The Ministry's health and capability

Ensuring our transport system helps New Zealand thrive

The Ministry’s clear sense of purpose, together with our spirit, character and beliefs are fast becoming infused in everything we do.

The Performance Improvement Framework review in early 2013 recognised the Ministry had made good progress operating as a professional services ministry, but also challenged us to look at ways to accelerate the pace with which we drive improvements.

As a result, the Ministry developed a 2 Year Plan which sets out by quarter the range of changes and development needed to achieve our goals. The plan was launched in August 2013, and is a key resource for the Ministry as we move through to June 2015 to keep us on track and focused on what we ultimately want to achieve.

The 2 Year Plan is part of the Ministry’s ongoing Shaping our Future programme, and focuses on lifting our performance in five priority areas:

1. Embedding our purpose and philosophy

We have made good progress and will continue to work towards aligning our workplace culture with our purpose and philosophy. We are continuing to invest in the development of our leaders in the Ministry, following on from a marked improvement in leadership performance since we introduced these programmes in 2012. We are also working on better ways to recognise and celebrate success, which helps people to thrive.

2. Improving the operating model

The Ministry has refined and improved how new work is commissioned and prioritised. We are continuously looking at ways to make better use of our available capacity and capability, and we are developing stronger incentives. We will ensure everyone in a management role is clear about what actions and behaviours are required to get the best out of our people, and performance metrics and reporting will become much more robust.

3. Lifting our external engagement and reputation

The Ministry needs to ensure that its role in the transport sector is clearly and consistently understood. We have developed a targeted stakeholder engagement programme, which will be driven by our strategic policy and research programmes. We are investing in training and development to help us engage more meaningfully. The Ministry is also collaborating more closely with government and Crown entities to ensure each organisation has the information and resources needed to perform their role. Relationships will be less about routine monitoring and more about alignment with overarching transport goals.

4. Lifting our strategic policy capability

The Ministry is working to ensure that our annual work programme is aligned with and focused on delivering the priorities of the government of the day, as well as thinking longer term and researching issues that will influence the future direction of government transport policy. The appointment of fixed-term strategy directors in early 2014 has helped bring new kinds of thought-leadership to the Ministry, and already our strategic policy programme is subject to much stronger leadership. We are also significantly refocusing our research and statistics programme to ensure it aligns more closely with the Ministry’s purpose and outcomes framework.

5. Improving the quality and consistency of our policy advice

We are working to further improve the consistency and quality of our work by creating the right policy tools and techniques to ensure our analysis is always sound. We are pushing to build the culture and systems required to make sure our knowledge is better managed and shared.

Managing functions and operations

A smart, strategic and responsive workforce culture

The Ministry’s 2 Year Plan will help us to build an organisation that is responsive to change. As we embed the Plan, we expect our staff to become even more engaged and motivated. We have already started to see that trend emerge in the 2013 Gallup engagement results, with an increase of 0.12 to 3.98 in our engagement score.

The Ministry has recently updated our People Plan, with a continued focus on lifting leadership at all levels of the organisation. Our targeted recruitment approach, competitive selection processes and improved recognition of success continue to result in improved retention. We are also working on our ability to anticipate the need for additional capacity and buy it in quickly so our work is not delayed.

We have developed a new rotation strategy to ensure we give our people varied and challenging opportunities, and we will also develop proactive programmes for nurturing and growing talent.

Our focus on performance over the next 4 years, and the pride we take in everything we do, will help the Ministry to deliver consistently high-quality results.

Shared business services

The Ministry, along with the Civil Aviation Authority, Maritime NewZealand, and the NZ Transport Agency have established a joint programme to consider opportunities for collaboration across the transport sector. The Transport Sector Collaboration and Capability Strategy sets out six goals for the sector: 

  • increase agility and responsiveness
  • improve organisational and sector knowledge
  • enable our people to be effective
  • work more effectively with customers and stakeholders
  • improve efficiency and deliver maximum value for money
  • build capability across the transport sector.

