Back to top anchor

Cabinet paper consultation with departments

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 25 January 2023
Issue status: 
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

Cabinet paper consultation with departments

Departments that prepare Cabinet papers are responsible for ensuring that appropriate consultation is undertaken, that other departments are given reasonable time to comment, and that views are accurately reflected in the paper.  Effective consultation ensures that Ministers receive sound, comprehensive, and co-ordinated policy advice.

When should consultation take place

Consultation with departments can take a number of forms. On occasion, it is sufficient to send copies of a draft paper to other departments for comment. In other cases, it is appropriate to discuss and try to get agreement with other departments on policy issues before finalising a draft paper for more formal consultation. For significant cross-government policy issues, a collaborative approach between relevant departments will be required.

Departments being consulted must be given enough time to consider a draft paper, and should see the final version of the document before it is uploaded to CabNet to ensure that they are happy with the comments attributed to them. Papers should indicate the departments consulted and, if appropriate outline their views and/or whether they agree with the proposals.

Every attempt must be made to present a proposal that is supported by all departments that were consulted. If consensus cannot be reached, the paper should include all views and, if necessary, options should be provided in the recommendations, clearly showing who supports which option.

Departments preparing papers must ensure that they consider the interests both of other departments and of other government agencies, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and Officers of Parliament (the Controller and Auditor-General, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment).

Which departments need to be consulted

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the Treasury

Many Cabinet papers will need to be consulted with DPMC, PSC and the Treasury. Drafters should, where they are uncertain, check with the relevant advisors in DPMC, the Treasury, and PSC on whether the paper that they are preparing needs consultation with those departments.

DPMC has responsibility for advising the Prime Minister on all policy proposals that are likely to have implications for the government as a whole. This is often because they are significant policy matters, issues needing high-level co-ordination, or issues of particular public interest.

PSC has responsibility for advising Ministers on whole of government perspectives, on proposals to establish, merge, or disestablish Public sector agencies (other than State-owned enterprises), and on proposals with an impact on organisational structures, strategic alignment, and capability. PSC is also responsible for chief executive accountability or departmental performance specifications, and workforce or employment relations in the Public sector.

The Treasury has responsibility for advising the Minister of Finance on all proposals with economic implications, financial or fiscal (expenditure or revenue) implications, implications for the Public Finance Act 1989, and regulatory implications (proposals for primary legislation or disallowable instruments submitted for approval to Cabinet).

The Treasury must be consulted on all papers with financial, fiscal, economic, or regulatory implications, or that contain recommendations on expenditure or revenue. The Treasury must be allowed at least two weeks to comment (unless there are compelling and unavoidable reasons to be less), and the implications must be detailed in the Cabinet or Cabinet committee paper and, if appropriate, in an accompanying Regulatory Impact Assessment. This is discussed further in the page on Financial Implications in Cabinet papers.

Consultation on matters with implications for the Crown

Ministers also want assurance that the issues in papers have been assessed for their implications for the Crown. This includes legal obligations, human rights issues, regulatory impact and compliance cost implications, and the use, long-term lease, or disposal of Crown-owned land.

The following list indicates which departments drafters should consider consulting to ensure that their paper addresses these matters:

  •  the Crown Law Office for proposals which have significant legal implications for the Crown, including: litigation to which the government may become a party, issues about the lawfulness of the exercise of government power, and constitutional issues (including Treaty of Waitangi issues) (for more information see CO (16) 2 Cabinet Directions for the Conduct of Crown Legal Business)
  •  policy proposals leading to legislation. It is mandatory to consult:
    • the Parliamentary Counsel Office for all proposals for legislation and amendments to legislation and regulations
    • the Ministry of Justice:
      • to ensure consistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, the Human Rights Act 1993, and the Privacy Act 2020
      • for proposals for new criminal offences, infringements, or penalties (including civil pecuniary penalties), or to alter existing ones
      • for proposals to create, amend, or remove the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal; that involve access to court information; or which may impact on court-based procedures and workloads

  • Inland Revenue for proposals for tax legislation and regulations
  • the Office for Māori Crown Relations – Te Arawhiti for proposals that have implications for Māori/Crown relations, takutai moana (the marine and coastal area),  existing or future settlements of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, or the Crown’s Treaty Settlement commitments (the circular CO (19) 5: Te Tiriti o Waitangi / Treaty of Waitangi Guidance includes useful guidance which can help with assessing Treaty impacts). Note that if proposals include legislation that specifically refers to, or proposes a clause relating to, the Treaty of Waitangi, then the Treaty Provisions Officials Group convened by Te Arawhiti must also be consulted 
  • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for proposals that have implications for New Zealand’s international relations or implications for the Pacific realm countries (i.e. Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau), any action to enter an international treaty or arrangement, and on issues concerning international law
  • Land Information New Zealand and the Crown Law Office for proposals involving the use, long-term lease, or disposal of Crown-owned land. 

Consultation on impacts on population groups

Any policy proposal will have impacts on particular population groups, such as people of certain ages or ethnicities.  Ministers will want to know that these have been well thought through.  The best way to work out if there are impacts on populations is to consult early with population agencies (i.e.  government agencies which focus on population groups).  The list below indicates the departments that drafters should consider consulting and includes links to tools to help with analysis where these are available:

Consultation on other cross-government issues

Some papers may also require consultation with departments that have responsibility for more specialised areas of activity with application across the government. These issues include:

  • community and voluntary sector - proposals that have implications for the community and voluntary sector – the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector
  • constitutional issues - all proposals affecting constitutional arrangements, including the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi - the Ministry of Justice (along with Te Arawhiti - the Office for Māori Crown Relations, where these relate to Treaty settlement commitments), and the Cabinet Office 
  • greenhouse gas emissions - proposals where reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key policy objective, or the direct emission impacts are likely to be significant - the Ministry for the Environment
  • government records - proposals with implications for the record of government activity and the custody of government records – Archives New Zealand
  • local government - proposals that have implications for local government or that may have an impact on particular communities – the Department of Internal Affairs. The Guide for central government engagement with local government is a useful resource to support effective engagement with local government 
  • Ministers and Cabinet decision-making - proposals affecting central government decision-making processes, Ministerial ethics, and Ministerial portfolios – the Cabinet Office
  • privacy - legislative and policy proposals that may affect the privacy of individuals, including information matching proposals – the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. See the Human Rights Implications page for more information about requirements relating to privacy
  • statistical information - proposals that have implications for the collection, analysis and release of statistical information from surveys or administrative databases, or that relate to monitoring and evaluation – Statistics New Zealand.
Last updated: 
Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Help us improve DPMC

Your feedback is very important in helping us improve the DPMC website.