Wellington public servants performing at their annual Te Konohete Kapa Haka competition

Maybe National and ACT had a point during the election campaign; the public service has exploded over the past six years.

The size of the jump in the number of Wellington bureaucrats under the Labour government from 2017 is clearly evident in figures released yesterday by the Public Service Commission.

This was a core complaint during the election campaign by both National Leader Christopher Luxon and ACT leader David Seymour.

The ACT leader wants to fire 15,000 public servants, but National is less specific, simply saying they want to see a 6.5 per cent reduction in departmental budgets while both Luxon and Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis single out the “backrooms” of the bureaucracy for cuts.

The number of pure Public Servants has increased by 7255 from the number employed when National left office in 2017.

That is an increase of 35.64 per cent to bring the total in the capital to 27,612.

Over the same period, public sector education and health workers in Wellington have increased by only 16 per cent.

They very slightly outnumber the bureaucrats with a total of 29,000.

The Public Service Commission yesterday also released public service salary data, which showed the average public service pay was $97,200, which suggests that the Wellington increase since 2017 has added $705 million to the government’s annual wage bill.

But there have been increases across the rest of the country also.


In Auckland, the number of public servants has increased by 2800 to 12,810 since 2017.

That would add another $272 million to the wage bill.

In total, right across the country (and overseas), there are 62,043 public servants working in the state sector. That is up 13,172 or 27 per cent on the number employed when National left office in 2017.

There are another 53,155 working in local government, and the combined education and health workforce is 240,793.

These figures do not take account of state sector employees working in State Owned Enterprises or “other government entities.” These include a wide variety of state agencies, including the Fire Service, most of the “Commissions” the Crown Research Institutes, the Public Trust, the Symphony Orchestra, and even the Lotteries Commission, which runs Lotto.

 All up, there are 55,220 working in those entities.

Among the main departments, the Ministry for the Environment has shown the largest increase in staff since Labour became the government, up 187%; largely becaue of the increased workload it has had with resoruce management reform, freshwater reforms and the introduction of the Zero Carbon Act.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is up 85%, while the Corrections department is up only 12.5% over the period, but the prison population is down 15% over the same period.

The Public Service Commission even released average ages in departments, and the Education Review Office was the oldest, with its staff averaging 55 plus, while, predictably, the Ministry of Youth Affairs was the youngest, with a staff average under 40.