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3. Our vision - a fair chance for all

Table of contents

The success of any system, policy or programme is measured by whether it increases the freedom that people have to live a life that they value” (Wilson & Fry, 2023). This chapter sets out a vision for a public management system that empowers people to lead better lives. The genesis for change is to build a response to persistent disadvantage around a broader, more inclusive and intergenerationally focused understanding of wellbeing. This response must embrace te Tiriti o Waitangi (te Tiriti), distributive fairness, equity and cultural responsiveness to persistent disadvantage, and it must reflect the socio-historical context and distinctiveness of Aotearoa New Zealand.

System reforms can be difficult, taking time and commitment. As discussed in the previous chapter, our public management system underwent a major redesign a generation ago, and recent changes are increasing responsiveness to the complex realities facing our society, today and in the future.

The recommendations in the following chapters seek to reinforce this redirection in a way that enables a more effective response to persistent disadvantage. As highlighted in Box 3, at stake is the fairness and cohesion of Aotearoa New Zealand society, resolution of disparities across multiple social policy domains, and the capability of people and communities to live better lives.

In the next section, we discuss a comprehensive recent example of embedding principles to give effect to te Tiriti within a sector, setting a new bar that should be applied in other sectors and to the public management system itself. One way to embed te Tiriti is through tikanga frameworks such as He Ara Waiora.

He Ara Waiora is a mātauranga Māori approach for achieving intergenerational wellbeing and social inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a uniquely New Zealand approach to lifting living standards that can guide government policy and that is in keeping with a mandate to honour te Tiriti (McMeeking et al., 2019).

Following that, we note the work of successive Aotearoa New Zealand Governments to incorporate longer-term outcomes into policy through “wellbeing approaches”, and then set out principles for the public management system to support all New Zealanders to live better lives.

Box 3 Why addressing persistent disadvantage matters for the wellbeing of people, communities and society

We want all our fellow New Zealanders to live good lives. Aotearoa New Zealand has a long history of valuing fairness and giving everybody a “fair go”. It was the first country in the world to introduce universal suffrage, it became one of the first welfare states, and New Zealanders have a tradition of protest against anti-egalitarian regimes (Sibley & Wilson, 2007). A fair chance for all means all New Zealanders – present and future – feel proud of their cultural identities, are supported to achieve their aspirations, and can live better lives.

In the absence of effective support, disadvantage can persist and compound, creating multiple, complex and overlapping barriers. Disadvantage constrains choices and opportunities, with lifetime and intergenerational consequences. The symptoms of persistent disadvantage can be seen in the disproportionately negative health, mental health, and justice sector outcomes for groups vulnerable to disadvantage.

From an individual perspective, getting a fair go means having the freedom to live the life one values and has reason to value. This idea is known as the “capability approach” and comes from Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. It has become a foundational idea guiding human development internationally (Nussbaum, 2011). The capability approach emphasises the importance of expanding people’s freedom and capabilities to choose and pursue their own goals (Sen, 1992). Effective support can mean the difference between overcoming temporary disadvantage or becoming trapped by multiple persistent disadvantages.

Under the capability approach, the goal of policy is to support people to live better lives – lives they value and have reason to value – by empowering individuals and communities to have control over their own lives (Robeyns, 2017). Simply increasing basic resources is not enough. Rather, the difference is between investing early in effective health, education, income and social support that empowers people to lead productive lives, or resources becoming tied up in ongoing but disjointed efforts to treat symptoms of disadvantage.

For people to increase their “capability” to enhance their own wellbeing, they may need support to overcome disadvantage and foster social inclusion (Wilson & Fry, 2019).

From a societal perspective, addressing persistent disadvantage improves social cohesion. Higher levels of social cohesion mean more trust, which is critical for building the strong institutions needed for a productive economy and thriving society:

Social cohesion is the willingness of diverse individuals and groups to trust and co-operate with each other in the interests of all, supported by shared intercultural norms and values. …Higher trust reduces the cost of monitoring and enforcing agreements, which may encourage people to coordinate on projects that they would not otherwise have undertaken. (The Treasury, 2022, p. 82)

Trust and social cohesion were an essential part of the Covid-19 response in Aotearoa New Zealand, and they will also be central to our ability to respond to future challenges.

Although an international concept, the capability approach can help ground indigenous rights to autonomous governance and self-determination. Likewise, indigenous ideas of connectedness between humans and nature can extend and complement the capability approach – for example, in its application to sustainable development and environmental justice (Robeyns, 2017).

