The power behind the throne

Insight

Marg Joiner pays tribute to all the retiring public servants and reflects on the importance of including officials in your government relations planning.

Yesterday Te Puni Kōkiri said farewell to Mr Benjamin Paki, a longstanding legend in the world of Māori affairs since the 1980s.

He was instrumental in the writing of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, among other important aspects of Māori development. Mr Paki has worked alongside the likes of Sir Wira Gardiner, Sir Ngātata Love and the late Mr Parekura Horomia.

Across the road, the Treasury was saying adieu to another notable public servant, Mr Ivan Kwok. Most recently focusing his mind on iwi rights and interests, Mr Kwok had previously spent 15 years as the Treasury solicitor.

Messrs Paki and Kwok weren’t the only public servants to hang up their boots as the government’s financial year drew to a close. Many have served for over 50 years. The public service is often a selfless profession driven by passion, integrity, and unwavering professionalism and impartiality.

Through all the politicking and uncertainties of changes in government, these diligent officials work tirelessly behind the scenes to get the job done. They prepare the briefings to incoming ministers that keep the cogs of government turning.

Where governments come and go, the officials often remain constant.

Some more well-known public servants operate in the grey area between policy and politicians. Others focus purely on being across the detail and committed to implementing policy day-to-day.

But public servants are also tasked with researching and weighing up options for policy and regulatory change. Often, it is this cogent advice that heralds a government step change.

When it comes to government relations planning, officials are often left out. It’s important to consider their role. In most cases, there is significant benefit in taking the time to appreciate their expertise, understand the complex world they work in, and build effective working relationships.

While Mr Paki, Mr Kwok and others may quietly exit the constitutional stage, the fruits of their labour, articulate penmanship and clarity of thought will be seen by the trained eye for many years to come.