Delivering better public services that improve the lives of New Zealanders continues to be one of the National-led Government’s top priorities. In 2012, I set 10 challenging targets for the public service to get better results for the more than $70 billion of taxpayer dollars we spend each year. Last week, we released the latest update showing we are making good progress against these targets, and I’m pleased our public services are continuing to improve. These targets are about keeping Ministers and government agencies accountable and are helping to reduce long-term welfare dependency, support vulnerable children, boost skills and employment, reduce crime,………. and improve interactions with Government. In education, we are seeing significantly more 18-year-olds achieving NCEA Level 2. Since 2011 the percentage of young people achieving NCEA Level 2 has jumped from 74 per cent to 84.4 per cent, just short of our target of 85 per cent by 2017, with two years still to go.
The number of children getting the best possible start in life through participation in early childhood education is also growing at a steady pace. In health, immunisation rates are continuing to grow, with 93.7 per cent of 8-month-olds now fully vaccinated, which means more babies are being protected from potentially fatal illnesses. There’s also been a 45 per cent drop in the number of people being hospitalised with rheumatic fever. In law and order, total crime, violent crime and youth crime have dropped 17 per cent, 10 per cent and 39 per cent respectively. We now have the lowest crime rate since 1978.
After setting a new, ambitious target last year, benefit dependency has continued to drop, with 7,245 fewer benefit recipients in the past year. This is good news because it means sole parents are getting into the workforce and gaining independence. These latest figures also show the welfare system’s future lifetime cost has reduced by $12 billion over the past four years as a result of the National-led Government’s efforts. The majority of New Zealanders’ most common transactions with government are now occurring digitally. Almost 53 per cent of government service transactions are now completed digitally, up from 29.9 per cent in 2012.
We’ve always said some of these targets are challenging and going to be difficult to achieve, but we’re determined to continue measuring success by the results for New Zealand families, not by how much money we spend. Without doubt, we wouldn’t be seeing these kinds of results without the hard work and dedication from hundreds of thousands of public servants across New Zealand. Our challenge now is to keep this progress going as we continue to focus on making strides on important things that matter to New Zealanders and their families.