Strengthening te Tiriti o Waitangi as a “macro setting” for the public management system

As a foundational part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, te Tiriti should be a central part of our public management system settings and macro-level policy frameworks, yet, as discussed in this section, it is not. This section looks at recent health sector reforms as a model for how te Tiriti can be operationalised and provides an example of a macro-level policy framework for operationalising te Tiriti.

The rightful place of te Tiriti to shape public policy, government investment and how the public service operates at a macro level is still emergent, as evidenced by the Public Service Act 2020 being the first piece of legislation to formalise the role of the public service in supporting the Crown in its relationships with Māori under te Tiriti (White et al., 2022). Although the Public Service Act recognises the role of the public service in supporting the Crown’s relationships with Māori (embedding the obligation to increase workforce capability in te reo Māori and cultural aspects of te ao Māori), it fails to provide clear direction for how the public service should give effect to te Tiriti.

Since the Public Service Act 2020 was introduced, the new Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act 2022 (Pae Ora Act) has established a comprehensive model for embedding Tiriti obligations, translating these into equity outcomes. In Hauora: Report on Stage One of the Health Services and Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry, the Waitangi Tribunal (2019) found that the previous legislative, strategy and policy framework failed to consistently state a commitment to achieving equity of health outcomes for Māori.

We found that provisions in the [previous Public Health and Disability] Act that are intended to provide for greater Māori participation in the work of district health boards do not work effectively to afford Māori Treaty-consistent control of decision-making in relation to health design and delivery. We found that the attempt at an articulation of Treaty principles in the health system is out of date. Finally, we found that the omission of specific Treaty references in lower-level documents amounted to a concerning omission of the health sector’s Treaty obligations. (Waitangi Tribunal, 2019, p. xv)

The Pae Ora Act builds on updated Tiriti principles established by the Waitangi Tribunal (Waitangi Tribunal, 2019, pp. 163–164).13 It provides clear guidance on how ministers and the health sector can give effect to these principles, and it requires them to be guided by these principles.14 Although sectoral models such as this are emerging, the Government has not been consistent in ensuring that the public service upholds te Tiriti.

Box 4 Embedding te Tiriti o Waitangi within the health sector


The health sector provides a particularly comprehensive example of weaving te Tiriti o Waitangi (te Tiriti) principles and obligations through all levels of the system.

The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act 2022 (the Pae Ora Act) embeds te Tiriti across the health sector by translating treaty obligations into health equity outcomes and setting out the means to achieve these outcomes.

Legislative reform of the health sector drew on the Waitangi Tribunal’s (2019) report into the health system, which is part of the Tribunal’s wider Kaupapa Inquiry work programme. The Tribunal’s findings were picked up by the Health and Disability System Review (2020), which published its final report in 2020.

The Pae Ora Act embeds the principles of tino rangatiratanga and partnership into the health system through distinct opportunities for Māori to exercise autonomy and self-determination. The Pae Ora Act established Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority; the Hauora Māori Advisory Committee, to directly advise the Minister of Health; and Iwi Māori Partnership Boards, to build whānau voice into the health system.

The principles of equity, active protection and options are embedded through the Pae Ora Act’s purpose and principles, and in the objectives and functions of the institutions it establishes, including Health New Zealand. These are then translated into micro-level standards that emphasise the need for culturally safe and responsive mainstream services and distinct kaupapa Māori and whānau-centred services. In addition, the Pae Ora Act centres equity inclusively by seeking health equity outcomes for Māori and for other population groups.

In the context of addressing persistent disadvantage, the Pae Ora Act establishes an organisational structure, process and practices that can be more responsive to the needs of Māori and enable Māori to have a much stronger voice in the design and delivery of healthcare, including funding flows.


There can be considerable variation between sectors even where legislation is enacted in a similar era. Both the Public Service Act 2020 and the Pae Ora Act 2022 were introduced by the current Government (2017–present), which has also initiated reviews of the welfare, education and justice sectors. Like the Public Service Act, the Education and Training Act 2020 fails to provide clear guidance for the sector and obligations on ministers, and instead states that the Ministers of Education and Māori Crown Relations “may, for the purposes of providing equitable outcomes for all students, and after consulting with Māori, jointly issue and publish a statement” that specifies what sector agencies must do to give effect to public service objectives that relate to te Tiriti.15 Substantial reform of justice and welfare legislation is yet to emerge.

