GDS Index NZ

New Zealand's government department strategies under the microscope


Welcome to the GDS Index homepage. Here you can read about the 2018 GDS Index and learn about the McGuinness Institute’s GDS Index research.

On 2 May 2019 the Institute launched the 2018 GDS Index. For the first time the Institute also published the Government Department Strategies Handbook – He Puna Rautaki (right). The Handbook can be purchased for $20 on the Institute’s online store. GDS Index research contributes to the McGuinness Institute’s StrategyNZ project. This in turn supports the Project 2058 work programme. To learn more about the Project 2058 Methodology, please see the link here.

At the launch Wendy McGuinness discussed why government department strategies (GDSs) are important corporate documents, the process the Institute took in conducting the research, and the obstacles and challenges experienced in conducting this research. This work is intended to contribute to a broader discussion about how to build strategic capability in the public service. See Wendy’s presentation slideshow from the launch here.

The GDS Index aims to illustrate how New Zealand might strengthen GDSs to make them more effective, responsive, measurable, comparable and durable through public consultation, engagement and ownership. The assumption is that if government departments work hard to make the content of GDSs more useful, users of these strategies will be better able to assess their quality and, where appropriate, work with government to deliver better outcomes more quickly.

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2018 GDS Index

GDS Index Handbook Image


As a result of a number of new and emerging issues that came to our attention while completing the 2018 GDS Index we have rewritten our original 2015 Methodology. It is important to note that we have not fundamentally changed the processes or outputs, but have instead restructured it for greater clarity, and to explain how we have dealt with the more challenging aspects of deciding when a department document is a GDS. We welcome any feedback. The final publication is available to read here.
Working Paper GDS Index Methodology
Before undertaking our next GDS Index update, later in 2020, we will take a closer look at our definitions and processes. We would therefore welcome your feedback on the 2018 GDS Index Methodology. Thank you for your interest.

Definition of a government department strategy (GDS)
The Methodology defines government department strategies as follows in the blue box below.

GDS Index definition


The Scorecard is used to assess the content of a GDS document and whether this content is sufficient for a reader to assess the quality of the strategy. It is not used to assess the quality of the strategy.

Download the Scorecard here.

GDS Index Scorecard

How are the GDSs scored?

The GDS Index ranks each of the GDSs in operation by content of essential information. The GDS Index does not rate the strategy, it rates the extent to which essential information is provided in the strategy document so readers can go on and assess the quality of the strategic approach for themselves. Each GDS is reviewed against the Scorecard (see left and here) to determine how well it articulates each of the six elements. These are:

    1. Opportunities and Threats (what is the external environment?)
    2. Capabilities and Resources (what are the internal strengths and weaknesses?)
    3. Vision and Benefits (what is the purpose?)
    4. Approach and Focus (what choices and trade-offs have been made?)
    5. Implementation and Accountability (who is responsible for what?) and
    6. Alignment and Authority (how does the strategy align with the machinery of government?)

The highest-scoring GDS on the 2018 GDS Index is A Biosecurity Science Strategy for New Zealand (October, 2007), published by MPI. The Institute found 148 GDSs in operation as at 31 December 2018 and scored each of these against the Scorecard. PDFs and their final scores can
be found on Table 1 below. A table of the archived GDSs can be found on the Archive Register here. The Institute has recognised and recorded 413 GDSs as published since July 1994.

The Institute regularly updates the GDS Index so that information can be measured, analysed and tracked over time. Both the 2014 GDS Index and the 2015 GDS Index can be found below. A total of 413 GDSs have appeared on the GDS Index; of these, 265 have been archived (see Table here). The remaining 148 GDSs are operational and can be viewed in a Table here.


Cover of GDS Handbook
Government Department Strategies Handbook
Working PaperGDS Index Methodology

Working Paper 2019/01: Methodology for the Government Department Strategies Index New Zealand

Working Paper cover 2019/02
Working Paper 2019/02: List of all Government Department Strategies Between 1 July 1994 and 31 December 2018
Working Paper cover 2019/03

Working Paper 2019/03: Scoring Tables Collating and Ranking all Government Department Strategies in Operation as at 31 December 2018