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Regulatory Stewardship

Page updated 21 Apr 2017

Regulatory stewardship is a responsibility of government regulatory agencies.  It involves them adopting a whole-of-system, lifecycle view of regulation, and taking a proactive, collaborative approach, to the monitoring and care of the regulatory system(s) within which they have policy or operational responsibilities.

Regulatory stewardship is a statutory obligation for government departments

The State Sector Act now provides that one of the principal responsibilities of a departmental chief executive is to exercise “stewardship of ... the legislation administered by the department” – see s.32 of the State Sector Act 1988

  • The State Sector Act defines stewardship as the “active planning and management of medium- and long-term interests, along with associated advice”.
  • Most pieces of New Zealand  legislation (both primary and delegated)  are administered by a government agency, usually a department.

The 2017 Updated Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship

In April 2017, the government released a set of updated expectations for regulatory stewardship by government agencies.  These extended and replaced the 2013 “Initial Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship” (see below).

The updated Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship form Part B of the Government Expectations for Good Regulatory Practice. These stewardship expectations include responsibilities for:

  • monitoring, review and reporting on regulatory systems
  • robust analysis and implementation support for changes to regulatory systems, and
  • good regulator practice.

The 2013 Initial Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship

In March 2013, the government agreed to a set of “Initial Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship”, in order to give departments more direction as to how they should discharge their regulatory stewardship obligations. 

More information about the 2013 Expectations can be found as part of this information release. The text of 2013 Expectations can be found in Annex One of the Memorandum to the Cabinet Committee on State Sector Reform and Expenditure Control SEC (13) 8: Regulatory Systems (Paper Two): Improving New Zealand’s Regulatory Performance (206 KB)

Other key references to Regulatory Stewardship

  • In 2016, several major regulatory departments were required to publish their first regulatory stewardship strategies and plans. While these first reports reflect the fact that those departments were only just starting to develop their regulatory stewardship thinking, a department’s stewardship strategy is expected to contain information on:
    • the department’s approach to regulatory stewardship
    • the condition of the important regulatory systems they work within, and
    • prioritised plans for improving those systems in the year ahead.
  • The Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) Agency Model, a performance review tool used to assess how well-placed government agencies are to meet their future operating needs, was upgraded in 2014 to incorporate regulatory stewardship, through:
    • a revised lead question that asks “How well does the agency exercise its stewardship role over regulation?”
    • associated lines of inquiry that drew on the Government’s 2013 Initial Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship
  • An article was published in the November 2014 issue of Policy Quarterly, a journal of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, in which the author, Jonathan Ayto, makes a case for Why Departments Need to be Regulatory Stewards (115 KB).


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