Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says frontline services can be 'protected' despite cuts to frontline staff as 'pedo hunter' jobs slashed

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is confident his Government will protect frontline services despite proposals to cut frontline staff. 

Customs and Internal Affairs are the latest departments to propose job cuts including roles such as lead online investigator digital child exploitation – which has the union concerned. 

However, Luxon said he has spoken to public service CEOs and has been clear the agencies are reorganising themselves to "deliver improved outcomes for New Zealanders". 

On Monday, a proposal to cut 79 New Zealand Customs jobs and 41 roles at the Department of Internal Affairs was announced. 

This includes cuts to the Digital Safety Group, Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism directorate and Customs roles from Trade, Revenue and Compliance Service Delivery. 

The cuts are in response to the Coalition Government's directive to public services to cut costs by between 6.5 and 7.5 percent to help reduce annual public service spending by $1.5 billion. 

Appearing on AM, Public Service Association (PSA) assistant secretary and former Labour Party candidate Fleur Fitzsimons said the proposed cuts were concerning. 

"It's absolute rubbish that the Government claims that these aren't frontline roles. These are people that work on the frontline of New Zealand's border security doing everything they can to stop things like illegal drugs and firearms coming into New Zealand," she told co-host Lloyd Burr. 

"…Their tax cuts are now affecting frontline services." 

When asked whether the proposal includes cuts to "pedophile hunters", Fleur Fitzsimons said "absolutely". 

"They are frontline. These are the sort of people who sit on computers and look at things like child exploitation… They are absolutely frontline on looking at the most vile and horrible material…" 

Appearing later in the programme, Luxon agreed work to prevent digital child exploitation is important. 

However, he said the decision around what to cut had been left up to the chief executives of government agencies and he will hold them accountable for results. 

"All we have said to them is: Look we need you to generate some savings. Look at your organisations, make sure that you've got everything focused on delivering better frontline services and outcomes for New Zealanders. How you choose to organise your structures is up to you to deliver that task," he said. 

National has said it is trying to restore "financial discipline" with its cuts to the public service because the number of staff has ballooned under the previous Labour Government. 

Since Labour came to power in 2017, the number of public servants has increased by roughly one-third, up just under 18,500 to a total of 65,699 full-time equivalent staff at the end of 2023. 

Asked why frontline staff were now being cut, Luxon said he had been very clear frontline "services" rather than frontline jobs would be protected. 

"What I've been saying really clearly is frontline services need to be protected and that is because I want the focus on the outcomes," he said. 

Luxon said he had been "crystal clear" with CEOs about what he expects them to deliver. 

"I would actually just let the process run… It will all be confirmed in the Budget but I just say to you, is we have been given very clear instructions to say we're ending wasteful spending, we're stopping dumb projects that aren't working, we're very comfortable to have organisations reorganise themselves so they can actually deliver improved outcomes for New Zealanders," he said. 

Luxon said he met personally with all 50 of the top agencies and gave clarity about what the Government expects. 

"If they are struggling, they will need to get on the programme pretty quickly."