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Within the Service Innovation work program at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), we have a range of service delivery initiatives where we work collaboratively with other agencies, organisations and companies in our Lab to design, prototype and build better public services. This helps us identify user needs without a specific agency or government view, as well as identify reusable components that could support multiple services (in public and private sectors). Last week our team kicked off a three-week discovery sprint exploring how subsidies are provided to New Zealanders and what this could that look like in the future, with a focus on Rates Rebates.

Please find all the Rates Rebates related posts from LabPlus here. Our broad work program is outlined here, and we invite you to join our mailing list or follow our blog posts to keep up-to-date, and to visit us if you are in town at our OpenLab events each Friday from 4pm at the Todd Building, 95 Customhouse Quay.

What are Rates Rebates?

Rates Rebates are an entitlement that has been identified as a key pain point for applicants (low income property owners for primary residences), as well as for Local and Central Government. It's a high complexity process for both the owner residents who apply, and for the Central and Local Government organisations involved in the process. It is also something people need to re-apply for every year and the entitlement rules are not straight forward. There is a Rates Rebates calculation that takes into account the income, number of dependants and the property rates for every individual, so many people who are eligible likely don't even know it.

Kick off

Our initial step was to explore the purpose of the entitlement and we did this from three perspectives, the Act, agencies and the applicant. We also tried to understand what the three perspectives needed, based on the process as it stands today.

1 - The Act Perspective

“To make provision for the granting of rebates of rates payable in respect of certain residential properties”. -- From the Rates Rebates Act 1973.
  • Help subsidise low income homeowners

2 - Agencies Perspective (Local Government NZ/Ministry of Social Development/Inland Revenue Department/DIA)

  • Help me reduce organisation debt (the Councils pay the Rebates and then DIA sends funds to the Councils)
  • Help us get the money to the right people
  • Help us create awareness of rates rebates
  • Help us do this efficiently
  • Help me concentrate on core business
  • Help me (data/info) know the things I need to know to administer the act (roles and accountability)

3 - Applicant Perspective

  • Help me without trying to control me (give consent easily without harming me)
  • Help me by doing this for me:
    • You know me
    • You know my situation
    • Give me the financial assistance I need
  • Help me afford to live in my own home
  • Help me get the support I need without stigma or discomfort
  • Help me make this worth my time

Building on the past

Some work had been done by Central and Local Governments to explore user needs and the government challenges around Rates Rebates however, this had not yet resulted in meaningful prototyping or a tangible solution, so needed further exploration. Our team works to understand and utilise the efforts of previous groups, add value and be a catalyst to a high value solution for the whole Rates Rebates process.

Focus points

Our team identified the following focus points for the three week sprint.

  • Understand and Complement  - Previous Rates Rebates insights focused on the process from a applicant perspective, our team will collect and analyse insight from multiple perspectives including Central and Local Government agencies. We are also looking additional applicant types that have not been spoken to before and understand the size and and demographics of the eligibility groups.
  • Local and Global Picture - We are exploring the local and global community and identifying similar concepts, prototypes and entitlement models that we can factor into our concept development.
  • Data Path - Exploring the data path of the process, data ownership, authority and declaration and what this could mean for implementation of any automated concepts.
  • Thinking Big/Parallel Value - How could this be applied across all of government services.

Our Team

We are very fortunate on our discovery team to have a diverse talented group of people, from seven different organisations across Central and Local Government agencies and the private sector, working together to create a combined picture of the process experience, pain points, common goals and solution alignment.  Our team includes members from Auckland City Council, Tauranga Council, Wellington City Council, Ministry of Social Development, Inland Revenue, Assurity Consulting and the Service Innovation and Rates Rebates branches in the Department of Internal Affairs.

Please tune in next week for the outcomes from Week 2!

Post your comment


  1. Beth 05/10/2017 8:38am (22 months ago)

    Hey guys..
    Cool to see this work getting picked up.. I was involved in some of the initial discovery work on this at DIA.. Good luck!

  2. lee wallace 05/10/2017 10:46am (22 months ago)

    Excellent post! I really like it is time constrained, identification of the purpose (of rate rebates), this is a critical element if done back to first principles which may reveal opportunites. The three perspectives is a great way to identify what isn't working as there may be a paradox or conflict between the ACT, agency and applicant, backed up by each of their needs, fantastic. This is where insights may popup. While building on the past I'd also try to understand why hasn't it worked? and if there is something within the surrounding ecosystem that is keeping the current system stuck? I look forward to week 2. I'll be reviewing my current project using this approach.

  3. Pia Waugh 05/10/2017 11:30am (22 months ago)

    Thanks Lee, the previous user research and mapping was really great but was limited to early discovery. For this initiative built a team that includes some Councils specifically to co-design and co-prototype possible ways to improve the status quo which is resulting in some quite out of the box thinking, and possible pathways into implmentation. We'll see where it goes :)


  4. Pia Waugh 05/10/2017 11:31am (22 months ago)

    Thanks so much for the previous work! Was really great to build on your efforts!

    Pia and the team

  5. Bede 05/10/2017 12:32pm (22 months ago)

    Great start team!

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