The Public Service Act 2020 explicitly recognises the role of the public service to support the Crown in its relationships with Māori under te Tiriti.16 But public servants need this to be translated into a clear and explicit mandate closer to their work, and they need leaders who seek analysis and advice that strengthens the Crown’s relationships with Māori under te Tiriti.

…we send our people into Tiriti workshops, they do two days immersion and they come out eyes wide open and they want to do something different, and then the system doesn’t let them... I don’t know how many times I’ve put really powerful Tiriti stuff into papers, only to have them removed or watered down further up the chain. And when it comes to my accountability as a public servant, how does that affect my integrity? (Public servant, Fair chance for all inquiry public sector workshop, November 2022)

The meaning and effect of te Tiriti continues to evolve, aided by the Waitangi Tribunal’s Kaupapa Inquiry work programme and several recent landmark cases in the courts. What we would expect to see if the system were supporting Crown-Māori relationships and upholding te Tiriti is:

  • te ao Māori values (as reflected in tikanga frameworks) having equal value, weight and status to “western” values (see Chapter 4);

flowing from that, decisions being guided by those values, with the use of mātauranga Māori and tikanga frameworks having greater prominence in policy advice and investment decision making (see Chapter 4);

  • adopting te ao Māori examples of valuing the future at a national level (for example, through the work of the Commission for the Wellbeing of Future Generations, which is recommended in Chapter 4);
  • tino rangatiratanga being reflected in commissioning models and equitable levels of investment (see Chapter 5);
  • an accountability system that has been redesigned to reflect te ao Māori views of accountability as well as “western” ones – meaning it would be relational, long term and would re-situate power with people being served, rather than those at the top of the chain (see Chapter 5). As a result, more Māori would be included in decision making at all levels, on funding, policy and service provision;
  • mātauranga Māori and Māori ways of knowing and being to be core design features of the learning system (see Chapter 6).

He Ara Waiora, te Tiriti and supporting intergenerational wellbeing

Submitters on the terms of reference and interim report for this inquiry expressed widespread support for using the He Ara Waiora wellbeing framework to operationalise te Tiriti in a way that activates and supports intergenerational wellbeing.

He Ara Waiora (a “pathway to wellbeing”) positions wellbeing within te ao Māori, grounding wellbeing within Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique context. It foregrounds holistic, intergenerational and “non-material” aspects of wellbeing, recognising the interconnection of people – both as individuals and as part of “collectives” (families, whānau and communities) – and their environments.

In our interim report, we recommended that He Ara Waiora should drive how the public management system acts to achieve mauri ora for all New Zealanders. We indicated that He Ara Waiora should be further developed and embedded as an overarching framework for public policy in Aotearoa New Zealand – in particular, to guide policy analysis and investment to address persistent disadvantage. McMeeking et al. (2019) assert that adopting a tikanga framework, such as He Ara Waiora, has the potential to significantly advance the extent to which the Crown gives effect to te Tiriti, as it has the potential to change the values and processes used in the public management system.

    Further discussion and recommendations on extending the application of He Ara Waiora are set out in the discussion of broadening wellbeing values in the following chapter.

    A pathway to intergenerational wellbeing

    Wellbeing is an international concept that has arisen out of concerns that “sustainable development” and other public policy frameworks have lacked the ability to provide sufficient information on the full range of contributors to, or components of, a “good life” (Weijers & Morrison, 2018). Wellbeing approaches broaden systems values and assumptions beyond traditional economic measures, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which do not capture the full picture of society’s prosperity or what citizens value for their quality of life.

    Wellbeing approaches are being adopted by an increasing number of cities and nations around the world, including Aotearoa New Zealand.

    Wellbeing, sustainability and inclusion have become some of the most frequently quoted ‘values’ in public sector (and increasingly business) reports and strategies – the intention being that they drive the advice, decision-making and actions of our public sector officials. A core challenge, however, is that the current system of government (the structures, culture and analytical tools) was set up at a different time to deliver to a different set of values – notably efficiency and managing risk. While these values remain important, they are no longer seen as sufficient to address the complexity of the issues we face.

    (Donna Purdue, Chief economist, MBIE, correspondence)

    An inclusive understanding of wellbeing defines progress in terms of equity, quality of life, and sustainable societies and environments. By looking to these broader measures of success, governments can create policies that support the long-term sustainability and flourishing of their societies. For example, investing in high-quality education and healthcare, along with social protection and inclusion, sets the foundation for stronger and more sustainable economic growth (Llena-Norzal et al., 2019). There is growing evidence that wellbeing and economic outcomes reinforce each other, in a “virtuous circle” (ibid., p. 8).


