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Government Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship

Page updated 21 Sep 2015

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 New Zealand Acts of Parliament (primary legislation), and Legislative Instruments (subordinate legislation) are administered by a government agency, usually a department.

The 2013 Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship

The New Zealand government expects government agencies to take a proactive, lifecycle approach to the monitoring and care of the regulatory regimes within which they exercise administrative responsibilities.  

In March 2013, Cabinet 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.  Those expectations are that:
“departments, in exercising their stewardship role over government regulation, will:

  • monitor, and thoroughly assess at appropriate intervals, the performance and condition of their regulatory regimes to ensure they are, and will remain, fit for purpose
  • be able to clearly articulate what those regimes are trying to achieve, what types of costs and other impacts they may impose, and what factors pose the greatest risks to good regulatory performance
  • have processes to use this information to identify and evaluate, and where appropriate report or act on, problems, vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement in the design and operation of those regimes
  • for the above purposes, maintain an up-to-date database of the legislative instruments for which they have policy responsibility, with oversight roles clearly assigned within the department
  • not propose regulatory change without:
    • clearly identifying the policy or operational problem it needs to address, and undertaking impact analysis to provide assurance that the case for the proposed change is robust
    • careful implementation planning, including ensuring that implementation needs inform policy, and providing for appropriate review arrangements
  • maintain a transparent, risk-based compliance and enforcement strategy, including providing accessible, timely information and support to help regulated entities understand and meet their regulatory requirements, and
  • ensure that where regulatory functions are undertaken outside departments, appropriate monitoring and accountability arrangements are maintained, which reflect the above expectations.”

It is intended that these Initial Expectations for Regulatory Stewardship will be periodically reviewed by the Treasury, and adjusted or extended as appropriate.

More information about Cabinet’s decisions of March 2013 can be found in 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 (PDF 206KB)

Other key references to Regulatory Stewardship

  • The July 2015 Government Response to the New Zealand Productivity Commission Report on Regulatory Institutions and Practices states that:
    • the government’s medium term objectives and work programme for the regulatory management system is built around the expectations for regulatory stewardship
    • the Treasury will have a focus in the next three years on further embedding the expectations for regulatory stewardship across government
  • 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 draw on the Government’s March 2013 expectations for regulatory stewardship
  • In 2013, key regulatory departments were asked to prepare a Regulatory System Report, which provided information on the systems and processes they had in place to manage the regulatory regimes they administer. The report provides a baseline for future discussion on progress towards meeting their regulatory stewardship obligations. The 2013 guidance set out relevant information to include in the system report.
  • 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(PDF 115KB).
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