth individuals with over $50million each, why not start  start with them, then move onto the Banks, then the Property Speculators, the Climate Change polluters and big industry to pay their fair share before making workers pay more tax!

When Treasury is being for a capital Gains tax, you know shit has gone cray…

Treasury’s warning to new Government: Consider Capital Gains Tax quickly to plug spending hole

…Nationals 3 biggest donors (Hart, Mowbray and Bolton) have a combined net worth of 15 billion! The Bottom 50% of NZ has 23 billion.
The top 5% of NZers own roughly 50% of NZs wealth, while the bottom 50% of NZers own a miserable 5%!


Are those stats that live up to the egalitarian dream of NZ?

The ‘cash was splashed around’ by Labour as the price paid to prevent a mass death event from a once in a century pandemic.

Pretending otherwise is simply rewriting history while denying the underfunded present which dooms us in the future.

We need a bigger State, not a smaller one.

This is the time for the political Left to walk away from woke pure temple politics and embrace Broadchurch class solidarity.

Our under funded social infrastructure, our ‘me first’ consumerism, our 30 years of neoliberal mythology, our disconnection from one another, our untreated pain, our lack of hope from grinding poverty in a first world country, our damaged masculinity, the intergenerational consequences of colonialism, our unspoken rage culture, our inability to express emotion beyond anger – all of this demands questions we don’t want to hear as a society.

If we don’t provide people with Hope that there is a better way of being for us all, if we don’t provide vision that actually addresses the material well being of our voters, if we aren’t prepared to debate the expansion of State Capacity by taxing the mega wealthy and funding the climate change adaptation,  if we don’t do all that, this hard right racist Government will win again.



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  1. “This is the time for the political Left to walk away from woke pure temple politics and embrace Broadchurch class solidarity.”

    Pasifikans inclusive of Maori would probably say…”Yeah, nah.You do you”

    We got a culture war and decolonization to deal with, that includes your imported white pure temple politics and broadchurch class solidarity.

  2. @ MB. Great article. Keep em coming.
    ” …Nationals 3 biggest donors (Hart, Mowbray and Bolton) have a combined net worth of 15 billion! The Bottom 50% of NZ has 23 billion.
    The top 5% of NZers own roughly 50% of NZs wealth, while the bottom 50% of NZers own a miserable 5%!”
    Who enabled them to be so rich to make our economy so top heavy and to gather about them such corruption? I’d suggest we put the privateer criminals on a back burner and go after the politicians who enabled them because I can guarantee you, they’ll be dirty as fuck and will still be at it.
    Rogers cronies are still there, in and up OUR politics. They’re embedded within labour and born of National. Neo-Labour isn’t labour at all and hasn’t been since prior to the early 1980s. The implementation by national of the MMP logical fallacy was merely a way of watering down the potency of our politic. Our politics, as far as we’re concerned, is like herding deaf, one eyed special needs sheep through a narrow gate on a hillside into a gale. The moment they sense trouble they’ll scatter in all directions until the threat has passed, if it ever will. In our politics’ case they carpet bomb our MSM with junk news until we give up and get drunk.
    That’s why we must accept mandatory voting. We. Must. Vote! We must enrol, we must pay our regional and central taxes, we must adhere to common laws, we must abide by traffic rules and laws but we’re not required to vote. Why? Just a silly little oversight or are there other, more nefarious reasons to have us not bother with being involved with the direction we and our country take and instead leave it up to crooked politicians and hyper riche neo-liberals with rogers sweaty little finger prints all over their balls and bank statements.
    If you want to bring down a giant shoot the fuckers feet off. Find the politicians responsible for AO/NZ’s version of milton friedmans neo-liberalism and drag the bastards outside and grill them in broad daylight before they die and go to Hell with our money.
    That’s why we need a very public royal commission of inquiry into the relationships between the billionaires and the millionaires and the four now foreign owned banks. We can easily see that Hart, Mowbray and Bolton have influenced our politicians in a way that we normal people cannot. That’s not democracy. That’s fascism.
    The economy we have, the politics we have, the world we live within, isn’t of our making. We have poverty where there shouldn’t be poverty. We have hungry kids and homelessness in a rich country lumbering along under the weight of its own immense wealth and natural resources. We shouldn’t have poverty and a crumbling agrarian primary industry and multi-billionaires and multi-millionaires and four foreign gangster banksters running protection rackets with our house prices. We need to step the fuck up and stop this shit. ( Sorry, my blood’s up now.)