The initial phase of the programme has resulted in a number of successes. These have included infrastructure collaborations, expertise and resource sharing and greater informal networks across the agencies with a culture of collaboration emerging. This provides a solid foundation for future collaborative initiatives that will build capability across the transport sector.

Risk management

The Ministry manages a broad range of risks that can affect our business, including organisational risks arising from our strategic direction and our operating environment. Our major risk would be a failure to deliver on our core role and to not be responsive to changing demands and the constrained fiscal environment.

The Ministry’s risk approach is implemented through business processes such as strategy and priority setting, policy advice, operational planning, monitoring and reporting, and project management. Overseeing strategic risk is the responsibility of the Ministry Leadership Team.

Regular reviews of the Ministry’s risk management framework ensure risks are continually identified and managed.

Organisational risks identified through this process are incorporated into the Ministry’s development priorities under the Shaping our Future programme. Our primary mitigation strategy is to build a flexible, high-performing organisation.

The Ministry also has a well established Performance and Risk Advisory Group. This group provides advice to the Ministry Leadership Team on matters of strategic risk, and on performance improvement. The advice aims to challenge and complement Ministry leadership thinking, and has helped shape the success of the Ministry.

Managing our costs

The Ministry has implemented a number of strategies to ensure we are able to manage within our appropriations from Parliament. Our flexible matrix operating model enables us to focus our resources on the highest priority issues for the government.

We have also voluntarily participated in government benchmarking exercises to help us better understand how our cost structures compare with others and where we could focus to find better value. We will continue to do this and to seek innovative ways of working to enable us to deliver value for money.

Assessing organisational capability and health

The Ministry uses a range of internal measures to assess its capability and health and to measure progress towards its goals.

The headline measures on which we provide year-by-year comparative data and information in our annual reports are as follows:

Core capacity

  • the total number of person-years applied, including permanent and contract staff, in our three broad activity areas of policy advice, specialist support, and business support
  • a comparison of our actual profile with a desired profile of staff experience and attributes for the changing role of the Ministry
  • the results of any external reviews conducted on the quality or efficiency of our core operating and information systems

Equal employment opportunities

  • the Ministry is committed to inclusive work practices and culture. As a member of the NewZealand public service, the Ministry bases appointments on merit, while recognising the employment aspirations of Mori, ethnic and minority groups, women and people with disabilities

Organisational health

  • trends in Gallup staff engagement survey results
  • other measures of health, such as turnover, will be reported if trends demand it

Progress towards our Shaping Our Future programme goals

  • there is an improving trend in NewZealand Institute for Economic Research audits of the quality of our policy papers 
  • a baseline is set, and there is an improving trend in feedback from the Minister, central agencies, and key Crown entities on the quality of our policy advice, the clarity of roles in the system and our contribution to Crown entity performance
  • a project prioritisation and resource allocation system which meets our needs is in place and operating effectively
  • a greater proportion of our effort is going into higher priority work
  • everyone in the Ministry has a professional development plan in place
  • there is improvement in answers to Gallup staff engagement survey questions about the individual goals of Shaping our Future.

Departmental capital and asset management intentions

Each year the Ministry prepares a capital programme to ensure the Ministry has the infrastructure required to fulfil its functions. The draft programme is subject to approval by management. The assets of the Ministry and the capital programme are detailed briefly below.

Property, plant and equipment

The Ministry of Transport operates from two offices, with the main site, and the majority of the staff, located in Wellington. All of its premises are leased, so the majority of the assets are leasehold improvements, computer equipment, fixtures and fittings.

Leasehold improvements

The Ministry has no plans to incur significant leasehold improvement expenditure in the next four years. The Ministry moved into its Wellington office in April 2006 and into its Auckland office in July 2005.

Computer equipment

The Ministry has a three-to-five-year rolling replacement programme for computer equipment.

Milford Sound/ Piopiotahi Aerodrome

The Ministry owns the infrastructure at Milford Sound/ Piopiotahi Aerodrome.

Fixtures and fittings

All of the Ministry’s offices are fully equipped, but we need to make small ongoing purchases of replacement or additional equipment.

Intangible assets

The Ministry has an investment in its own operational systems. A programme is in place to ensure systems continue to be fit-for-purpose.

Proposed capital programme


2013/ 14


2014/ 15


2015/ 16


2016/ 17


2017/ 18


Property, plant and equipment






Intangible assets - software













The Ministry has in place emergency management plans and a business continuity plan which can be activated if there is a building, local, regional or national emergency.

In the event of a national emergency, we play a coordination role with transport agencies, providing strategic leadership to the sector to ensure it can respond quickly and effectively in an emergency. The Ministry manages this risk by maintaining the Transport National Emergency Response Plan which governs the work of the Transport Response Team.

This team, managed by the Ministry, ensures the Ministry and transport agencies provide coordinated advice in a whole-of-government response to a national emergency. The plan continues to be developed, incorporating lessons learned from emergency exercises and events.

Key Ministry performance management measures

Notwithstanding the above, the Ministry is committed to increasing its overall effectiveness. The question that we need to be able to answer is ‘are we doing the best job that we can with the resources available to us?’. The Ministry addresses this question through its:

  • input management
  • quality management
  • work programme management
  • outcomes management.

Input management

Staff time, along with their skills, experience and knowledge, is the Ministry’s main resource. We need our staff to value their time and get the most from every hour. To support this approach, we apply project management disciplines to our policy projects. We establish project timeframes and identify milestones that we can manage projects against to ensure projects do not consume more resource than is needed.

We are looking to develop new performance management measures for different aspects of our work to enable us to benchmark our performance and then lift our productivity. In the meantime, we can measure how well we deliver our projects on time and to budget.

Quality management

We manage the quality of our work through our quality of policy advice standards. Each year we have a sample of our policy advice papers independently audited by the NewZealand Institute for Economic Research. This audit not only provides us with an independent view on the quality of our advice and areas that we could focus on for improvement, but it also enables us to see how the quality of our advice compares with other government agencies’. We have also implemented an internal review of all advice papers using the NewZealand Institute for Economic Research criteria. In addition to this, we measure the quality and subsequent cost of our advice using policy advice benchmarks set by the Treasury.  

Work programme management

Our annual output plan is a statement of the results that the Minister wants from the Ministry. We manage the Ministry as a single resource to deliver on the whole output plan programme, and we record the actual percentage delivered in our annual reports.

Delivering on the individual projects in the output plan enables the Ministry to achieve its intended impacts and, through them, make our contribution to the intermediate and long-term outcomes. Our intervention logic sets out the links between our outputs, impacts, intermediate and long-term outcomes.

Outcomes management

The Ministry monitors the progress that the whole of the transport sector is making towards the identified outcomes. While our impacts contribute to this, it is not always clear whether the Ministry’s contribution can be singled out from other factors and, even if it could, it is likely to be too costly to undertake. So we use our outcome indicators to focus on the overall progress being made, and use a range of mechanisms to identify opportunities for us to make further contributions where needed.

Key Ministry performance management measures

The key performance management measures that the Ministry will use in 2014/15 are as follows:

Input management

  • percentage of policy project milestones delivered each quarter
  • percentage of staff time allocated to the Minister’s priority projects

Quality management

  • 90 percent of regulatory impact statements are assessed as ‘meets’ or ‘partially meets’ the required standards
  • 75 percent of policy advice briefings are accepted first time by the Minister
  • total cost of an hour of professional staff time devoted to policy advice and other policy unit outputs
  • NewZealand Institute of Economic Research’s audit of policy advice papers assesses average score for papers as 7.5 or better 

Work programme management

  • 95 percent or more of output plan delivered as agreed with the Minister
  • 95 percent or more of the Ministry’s impacts achieved through delivering underpinning projects

Outcomes management

  • results of transport sector progress on intermediate and long-term outcomes published
  • Ministry reviews outcome indicators that show less progress is being made and considers whether further Ministry action is needed.

We will report on these measures annually

The Ministry will bring the results of these measures together in its annual report each year to provide an integrated assessment of its cost-effectiveness and identify areas for improvement in future years.


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