Zac Neill

'The MPAG meant I could jump right into the middle of tough policy challenges...'

  • Zac Neill

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Economics

Master of Policy and Governance

Advisor, NZ Transport Agency | Waka Kotahi

Zac had always wanted a career that could help shape the future of New Zealand. Political Science studies at UC gave him the opportunity to directly affect the day-to-day operation and management of the nation.

Following his undergraduate Arts degree, Zac was inspired to continue onto the Master of Political Governance (MPAG) and gain in-depth experience on creating and influencing public policies.

‘If you want to enter the policy sector in New Zealand, the MPAG degree gives you a great footing for this,’ he says. ‘It complements a diverse range of undergraduate study, from Computer Science to Philosophy, Engineering to Political Science.’ 

His postgraduate studies offered more freedom around investigating policy that particularly motivated him, and gave him the skills to draft effective changes.

‘The strength of MPAG is that you can choose areas to write about that interest you, within the bounds of the course. For example, I got to write on taxing robots, on democratic indigenous empowerment, and for the dissertation I got to write on social housing policy in New Zealand.’

As a Christchurch local, Zac felt it was the ‘natural choice’ to complete his university studies with UC and take advantage of its diverse student body.

‘There is a strong sense of community at UC, and I’ve made good friendships while I’ve studied. Because most of the campus is centralised, it meant that I got to see and meet heaps of people that I normally would not if I was just doing my own course of study,’ he says. ‘I am a big sports fan, so Christchurch was great as a hub for good sport!’

Being a part of UCPOLS club was the best way for him to meet likeminded students from other study areas interested in politics. Zac was on the executive team twice while studying.

‘My favourite time was being on the executive during election year and having a hand in organising a series of electorate debates. Packing out the Undercroft space was awesome to see, and I hope (in some way) we better informed the voting public!

‘It was a great way to meet people that I had mutual interests with, and I see heaps of people who were in the club up here in Wellington.’

Shortly after graduating the MPAG, Zac moved to Wellington and started his career working at the NZ Transport Agency on policy.

‘The MPAG meant that I could skip my “graduate” year in public policy and be able to jump right into the middle of tough policy challenges,’ he says. ‘MPAG is no replacement for experience, but it puts your CV at the top of the pile when competing in a very competitive graduate environment.’

Zac’s role as an Advisor sees him collating information and writing advisory reports on transport policies. The work requires strong communication skills to influence decision-making, which he says was fostered through the MPAG.

‘I find that the work is constantly changing and is very responsive to current context. Understanding why decisions are made, and how best to support those decisions, is a constantly challenging aspect of my work.

‘I also enjoy the challenge of constantly learning in my job. There’s always something new to learn, and I’m surrounded by a wealth of experience and subject matter expertise.’ 

So far thoroughly enjoying his chance to make positive change in New Zealand, Zac hopes to continue to grow within policy practice throughout his career.

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