    Common features of wellbeing approaches

    The Australian Centre for Policy Development describes the common features of wellbeing approaches as being:

    Holistic: Overall wellbeing has many contributing factors, and wellbeing approaches employ systems thinking, aiming to break down thematic or administrative silos and work towards intersectional opportunities to increase wellbeing.

    Long-term: Wellbeing is not just about short-term happiness. Policies, initiatives and approaches to raise wellbeing typically take a long time to implement and to work.

    Wellbeing approaches look beyond election cycles to the kinds of outcomes that can only be achieved with sustained, long-term commitment.

    Future focused: Wellbeing approaches are concerned not just with current generations, but also with future generations. They often involve a significant component of planning for the future and have an emphasis on sustainability and environmental protection. (Gaukroger et al. 2022, p. 6)

    Finding 3

    The high-level elements of a wellbeing policy approach include:
    • setting long-term goals and measuring what matters for improving the lives of citizens;
    • evidence-based decision making;
    • embedding new approaches across institutions (such as the use of wellbeing frameworks, prioritising prevention and early intervention, and taking an integrating or collaborative approach); and
    • building accountability for progress.

    Aotearoa New Zealand’s application of wellbeing approaches

    Successive Aotearoa New Zealand Governments have applied wellbeing approaches. The 1999–2008 Government introduced “whole-of-government” wellbeing goals and outcome indicators as part of its Reducing Inequalities policy, focused on disadvantage and equitable outcomes (Minister of Social Development and Employment, 2004). The following Government (2008–2017) developed a “social investment approach”, focused on improving outcomes for people living in poverty, by activating better use of data and information, and identifying where early investment could make the most difference in people’s lives (T. Hughes, 2022a). It also established “stretch-targets” to focus improvements on complex problems spanning multiple domains and agencies, aimed at making a difference in the lives of New Zealanders (Scott & Boyd, 2022).17

    The current Government (2017–present) embedded wellbeing into the Public Finance Act 1989 and introduced its first Wellbeing Budget in 2019.

    The current wellbeing approach still leans heavily on measurement (that is, a dashboard and indicators to measure wellbeing) and lacks vertical integration into the public management system, such as through a wellbeing strategy or investment levers linked to indicators (Gaukroger et al. 2022).

    Aotearoa New Zealand’s wellbeing initiatives have been at the forefront of approaches internationally (Gaukroger et al., 2022; Llena-Norzal et al., 2019). But other countries are now going beyond measurement and further operationalising their wellbeing approaches, including through embedding a stronger focus on the wellbeing of future generations (see, for example, the Welsh Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, and the French Green Budget (see Box 9), both discussed in Chapter 4, and seen in recent international case studies discussed in Siebert et al., (2022).

    Hughes (2022a) suggests that combining the approaches of the current and previous Governments would be a promising way forward.

    We support this idea of integrating wellbeing approaches. Multi-partisan political support is essential to the pace and sustainability of systems change needed to achieve the vision of this inquiry – for an equitable and inclusive society, in which all New Zealanders can live fulfilling lives.

    Finding 4

    Combining the approaches of the current and previous Governments would be a promising way forward to improve our wellbeing approach. Drawing on both detailed distributional evidence and a broad spectrum of indicators, this approach would:
    • carefully consider both material and non-material impacts of policy choices;
    • emphasise both life course and intergenerational patterns of advantage and disadvantage;
    • take a comprehensive approach to data analysis; and
    • encourage robust analysis of strategic priorities and assessment of initiatives.

    Vision and principles for a fair chance for all

    The vision

    People experiencing persistent disadvantage will be empowered to influence the decisions that affect their lives, whether those decisions are made in the public management system or in local support networks.

    As individuals, as family, as whānau and as communities, their needs will be addressed in ways that are effective in enabling all to achieve the lives they value, respecting and enhancing their mana and wellbeing. Experiences of persistent disadvantage will recede, as people move to a position where they feel included in communities, and one which is above an agreed income and social floor.

    They will be able to find support in their own communities from people they trust and are able to hold accountable. When mistakes occur or their needs change, they will see support systems – whether national or local – adapt in a timely way to meet their needs.

    More effective support and long-term decisions and actions addressing the underlying causes of persistent disadvantage in Aotearoa New Zealand will result in disadvantage steadily reducing over time. The benefits of fewer people experiencing persistent disadvantage will be felt across Aotearoa New Zealand, as the individual and collective potential of all are nurtured and increasingly realised.

