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Cabinet policy paper template

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 18 December 2018
Issue status: 
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

The Cabinet policy paper template below outlines the headings and type of information that needs to be included in each section of a policy paper. These are set out in the style that should be used.

This template is intended as a guide for the preparation of Cabinet policy papers. The actual content and structure of a paper should be adapted as appropriate according to the nature of the issue. The paper should be no longer than 10 pages (excluding attachments), and should include page numbers.

Use the template policy paper [DOCX 24.51 KB] as a guide to preparing the paper, or refer to the onscreen version below.

[Security classification – minimum of In Confidence required]


Office of the Minister for x

Chair, Cabinet x Committee



Be concise and specific. Express the title of the paper in as few words as possible (i.e. no more than one line).


1. In one or two sentences state the intention of the paper (e.g. This paper seeks agreement to.., This paper provides an update on…).

Executive Summary

2. If the paper is more than four pages long, then an executive summary must be provided. The executive summary should be brief and succinctly explain the main issues.


3. The background section should cover such things as:

3.1 a brief explanation of the reasons for the paper - the context of the issue or nature of the problem (e.g. a need to respond to external factors);

3.2 references to related previous Cabinet or committee or Ministerial decisions (it may not be necessary to restate in full all of the previous decisions as an accurate summary will often suffice - always quote the most relevant Cabinet or committee minute reference, e.g. CAB-18-MIN-0035;

3.3 a summary of directly related previous developments.

[Analysis sections] – use appropriate subject headings

4. This is the main body of the paper. It should provide the detail required for Ministers to understand the proposal, and should use headings to tell the story and highlight key issues.

5. The analysis section should state the need for the proposed changes and, as appropriate, set out alternatives and arguments for and against. The analysis should reflect robust policy development and consultation processes, be informed by evidence and insights from diverse perspectives, and be analytically sound. Clearly labelled charts and diagrams can be used to support understanding, where appropriate.

6. Restrict comment to essential information and argument that supports the analysis of the options, the recommendations, and facilitates good decision making. Keep information concise, coherent, and logical.

7. This section should include, where appropriate, implementation and evaluation plans with clearly defined timelines, an explanation of risks and suggested mitigation strategies, and identification of any other potential impacts (e.g. for particular sectors or population groups aside from those discussed in the human rights, gender, and disability implications sections below).


8. See the consultation section for information about the process for consulting departments and interest groups.

9. This section should list the departments that were consulted. If a department does not concur with the decisions sought in the paper, then include a clear statement of their views.

10. If the nature of the paper means that specific consultation is required under an Act, outline the statutory requirements, describe the consultation process, and comment on any controversial aspects.

11. Check that the departments listed in this section match the departments listed in the relevant consultation boxes in CabNet (or on the consultation form (CAB100) for highly classified submissions). The paper should also name any outside interest groups that were consulted, including Crown entities, other statutory agencies, and Offices of Parliament.

12. If outside interest groups have been consulted, provide details of who these were. If such consultation is intended after decisions are made, comment on that.

13. Where necessary, papers should also include the following sections:

Financial Implications

14. This section should discuss the financial implications of the proposal. If appropriate, outline the costs and how they will be funded. All papers that contain recommendations on expenditure or revenue, or that have financial, fiscal or economic implications, must include this section and must have been referred to the Treasury for comment.

15. Papers proposing that additional funding be approved must be consulted with the Minister of Finance before the paper is submitted. The Cabinet Office will not put papers on an agenda that do not have the necessary agreement of the Minister of Finance, until the issue is resolved.

16. See the CabGuide section on financial implications and recommendations for further guidance about proposals with fiscal implications.

Legislative Implications

17. This section should explain whether legislation is required to implement proposals (i.e. a regulation or bill). If there are legislative implications, then the Parliamentary Counsel Office must be consulted.

18. If a bill is required to implement proposals, then state whether a bill has been given a slot on the Legislation Programme and its priority category. If a paper proposes a timeline for a bill that differs from the bill's priority category on the Legislation Programme, the paper should include a recommendation proposing a new priority category. The paper should also be consulted with the Leader of the House and the Parliamentary Counsel Office, and this should be noted in the consultation section of the paper.

19. If a bill is required to implement the policy and there is no provision in the Legislation Programme for such a bill, see the CabGuide section on the Legislation Programme for the required process.

20. All Cabinet papers seeking policy approvals for proposals that will result in government bills, must address the issue of whether the proposed Act is to bind the Crown. See Cabinet Office Circular CO (02) 4 Acts Binding the Crown: Procedures for Cabinet Decisions.

Impact Analysis

Regulatory Impact Statement

21. All policy proposals submitted to Cabinet that involve the potential introduction of new legislation, or changes to or the repeal of existing legislation, are subject to Cabinet’s impact analysis requirements, unless an exemption applies. See the CabGuide page on impact analysis for more information, and a list of exemptions.

22. This section should:

22.1 indicate whether or not the impact analysis requirements apply and whether a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) has been prepared and is attached to the Cabinet paper and, if not, the reasons why;

22.2 provide an agency opinion on the quality of the RIS, which should be a statement on whether the reviewer considers that the information and analysis summarised in the RIS meets/partially meets/does not meet the quality assurance criteria, and comment on any issues that have been identified in relation to any of the dimensions of quality set out in the quality assurance guidance.

23. Remember to attach the RIS as a separate attachment in CabNet when lodging the paper.

Climate Implications of Policy Assessment

24. In line with Cabinet’s decision in September 2019, a Climate Implications of Policy Assessment (CIPA) is required for proposals which include decreasing greenhouse gas emissions as a key policy objective, or which are likely to have direct emission impacts at or above above a threshold of 250,000 tons per annum [CAB-19-MIN-0509]. 

25. The CIPA requirement is to report on the direct emission impacts of policy proposals, and including an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions increases, decreases, and sequestration (capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide).  Contact the CIPA team in Ministry for the Environment (MfE) early if it is expected that proposals will meet this criteria.

26. For papers which aim to decrease greenhouse gas emissions or meet the greenhouse gas emission impact threshold referred to in paragraph 25, a CIPA subheading should be included as part of the Impact Analysis section, and a CIPA disclosure sheet (which can be found on the MfE website) should be attached to the paper.  Under this heading should be included:

26.1 a brief summary of the key findings of the analysis;
26.2 a statement on whether a CIPA disclosure is attached; and
26.3 the statement provided by the CIPA team in the MfE on the quality of the information set out in the disclosure.

27. More information about this requirement is in the circular CO (19) 8 Climate Implications of Policy Assessment Requirements.

Human Rights

28. Policy papers that have implications for human rights should include a statement about whether the proposal is in any way inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993. State the nature of any potential inconsistencies identified, or state that there are none and note the steps taken to address any issues, or include information on any justifications for the bill infringing a right or freedom.

29. See the CabGuide section on human rights implications for information on the requirements for considering human rights issues when developing policy.

Gender Implications

30. See the CabGuide section on the requirement to include a gender implications statement in social policy papers.

Disability Perspective

31. See the CabGuide section on the requirement to include a disability perspective in social policy papers.


32. State whether any publicity is planned (i.e. press releases). If proposals are likely to be controversial, then the paper should draw Cabinet's attention to the implications.

33. Any proposals for government advertising and publicity must comply with the Guidelines for Government Advertising.

Proactive Release

34. This section should include a statement on whether the Minister proposes to release the paper proactively in whole or in part, or to delay the release beyond 30 business days. Proactive release is subject to redaction as appropriate under the Official Information Act 1982. Refer to the CabGuide page on proactive release for more information. Note that there is no need to include a recommendation noting or seeking agreement to release a paper.


1. Discussions at a Cabinet or Cabinet committee meeting will usually focus on the recommendations. The wording of the recommendations form the draft decisions. It is, therefore, important to set out the recommendations in a logical order, and to set out clearly and unambiguously all of the decisions needed. All recommendations, including options, must be drawn together at the end of the paper, not scattered throughout the text. Do not omit important issues on which decisions are required.

2. Recommendations must be written so that they can be converted into a minute recording Cabinet's or the committee's decision, if Cabinet or the committee agrees with them, so that they can “stand alone”, and their meaning is clear to those who may not have read the paper. Focus on the main elements so that recommendations provide a clear guide to Ministers, and to departments that have to implement the decision. To test this, imagine the reader has reference only to the recommendations, not the paper itself, and see if the recommendations would make sense to someone who knows nothing about the paper or its content.

3. Each recommendation must be supported by a statement(s) in the body of the paper. Do not introduce new material or points into the recommendations. If there is a large set of recommendations, it can be helpful to use subheadings in line with the ones in the main body of the paper.

4. If necessary, the Cabinet Office will edit the recommendations when preparing the Cabinet Office coversheet to ensure that they are in the correct format to form the minute, and will discuss any significant changes with the Minister's office.

5. Financial recommendations must be written in a specific format and provide certain information. Refer to the page on financial recommendations for more information.

6. Noting recommendations should be used sparingly where necessary to provide detail on previous related decisions, progress towards a particular aim of policy development, the implications of undertaking a certain move, and other matters to make recommendations clear when read independently of the supporting paper.

7. If a report back is proposed, then recommend a realistic, achievable date. Recommendations should also state to whom the proposed report back is to be made (this should be to the appropriate level - for example, to the relevant portfolio Minister(s), an ad hoc group of Ministers, or a Cabinet committee) and which departments are to be involved.

8. Recommendations seeking approval "in principle" should be used sparingly and should always be subject to further work or some specified condition. The recommendation should clearly state what further work or consultation is required (“subject to”) before the "in principle" decision is to come back to Cabinet for confirmation or otherwise.

9. Rescinding recommendations should only be used when it is strictly necessary to rescind a policy or requirement previously agreed by Cabinet e.g. changing a recently agreed policy decision). New policy proposals or administrative requirements that replace long-standing agreed arrangements do not usually need to involve rescinding previous decisions. As Cabinet makes the final decision on anything that goes through a Cabinet committee, only Cabinet has the power to rescind previous Cabinet decisions.

10. While every effort should be made through consultation to produce agreed recommendations, if there are genuine differences that cannot be resolved, the paper should give clear options so that Ministers can make the final decision.

11. In summary, good recommendations:

11.1. identify all of the decisions needed;

11.2. contain a minimum of noting recommendations to provide context where necessary;

11.3. are accurate in every detail;

11.4. don't leave any room for doubt about what is being decided;

11.5. make sense independently of the paper;

11.6. set out clear options for Ministers to decide between, if necessary;

11.7. give clear instructions on the next steps or work required, identifying who is to do the work and by when.


Example formats for recommendations are:

The Minister for x recommends that the Committee:

1. note...

2. agree that...

3. agree in principle, subject to the report-back referred to in recommendation 4 below, that...

4. direct the Ministry of Examples to report to the Cabinet Examples Committee by 1 January 2019 with...

5. invite the Minister for...

6. approve...

7. authorise...

8. EITHER [supported by [xx] department]

8.1 agree to...

OR [supported by [xx] department]

8.2 agree to...

9. defer...

10. decline...

11. note that on 1 August 2017, the Cabinet Legislation Committee agreed... [LEG-17-MIN-0035];

12. agree to recommend that Cabinet rescind the decision referred to in  recommendation 11; and instead...

13. agree...


Authorised for lodgement


Hon Jane Jones

Minister for x

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 12 April 2016

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