In 1986 the government set up the Royal Commission on Social Policy to examine social conditions in New Zealand and recommend policies that would result in a more just and fair society. At the time the government was embarking on radical economic reforms and the commission was seen by some as prime minister David Lange's attempt to protect the welfare state.
The commissioners canvassed a wide range of topics, including Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi, gender equality, social welfare and mental health. They consulted widely, receiving around 6,000 submissions from individuals and public interest groups. This approach produced a considerable piece of social science work, but when the report was published in 1988 it was heavily criticised for its uneven quality and lack of over-arching framework. As this news report on its publication hints, the government largely ignored its recommendations. Despite this, the report did contribute to a broader understanding of what constituted social policy.
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