    Principles critical to achieving wellbeing for all

    Our work for this inquiry has highlighted six principles as critical to achieving wellbeing for all in Aotearoa New Zealand (Table 4). These principles underpin the recommendations set out in the following chapters (and listed together in Chapter 7).

    The principles provide a framework for shifting our public management system from one that struggles to take risks and innovate to address complex challenges, to one that empowers people to lead better lives.

    Underpinning the principles are the five values set out in Chapter 1: tikanga (protocol), kotahitanga (unity), manaakitanga (care and respect), tiakitanga (guardianship or stewardship) and whanaungatanga (positive relationships).

    Table 4 Principles to underpin a wellbeing approach in Aotearoa New Zealand




    Strengthen the influence of te Tiriti throughout the system

    Shift from: Inconsistent application of te Tiriti in legislative reforms, and inequitable outcomes for Māori.

    Shift to: A clear or high-level commitment to upholding te Tiriti and respecting rangatiratanga and the widespread integration of te Tiriti principles and mātauranga Māori, enhancing and empowering Māori voice within a responsive and equitable system, and increasing the mana and mauri ora of Māori.

    Vision: Te Tiriti is well integrated in legislative reform programmes and mātauranga Māori is widely used in policy and service design.

    Provide long- term, strategic direction

    to address persistent disadvantage

    Shift from: A system of agencies lacking clear guidance and working individually on symptoms of disadvantage.

    Shift to: A comprehensive, long-term strategy to address persistent disadvantage and protect people from becoming disadvantaged.

    Vision: Whole-of-system direction and commitment that recognises the complexity of interconnected and cumulative impacts.

    Prioritise the wellbeing of citizens with an explicit focus on equity of outcomes and distributional fairness

    Shift from: A system primarily designed to address simple and technical challenges through vertical and individual decision making and accountability, and through short-term efficiency.

    Shift to: A system that is responsive to the needs of disadvantaged groups and future generations, and itself accountable for addressing long-term complex challenges.

    Vision: Government and communities working to shared goals backed by a transparent and legislated measurement and accountability framework, integrated with the Budget process, and supported by a system that learns and improves, to address and prevent persistent disadvantage, including for future generations.

    Broaden the values of the system

    Shift from: The dominance of values such as efficiency and individualism.

    Shift to: A system that includes more holistic and collective values reflecting Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique historical and cultural context.

    Vision: Services and policy settings that: reflect both individualism and collectivist thinking, alongside holistic perspectives; address the need for efficiency; are culturally safe, inclusive and responsive; and can respond to complexity. Indigenous values, frameworks and tools are actively used in the policymaking process, and they are valued equally to other tools and approaches.

    Integrate learning and innovation

    Shift from: A risk-averse system that gets in the way of people trying to lead better lives.

    Shift to: A system that learns, takes risks, innovates and improves how it operates, redirecting resources from what is not working to what is, and helping people to lead better lives.

    Vision: Ongoing learning and improvement are mandated, well supported and expected, successful innovations are mainstreamed, policies and practices that do not work, or are causing harm, are stopped.

    Prioritise and empower the voices of people experiencing disadvantage

    Shift from: People experiencing disadvantage feeling invisible and unsupported due to discrimination and systemic power imbalances.

    Shift to: People being empowered to lead better lives, and groups at risk of disadvantage – including children and young people – being involved in the development and assessment of policies and services that impact them.

    Vision: A listening, mana-enhancing system. Whānau-centred and mana-enhancing approaches prioritise and empower the voice, needs and aspirations of people experiencing disadvantage.

    Finding 5

    Our work for this inquiry has highlighted the following principles for the public management system as critical to achieving wellbeing for all in Aotearoa New Zealand.
    • Strengthen the influence of te Tiriti throughout the system.
    • Provide long-term, strategic direction to address persistent disadvantage.
    • Prioritise the wellbeing of all with an explicit focus on equity of outcomes and distributional fairness.
    • Broaden the values of the system.
    • Integrate learning and innovation.
    • Prioritise and empower the voices of people experiencing disadvantage.

    13Learning from the Waitangi Tribunal Māori Health Report, 2019.

    14. Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act 2022, s 7(2).

    15. Education and Training Act 2020, s 6.

    16. Public Service Act 2020, s 14(1).

    17Also see the previous (2008–2017) and current (2017–present) Governments’ economic plans. The previous Government’s economic plan is available here:, and the current Government’s economic plan is here: