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Secure handling of Cabinet material

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 4 July 2017
Issue status: 
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.

Key points

“Cabinet material” includes Cabinet and Cabinet committee agendas, papers, minutes, and memos.

You are responsible for ensuring that the Cabinet material you have access to is handled securely. CabNet is set up to allow “need to know” electronic access to authorised users. Any downloaded CabNet material needs to be securely stored in line with its security classification and endorsement, and should not be emailed, scanned, or copied. The only exception to the requirement not to save Cabinet material outside of CabNet is where an agency needs to keep separate records for the purposes of its own business records (i.e. of an expenditure approval).

The minimum classification for Cabinet material is “In Confidence”. More highly classified Cabinet material (i.e. classified above Sensitive / Restricted) must not be uploaded to, or stored in, CabNet. Instead, the hard copy paper based system applies to such material. For more information refer to this guidance on hard-copy paper processes.

CabNet and accessing Cabinet material

CabNet is the central repository for Cabinet information and contains all Cabinet material from August 2015. CabNet is a secure system which is only accessible by people who have the appropriate authorisation and the need to access Cabinet material.

CabNet only contains Cabinet material classified as In Confidence, Sensitive, or Restricted. Material classified as Confidential or above must be securely handled and stored according to the requirements of their classifications.

Papers and minutes can be accessed electronically from CabNet, and documents can be downloaded when there is a need to have a paper copy. Any hard copies should be securely handled and stored as appropriate based on their classification.

Important note: Cabinet material must not be emailed, scanned, copied or saved in locations outside of CabNet. Only CabNet reference numbers (e.g. CAB-17-MIN-0004, SWC-18-SUB-0251) or CabNet URL links can be emailed, and only to government email addresses using SEEMAIL.

Each CabNet submission (i.e. the Cabinet paper and associated documents such as the Cabinet minute) has portfolio group access allocated to it on a need-to-know basis. Access to Cabinet material in CabNet is provided to authorised users in Ministerial and agency portfolio groups. For more information on access, refer to the accessing information in CabNet page.

Participating agencies should not maintain a separate repository of Cabinet material that was considered since CabNet went live in August 2015, or distribute material outside of CabNet. This is because CabNet, and the information it contains, is purposefully only accessible by authorised users. Each user must sign an agreement stating that they will not disclose any information, documents, user information or reports generated from CabNet to unauthorised parties.

If another agency or authorised CabNet user needs to access material on CabNet for which they do not have access, then they should contact the Cabinet Office. Other agencies or users have no authority to forward Cabinet material outside of CabNet.

Security classifications

The security classification printed on all Cabinet material determines the detailed handling requirements for transmitting, handling, storing, copying, and disposing of downloaded or hard-copy material, and the accessibility provisions in CabNet. Refer to Drafting Cabinet Material [233 KB] for information on applying security classifications and the handling requirements for Cabinet material.

It is the responsibility of the originating department, or the Minister’s office, to determine the level of security classification applicable to Cabinet and Cabinet committee papers to ensure that the documents receive the appropriate level of protection. The minimum classification for Cabinet material is “In Confidence”.

The Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) provides for information to be protected to the extent consistent with the public interest and the preservation of personal privacy. Classifications in themselves do not allow official information to be withheld under the OIA. All requests under the OIA must be considered using the criteria in the Act, regardless of the classification given to the document concerned. For further information refer to Release of Cabinet material under the Official Information Act 1982.


A range of endorsements may also be used with security classifications to describe the nature of the information being protected or to indicate certain handling requirements. The most common endorsements used for Cabinet papers are:

  • Budget: for proposed or actual measures for the Budget prior to their announcement
  • Commercial: for papers that include information about sensitive commercial processes, negotiations, or affairs
  • Staff: for papers that include reference to named or identifiable individuals
  • Legally Privileged: for papers that include legal advice.

Endorsements are not security classifications in their own right, and must not appear without a security classification (i.e. Budget: Sensitive, Commercial: In Confidence).

Hard-copy handling of Cabinet material

Hard-copy papers are still distributed in two instances:

  • Ministers receive hard-copies of Cabinet material that is relevant to their portfolios and Cabinet and Cabinet committee membership
  • highly-classified papers (i.e. Confidential and above) are distributed only in hard-copy and not stored in CabNet. For more information on this, refer to the guidance on the distribution of highly classified material.

Hard-copy Cabinet and Cabinet committee papers may occasionally be personally addressed to Ministers and chief executives due to the sensitivity of the material. Such papers, which are intended to be seen by the addressee only, are marked “Addressee Only:” followed by the name of the recipient.

The Special Handling Required endorsement may also be used for highly sensitive material in the public interest/ personal privacy area that require additional protection. Cabinet material with this endorsement is handled only in hard-copy.

Sending hard-copies of Cabinet material to Ministers

Ministers have electronic access to Cabinet material through the CabDocs application and through CabNet.

If Ministers’ offices need to send hard-copies of Cabinet material classified In Confidence, Sensitive, or Restricted to Ministers outside of the parliamentary complex, it is recommended that papers are sent in an NZSIS-approved lockable bag with VIP Transport or a commercial courier. See the handling requirements for protectively marked information and equipment for further advice. 

Cabinet material classified as Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret, or with a Special Handling Required endorsement, must not be transported outside the parliamentary complex.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 7 September 2016

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