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Policy-making Under Pressure: Rethinking the policy process in Aotearoa New Zealand

20 November 2023

Edited by Sonia Mazey and Jeremy Richardson


November 2021

$49.99 (ebook $29.99)
316pp, Softback
228 x 152 mm
ISBN 978-1-98-850324-0

Public policy-making in Aotearoa New Zealand has a patchy track record. In many policy sectors New Zealand performs no worse than other advanced democracies, and in some it is recognised as world leading. But it is clear that the system is under pressure, confronted with an endless conveyor belt of problems. By international standards, New Zealand ranks poorly in some sectors, notably child poverty, affordable housing, youth suicide, water pollution and obesity. To better serve the ‘team of five million', how can the public policy process be improved?

Policy-making cover

Sonia Mazey and Jeremy Richardson, academics whose working lives have been spent researching the policy-making process, sought to answer this question with the help of people with extensive policy-making experience. Policy-making Under Pressure features a diverse team of contributors including former government ministers, senior public servants, commentators and representatives of key stakeholder groups. Their reflections and perspectives provide expert insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the New Zealand policy process, and offer new angles on persistent problems and policy processes.

Drawing upon these first-hand accounts and linking them to classic theories of public policy-making, Mazey and Richardson explain in an accessible way why government ‘stuff-ups’ happen, and suggest practical steps the policy establishment could take to improve policy-making in New Zealand.

Written for a wide audience, the book will appeal to anyone interested in how we might be better served by our government, as well as to public policy practitioners, researchers, and students taking undergraduate and postgraduate courses in government, politics and public policy.

Sonia Mazey is professor of public policy at the University of Canterbury and former pro-vice chancellor of its College of Business and Law. Her research interests include European comparative politics, European integration and the European Union policy process, and she has published extensively in these fields.

Jeremy Richardson is an emeritus fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and an adjunct professor at the University of Canterbury. He is the founding editor of the Journal of European Public Policy, which he continues to co-edit. He has published widely on the UK policy process, Swedish policy-making and administration, the policy processes of the European Union and comparative policy styles.

Listen to Sonia Mazey being interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on RNZ Nine to Noon. 


‘The book could be dry, dull and wonky. It is not. It’s useful for providing a lens to bring into sharper focus many of the things we see around us.’ North & South magazine

‘[Wayne] Eagleson's proximity to politics, power and the policy process makes his one of the most fascinating of 20 contributors to the book’. The Herald

‘Policy-making can sound dull, but this practical publication is anything but … The editors have succeeded in producing a comprehensive and interesting view of this complex topic.’ Latitude magazine

Policy-making Under Pressure ... offers true-life accounts of how politics and myriad other constraints stand between bad problems and good solutions … There’s plenty of theory in Policy-making Under Pressure, but the true tales are the stories that stick.’

‘The book actually does a better job, than most policy theories, of exposing the bleak realities of the complex policymaking environments that cause major gaps between hope and reality. Whether or not it provides a better guide to policymaking improvement is a different matter. Nevertheless, the editors and authors have delivered a truly excellent and provocative way to seek to do better.’ Paul Cairney, Journal of the International Public Policy Association (forthcoming)

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