  3. Rubbish Martyn….everyone knows Teachers/Police /Drs and nurses are not what ACT means when they want to cut public servants.
    It’s the 15,000+ middle management and additional admin staff taken on last 6yrs.
    When the furore about the money spent on Pacific affairs leader moving, it was shown that there was about 20-25 staff in 2017 and now it’s 135!….what the hell does Pacific affairs dept do, what is their targets what was their results?
    So there is over 100 just for starters…just about 14k to go.

    • The problem is, when you remove administrators without reducing paperwork its the nurses, cops and teachers that have to do it. Or are you saying keeping accurate documentation in education and healthcare can be dispensed with? Or are you saying those lazy teachers/cops/doctors etc should just suck it up and burn out? Cops doing paperwork aren’t catching criminals or should we just forget about accurate paperwork and convict anyone accused? Doing away with back room admin is code for lumping their function/work onto already overworked teachers, cops and health professionals and damn the consequences… Moron.

      • 17,000 additional public sector jobs added 2017-2023….are you saying they are all vital, make the depts run more efficiently?
        Then why did almost all govt depts stats go down/worse during the 6yrs of Labour?
        What benefit became of bloating the public sector?
        Please explain….or, more likely, ignore the ‘problem’

        • The population in NZ in 2017 was 4.7m it is now 5.2m Thats an extra 500,000 people so the number of extra public servants per million population isn’t any where near as high as you suggest. Take into account the gutting public servant took during the Key govt which left it barely able to function. 17000 doesn’t really sound like enough. And thats before you take into account the lack of infrastructure maintenance the Nats deferred. I’m definitely not excusing the last govt for their inaction but i’m not blaming the public servants for that.. well not completely.

          • Kim, your intellect simply killed Im righties rhetoric and besides the 17,000 extra required to offset the thousands who left for Australia under National 9 years reign of terror. Oh tighty righty forgot to mention that his beloved National gutted the public sector even after they admitted the public sector do more with less all the while overburdening our country with an increase in immigrants. And then our infrastructure falls to bits, that’s Nationals legacy.

  4. You seem to be equating more public servants with better public services. Yet the Ardern-Hipkins managed to send almost every social statistic southward, despite swelling the ranks of the Wellington bureaucracy to unprecedented levels.

  5. Talking to a volunteer firefighter a couple of days ago, he surprised me by saying that a major reason for the recent spate of bushfires was the Chinese New Year: Idiots launching Chinese lanterns.
    I must admit I never saw THAT coming! LOL

  6. To many, Wellington translates to featherbed. One tiny example, but which really irritates me, is the bureaucrat who devised the “Road to Zero” road safety campaign, and spent a 5-figure sum on constructing enormous plastic models of a zero. This person (1) does not understand human nature; (2) does not understand the laws of physics, and (3) does not understand the random nature of events.
    And as if in proof, I gather last year’s road toll was an increase on the year before.
    The first ever pedestrian death from a car collision happened in England in 1896, and the coroner at the inquest, Percy Morrison, stated, “This must never happen again.” Percy’s relative lives on in Wellington.
    “Road to halving”: now, that’s ambitious, sensible, but not unrealistic.

  7. Bullshit.
    More public sector means more taxation of the people who work and run businesses.
    Nobody with a brain could look at New Zealand’s bloated and lazy public service and think we need more of it.

  8. How many dead beat staff did Elon get rid of at Twitter? Doesn’t seem to affect performance, in fact it’s running as should have always done, as a platform that allows all ideas.

    Oh and he got rid of the pedos hanging out on it too!!

      • I just did, if you remove the deadwood and the things waste peoples time, you don’t need so many body’s cluttering up the public services payroll.

        We all know why labour traditionally bloats the public sector, it’s to increase their voter base.

        Did you ever see “the day and life working for twitter” YouTube videos? Well that’s how I’d imagine 1000s of public servants spend their days.

        • I for one want the government to make sure my food, medicine, little sacks of puss or whatever is not killing me. Does it go overboard? Sometimes, but I’d prefer it exist than not.

  9. Begs the question what happens when the private hospitals are burnt to the ground by a disgruntled working class?

    Or the private schools?

    Who will cover the cost then?

    Oh yeah that right, the right will use the state then.

    Socialism for the rich, serfdom for the rest of us.

  10. What you on about Ignatius?…..are you advocating burning down buildings/institutions? (And remember, the NZ Health regularly sends patients to private medical facilities, Southern Cross as an example)
    ‘Begs the question what happens when the private hospitals are burnt to the ground by a disgruntled working class?

    Or the private schools?

    Who will cover the cost then?

  11. It’s only the middle managers and some MGMT that need to go. They are on big bucks and all the workers do there job most of the time. The workers are special people. I think Seymour will work out it’s mgmt where saving s can be made

  12. if it was middle managers(see uk horizon public inquiry) it might not be a bad thing but we all know it’ll be front line workers thus further degrading services


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