Is the development of policy in New Zealand based on Prevention First?

Date01 April 2018
Published date01 April 2018
Subject MatterReview
untitled Review
Public Policy and Administration
2018, Vol. 33(2) 127–148
! The Author(s) 2017
Is the development of
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policy in New Zealand
DOI: 10.1177/0952076716687354
based on Prevention
Garth den Heyer
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Walden University,
MN, USA; Police Foundation, DC, USA
The New Zealand Police, in response to the global financial crisis and escalating oper-
ating costs, implemented in 2008 the first of a number of change programs to increase
its service delivery efficiency and effectiveness. The programs concentrated on reallo-
cating resources from reactive service delivery to more proactive or preventative
activities. By 2012, the change in emphasis enabled the police to reduce its organiza-
tional costs and achieve a number of government outcomes. It was hypothesized that
owing to the success of the New Zealand Police, other New Zealand Government
departments have adopted a preventative approach to reduce long-term social costs. By
analyzing the strategic documents of three randomly selected, nonjustice sector gov-
ernment agencies, it was found that all three agencies had changed the focus of their
service delivery to concentrate on specific prevention outputs with the intention of
improving services and decreasing operating costs.
Operating costs, prevention, public policy development, service delivery, strategic
management, strategic plan
In 2008, in response to the global crises and the need to control the escalation of
operating costs, the New Zealand Police established a change program which
evolved into Policing Excellence and included a strategy called Prevention First
(New Zealand Police, 2014b). The focus of this strategy was to reduce the demand
Corresponding author:
Garth den Heyer, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Walden University, 100 Washington Avenue,
Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA.

Public Policy and Administration 33(2)
on police resources and to improve its performance. It was expected that these
improvements would be achieved through the implementation of a number of
proactive initiatives, including placing an emphasis on community partnerships
and the reallocation of resources to preventative policing activities.
Prevention First was a coordinated national, proactive, service delivery
approach, which promoted crime and traf‌f‌ic crash prevention and was the main
strategy used for achieving the three outcomes that the government had set for the
police to achieve by 2014/2015:
. a 13% decrease in recorded crime;
. a 19% drop in prosecutions; and
. a 4% increase in the police’s prevention output (New Zealand Police, 2012).
The police were able to achieve the three outcomes by implementing the
Prevention First strategy (New Zealand Police Association, 2013) and the intro-
duction of the strategy allowed the police to realize more than 1 million hours of
police time per annum, which was transferred or reinvested from reactive to pro-
active/prevention service delivery (New Zealand Police, 2014a). As a result of the
success of the implementation of Prevention First and its emphasis on reducing the
long-term ef‌fects of crime, it is hypothesized that other New Zealand public sector
agencies have adopted similar prevention-focused strategies in order to improve
their delivery of service and reduce their operating costs.
The changes implemented by the police in 2008 followed a number of attempts
since the late-1980s to shift the management and performance systems of govern-
ment agencies towards prioritizing the goals of the government and achieving the
outcomes that the government set. These attempts included the development and
the implementation of three specif‌ic performance measurement procedures:
. Strategic Result Areas (SRAs) – def‌ined medium-term, government-wide prio-
rities at the Cabinet level;
. Key Result Areas (KRAs) – set at the agency level; and
. Managing for Outcomes – where the focus of accountability was moved to the
outcomes that the agency was intended to achieve, with the results of a particu-
lar program being assessed against the wider government outcome that was to
be achieved (Secretariat for State Sector Reform, 2011: 8).
The article begins by outlining the f‌iscal and social environment in New
Zealand, and the series of reforms that have taken place in the public sector
since the mid-1980s and the reforms which followed in the late 2000s that focused
on improving the service delivery ef‌fectiveness of the state sector. The article then
brief‌ly explains the history of Prevention First, and examines three non-justice
sector organizations chosen at random from New Zealand’s 28 government agen-
cies (State Sector Commission, 2016), to assess whether they have adopted a pre-
ventative approach to reduce long-term social costs and if they have, how are they

using the strategy to achieve their intended priorities? The article concludes with a
discussion that links the proactive strategy to the reform of the New Zealand public
Strategy development
Since the early 1990s, profound changes have taken place in the organization and
management of government agencies in most western countries (Terpstra and
Trommel, 2009). These changes have been encapsulated in a management
approach called New Public Management (NPM), which was introduced to
increase the ef‌f‌iciency and ef‌fectiveness of the services delivered by government
agencies (Boston et al., 1991; Deane, 1986; Scott et al., 2005). One of the major
components of NPM is the development of an agency’s strategic vision and direc-
tion that will ensure that the organization is aligned with its environment (Snow
and Hambrick, 1980). NPM also provides the framework that enables an organ-
ization to achieve the social outcomes desired by government (Armstrong, 1998;
Scott, et al., 2005).
Strategies, according to Mintzberg (1987), can be def‌ined as being a plan, ploy,
pattern, position, or perspective. The realization of strategies can also be presented
as a continuum, with the development of deliberate strategies at one end and the
identif‌ication of emergent strategies at the other end (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985).
Between the two poles, strategies can take the form of being planned, entrepre-
neurial, ideological, umbrella, process, unconnected, or consensus (Mintzberg and
Waters, 1985). These def‌initions identify strategies as being explicit, developed
consciously and purposefully, and being made in advance of the specif‌ic decisions
to which they apply (Mintzberg, 1978: 935).
The Mintzberg approach to viewing the development and realization of strate-
gies substantiates the theory that strategy formation in organizations is based on
the interaction between three elements: the continuously changing environment;
the organization itself; and its service delivery methods and processes. At the same
time, the operating philosophy includes management seeking to balance these two
elements and ensuring that the organization is able to adapt to the changing envir-
onment (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985). This means that organizations attempt to
maintain their alignment to the environment and manage their resources to achieve
their strategies within the constraints placed on them (Snow and Hambrick, 1980)
and that the strategy is implemented for the organization to establish a specif‌ic
place in the environment at a specif‌ic time (Mintzberg, 1978). Any change in an
organization’s strategies can be ‘‘viewed as the organization’s response to environ-
mental change’’ (Mintzberg, 1978: 941)
According to Ketchen and Short (n.d.), understanding the dif‌ference between
intended, emergent, and realized strategies is important because changes in the
environment af‌fects the strategies chosen for implementation. An intended strategy
is the strategy that an organization intends to implement and is usually described in
detail within an organization’s strategic plan, while an emergent strategy is usually

Public Policy and Administration 33(2)
unplanned and arises in response to unexpected opportunities and challenges
within the environment (Ketchen and Short, n.d.; Mintzberg, 1978).
An intended strategy is usually adopted to assist an organization achieve its
objectives (Ketchen and Short, n.d.), and can be identif‌ied as an organization’s
strategic position (one of Mintzberg’s 1987 f‌ive strategic Ps). The majority of
organizations, however, are usually conservative in regard to the implementation
of intended strategy and prefer to apply familiar solutions to new problems (Snow
and Hambrick, 1980). According to Mintzberg and Waters (1982), most adopted
intended strategies are developed from an organization’s existing vision or are
copied from other institutions, meaning that the executive of an organization is
responding to the initiatives of others, creating a convergence on the same strategic
theme or pattern.
The convergence or the adoption of similar strategies is called consensus strategy
(Mintzberg and Waters, 1985). This type of strategy is founded on ‘‘a system of
beliefs’’ and evolves from organizations learning from each other (Mintzberg and
Waters, 1985). This means that the evolution of strategy is not based on prior
strategic intentions being shared between organizations, but as a response to the
environment of an organization (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985).
The New Zealand public environment
Following the national...

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