Social Developments – an organisational history of the Ministry of Social Development and its predecessors, 1860 - 2011

The history provides an overview of MSD and its predecessors, beginning in the 1860s with the creation of the first pensions (for soldiers in the New Zealand Wars) and the establishment of New Zealand’s first ‘industrial school’. The history primarily covers the past forty years, and focuses less on political history and the impacts of policies, and more on organisational dynamics, departmental strategies, and the delivery of services. Socal Developments was written by Tim Garlick, Policy Analyst at the Ministry of Social Development.

This history project was begun to help clarify the organisational changes in the Ministry of Social Development and its predecessors, particularly since the 1970s. At the time, senior management in MSD saw a practical need for staff to have a better understanding of the history of the Ministry – to know where things had been tried before, to understand the origins of current and past approaches, and to recognise recurring issues.

The writing process was overseen by a steering group of senior managers, experienced current and former staff, and members of the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The steering group’s role was to ensure accuracy, balance and integrity. At no point was I directed by either MSD or the steering group to come to particular judgements or conclusions. The arguments expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official view of the Ministry of Social Development.

For those interested in specific policy changes, Social Developments has been launched at the same time as the Social Assistance Chronology, a comprehensive chronology of policy changes in social security benefits, war pensions, retirement pensions, taxation, family assistance, child welfare, housing, student support and labour market programmes.

For those seeking further information, there are a number of other works which cover aspects of the Ministry’s history in more detail. These include (but are not limited to): A Civilised Community, Margaret McClure’s history of the social security system; Family Matters, Bronwyn Dalley’s history of child welfare; Paupers and Providers, Margaret Tennant’s history of 19th century charitable aid, and The Fabric of Welfare, Tennant’s history of voluntary organisations, government and welfare. I also recommend Dalley and Tennant’s Past Judgement (which includes a chapter by Gaynor White on the Pensions Department), and Murray Petrie’s The Income Support Experience and From Welfare to Well-being and Strengthening Families: An Historical Record 1993-1999.

Tim Garlick (author)



Social Developments - an organisational history of the Ministry of Social Development

Oct 2012

Print this page.