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Ministers' overseas travel process and Cabinet travel papers

Issue date: 
Monday, 24 July 2017
Issue status: 
Published by: 
Version note: 

This publication is part of the CabGuide.


This section provides information on the overseas travel process for Ministers and the requirements for travel papers, including:

  • seeking the Prime Minister’s prior agreement for a Minister’s overseas travel, as well as the requirements for travel to Australia and Antarctica
  • proposals for Travel costs to be met by non-government agencies and foreign governments
  • the content of Cabinet papers seeking approval for overseas travel
  • notification about Ministers overseas
  • reporting on Ministers’ overseas travel.

Refer to this page on uploading Travel papers into CabNet

Seeking the Prime Minister’s prior agreement for a Minister’s overseas travel

The Prime Minister’s prior agreement in principle must be obtained for a Minister’s proposed overseas travel (see paragraphs 2.111 to 2.128 of the Cabinet Manual). No commitment or understanding may be entered into before this preliminary approval has been given.

Where there is any doubt about travel to a particular destination (e.g. for international relations reasons), the request for the Prime Minister’s approval must be supported by a recommendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Following agreement in principle from the Prime Minister, the Minister must obtain Cabinet’s approval for the proposed travel (except for travel to Australia and Antarctica).

Approval for travel to Australia

Ministers proposing travel to Australia only require the Prime Minister’s approval. In relation to travel to Australia, requests for approval should be prepared and submitted to the Prime Minister, and Ministers should still report to Cabinet on the outcome of their travel, in the same away as for other overseas travel.

Approval for travel to Antarctica

While Cabinet’s approval is not required for travel to the Ross Dependency in Antarctica, Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries intending to travel to Antarctica should:

  • seek the Prime Minister’s approval for their intended travel, the composition of the party, the cost of the travel, and the period that they will be away (final approval will be subject to obtaining leave from Parliament from the Party Whip)
  • seek the Prime Minister’s agreement (by a memo copied to the Cabinet Office) to Acting Minister arrangements during their absence
  • inform the Secretary of the Cabinet of the dates of their absence.

Travel costs met by non-government agencies and foreign governments

Any proposal that a Minister or a Parliamentary Under-Secretary accept the payment of international airfares or travel-related costs by another country must be approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister. The Cabinet paper on the proposed travel should indicate that this approval has been obtained.

If it is proposed that an organisation other than a New Zealand government agency fund any of the travel, accommodation, or other expenses, the Cabinet paper should provide details of the organisation and the expenses that it has offered to meet. Any such proposals should be assessed in light of the guidelines on the public duty/private interests of Ministers Parliamentary Under-Secretaries (see paragraph 2.55 and paragraphs 2.81 to 2.82 of the Cabinet Manual).

Content of Cabinet papers seeking approval for overseas travel

Cabinet papers on proposed overseas travel and reports on travel are submitted directly to Cabinet, but do not require prior approval from the Chair of Cabinet to go direct to Cabinet as other submissions do.

A paper seeking approval for overseas travel should:

  • confirm that the Prime Minister has been consulted
  • state the countries and cities to be visited, and the duration of the absence from New Zealand
  • explain the reason for, and the value to New Zealand of the visit (e.g. specific conferences to be attended, or lists of those with whom discussions will be held, and for what reason)
  • set out the composition of the party and whether the Minister is to be accompanied by a spouse or partner, Ministerial staff and/or departmental officials (for officials other than Ministerial staff, details should be given of their designations, departments, the cost of their travel, and the Votes to which the expenditure would be a charge)
  • seek approval, as appropriate, for the inclusion of members of Parliament in the official delegation or of any non-official representatives (and, in the case of non-official representatives, stating that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has approved their inclusion) (see Cabinet Office circular CO (00) 14 Procedures for Including Non-Official Representatives on Official Delegations to International Meetings)
  • provide information on the total estimated cost and the Votes to which it will be charged (information should be provided on the main components of the overall cost)
  • confirm the Acting Minister(s) who will administer the Minister’s portfolios in their absence (there is usually no need to arrange an Acting Minister for Associate Minister responsibilities)
  • confirm that the Minister has secured leave from Parliament from the Party Whip if the House of Representatives will be sitting in the relevant period.

Every effort should be made to ensure that the proposed travel costs are as accurate as possible. The Department of Internal Affairs keeps accounting records of all Ministerial travel. When the actual cost of overseas travel is greater than that estimated and approved by Cabinet, further authority is required. All cases of over-expenditure need to be submitted to the Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services for authorisation or approval. All over-expenditure must be fully justified.

Where travel is proposed for Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, the relevant portfolio Minister should make the submission.

Notification about Ministers overseas

Refer to the Cabinet and Cabinet Committees workspace on the Public Sector Intranet for the list of Ministers acting in portfolios. This list is published every week, showing which Ministers are overseas and the length of their absence, and who will act on their behalf in their absence. Note: PSI is only available to public sector agencies.

Reporting on Ministers’ overseas travel

On their return, Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries are expected to report to Cabinet on the achievements and any outcomes of their overseas travel (including attendance at Australian Standing Council meetings). Reports should be submitted within four weeks of their return. They should provide details of the period of absence, the countries visited, meetings held and/or conferences attended, and an outline of the key points covered during the visit.

Last updated: 
Tuesday, 12 April 2016

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