The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation

 

Public and Government Inquiries

The Department of Internal Affairs provides administrative assistance to Public and Government Inquiries established under the Inquiries Act 2013.

These Inquiries are able to inquire into any matter of public importance or concern to the Government of the day.

Public Inquiries include Royal Commissions, which are appointed by and report to the Governor-General, and the Inquiry report is tabled in Parliament.

Government Inquiries are appointed by and report to a Minister and the intention is that these are simpler and quicker to establish.

Both types of Inquiry have the same legal powers.

The type of inquiry is decided upon after discussions between Ministers and officials, with advice from Crown Law Office and State Services Commission as required.

Different types of government reviews     

  

Mandate

  
  

Options for Formal    Inquiry

  
  

Commissioned by

  
  

Selective Examples

  
  

Comment

  

Inquiries Act 2013

Royal Commission

“reserved for the most   serious matters of public importance”

Appointed by Governor-General on the advice   of the Executive Council

2010 - Pike River

2011 – Building Failure Caused By The   Canterbury Earthquake

All inquiries established under the Inquiries   Act have statutory independence; the power to take evidence on oath or   affirmation; and to require any person to provide information to the inquiry   and to summon witnesses. 

An inquiry may designate any person to be a   core participant in an inquiry.  A core   participant has the right to give evidence and make submissions to the   inquiry.

An inquiry should not usually be appointed,   however, where an existing body has jurisdiction to carry out the   investigation (according to the Law Commission).

The purpose of an inquiry may include:

  • establishing   facts or developing policy;
  • learning   from events;
  • providing   an opportunity for reconciliation and resolution; or
  • holding   people and organisations to account.

Public Inquiry

“inquiring into, and   reporting on, any matter of public importance”

Established by Governor-General by Order in   Council

 

Government Inquiry

“inquiring into, and   reporting on, any matter of public importance”

Minister(s), by notice in the New Zealand   Gazette

2012 - Allegations concerning Hon. Judith   Collins

2016 - Havelock North drinking water

Parliament

Select Committee

Subject Select Committees   may receive briefings on, or initiate inquiries into, matters related to   their respective subject areas as specified in Standing Order 188.

Inquiries can also be referred by the House   but are more likely to be initiated by a Select Committee if the inquiry   topic relates to the subject matter in its terms of reference

April 2016 – 2014 General Election

August 2016 - Māori Television Service

Dec 2016 – legislative response to future   national emergencies

April 2017 - illegal possession of firearms

Select Committee inquiries can range from   complex and lengthy inquiries to a one-meeting briefing on a particular   topic.

Inquiries do not always result in a report to   the House.

The House and its Committees always have the   right to inquire into agencies that are accountable to Parliament.

A Minister can approach the appropriate   Select Committee chair with a view to exploring the viability of this option   given, for example, the workload priorities and composition of that Select   Committee.

Office of the   Auditor-General

Looking at issues   pertaining to public entities, (usage of resources, including financial,   governance, management and organisational issues)

The OAG is not a complaints agency but can be   requested to initiate an inquiry

October 2013 and November 2015  – Earthquake Commission in managing the   Canterbury Home Repair Programme

July 2017 – decision to grant Peter Thiel   citizenship

The Auditor-General independently decides   which matters the Office will investigate.

This presents a viable alternative to Police   investigations for allegations of criminal offending or Serious Fraud Office   investigations in relation to potential   instances of serious and complex fraud.

Non-statutory inquiry

Ministerial inquiry

Inquiries established by a   Minister into an area for which they have portfolio responsibility

Minister(s) initiate, with agreement from the   Prime Minister

2007 - Report of the Local Government Rates   Inquiry (the Shand Report)

2009 - Disclosure of Funding Shortfall in ACC   Non-earners' Account

2013 - Novopay inquiry

The non-statutory inquiry lacks the powers to   summon witnesses and to take evidence on oath.

A non-statutory inquiry would have greater   flexibility about its procedures.

There may be public suspicion about the   independence and transparency of the inquiry, but this could be managed by   public commitments at the time the inquiry is established.

Productivity Commission

Productivity Commission   inquiry

Independent Crown entity   that provides advice to the Government on improving productivity.

Topics referred by the Government. Inquiries   generally take 12 months to complete and include public engagement and   consultation steps as part of developing a final report

The Commission is currently inquiring into a   low emissions economy (due to report in June 2018) and into state sector   productivity (due to report in August 2018)

The Productivity Commission (the Commission)   is resourced to run two inquiries at a time.   

The Commission’s typical approach to an   inquiry is to publish an issues document and a draft report before producing   a final report.  It invites public   submissions on both the issues document and the draft report. Typically a   Productivity Commission inquiry takes about a year to complete from the time   it receives its terms of reference

Law Commission

Review of an area of law or   subject of legal interest

Independent   Crown Entity that reviews, reforms and develops New Zealand law, by making recommendations   to Government Also advises how to make law more accessible.

Issues may be referred by the Responsible   Minister or identified by the Commission itself.

2018 – Abortion Law Reform

2018 – Review of the Property (Relationships)   Act 1976

2016 (ongoing) – The Use of DNA in Criminal   Investigations

2016 – Victims of family violence who commit   homicide

The Law Commission   works on several projects at once, which are agreed between the Responsible   Minister and the Commission by July each year.

During a project,   the Commission researches the current law, policy and issues before preparing   an Issues Paper for consultation with interested parties (including the   public). The Commission then produces a Final report with recommendations, which   is tabled in Parliament. The Government must respond to the Final Report   within six months. The Government then decides whether it will amend the law   and, if so, how.

Provision of advice

 

Advice from a department

The relevant agency   researches and advises

Responsible minister

This is currently occurring with natural   hazards and resilience work

 

A consultancy is engaged

A technical matter is   investigated by a consultant with relevant expertise

Responsible minister

Martin Jenkins was utilised in the 2009   Inquiry into Disclosure of Funding Shortfall in the ACC Non-earners’ Account

Independence from the public service is achieved,   along with the specific expertise being sought. 

Independent working group

A technical matter or issue   is reviewed by a group of experts

Responsible minister

2018 - Film Industry working group

2017 - Tax working group

2016 - Cathedral working group

 

See information about the Inquiries Act 2013.

Some recent inquiries