This page provides an overview of the key requirements of a general Cabinet paper. The Cabinet policy paper template provides more detail about what should be included under each heading.
In order to support robust decision-making, Cabinet papers need to fulfil certain requirements to ensure that any decisions they propose are based on sound information, evidence, and analysis.
The key sections of a Cabinet policy paper are:
- Executive Summary: only necessary for papers four pages or more. Intended for busy Ministers who don’t have time to read all the detail in the paper, so it needs to cover off the key points, but also be short and succinct
- Background: explains the background context of the issue. This section should refer to past decisions related to the issue, if any, including Cabinet minute reference numbers when referring to Cabinet decisions (e.g. DEV-18-MIN-0880), and specify when decisions were taken and who they were taken by (i.e. groups of Ministers)
- Analysis: this is the main body of the paper. Use subject headings to tell the story, highlight the key issues, evidence, options, proposed solutions, implementation and evaluation plans, and next steps as appropriate
- Consultation: important to ensure that proposals are sound, comprehensive, well-informed, and coordinated. See the consultation page for more information
- Financial implications: how much it will cost to implement the proposals and how they will be funded. See the page on financial implications for more information
- Legislative implications: explain whether legislation (such as a regulation or a Bill) will be needed to implement the proposals in the paper. If the proposals will be part of a Bill, note the place on the Legislation Programme that the Bill holds (see the section on the Legislation Programme for more information)
- Impact Analysis: should state whether an impact analysis is included with the proposal – which it should if the paper includes a regulatory change option, and include a statement about whether an independent assessor considers whether the impact analysis meets the quality assurance criteria. See the guidance on impact statements for more information
- Human rights: a statement is required on whether the proposals are in any way inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993. More information about this requirement is in the other implications section below
- Gender implications and disability perspective: a statement is required in relevant papers in each of these sections on whether proposals have gender or disability implications. More information about this requirement is in the other implications section below
- Publicity: state whether any publicity is planned for the proposals in the paper (i.e. press releases, events)
- Proactive Release: state whether the Minister intends to proactively release the paper, where it is intended to be released to (i.e. an agency website), and if the release will be subject to redactions as appropriate under the Official Information Act 1982. More information about this can be found in the pages on proactive release and release under the OIA
- Recommendations: these are an important part of the paper as the recommendations, if agreed, become the decisions recorded in the Cabinet or Cabinet committee minute. Recommendations need to be clear and precise about what Ministers are being asked to agree to. Any directions for further work should specify the nature of the work, who it will be done by, and by when and which committee or Ministers it will be reported to. Noting recommendations should be used sparingly where necessary to provide context to what Cabinet is agreeing to.
Other implications sections
Human rights implications
When developing policy proposals, consideration must be given to their consistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993. An important aim of these requirements is to provide Ministers with relevant information on the implications of any inconsistency with the Act and the Human Rights Act 1993 before policy proposals reach the legislative or implementation stage.
It is the responsibility of each department to make its own assessment and sign off on human rights implications in the department’s area of responsibility. In carrying out this assessment, departments should, where appropriate, consult agencies with an interest or experience in human rights issues, such as the Ministry of Justice (human rights policy), and the Crown Law Office (legal advice). Cabinet papers should include a paragraph on the consistency of the proposals with the Act and the Human Rights Act 1993 under the heading “Human Rights Implications”, which:
- states the nature of any potential inconsistencies that have been identified (or states that there are none)
- notes the steps taken to address the issues, or
- includes information on any justifications for the policy infringing a right or freedom.
When preparing government bills
The Attorney-General is required by section 7 of the Act to bring to the attention of the House any provision in a bill that appears to be inconsistent with any of the rights and freedoms contained in the Act. In the case of government bills, this must occur upon the introduction of the bill.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) provides advice to the Attorney-General in relation to non-Justice bills, and the Crown Law Office (Crown Law) provides advice on Justice bills. All final versions of government bills must be with MoJ/Crown Law at least two weeks in advance of the relevant Cabinet committee meeting (usually LEG) on that bill.
The two week deadline allows MoJ/Crown Law sufficient time to check the bill for consistency with the Act and to advise the Attorney-General accordingly, and also allows the Attorney-General to receive the advice at least a week in advance of the LEG meeting. If a final version of a government bill is not with MoJ/Crown Law at least two weeks in advance of the LEG meeting, the Minister sponsoring the bill should defer submission of the bill to LEG.
Gender analysis assists decision making by examining how gender differences are affected by government action, and communicating that information to decision makers. A gender implications statement is required for all papers submitted to the Cabinet Social Wellbeing Committee.
The gender implications statement should say whether gender analysis has been undertaken and if not, why not. The length of the statement will vary according to the complexity of the proposed policy, the number of alternatives considered, and the extent of the costs and benefits.
Public service departments should be familiar with the vision, objectives, and actions in the New Zealand Disability Strategy. Where appropriate, papers submitted to the Cabinet Social Wellbeing Committee should include a disability perspective, i.e. consideration of the impact of policies and proposals on disabled people. A disability perspective should be included, as appropriate, in relevant papers submitted to other Cabinet committees.
The New Zealand Disability Strategy includes information that is useful to determine whether a disability perspective should be included in a Cabinet paper. For further advice, relevant information can be found on the Office for Disability Issues’ website, or the Office (located in the Ministry of Social Development) can be contacted directly.
Implications of use, long-term lease, or disposal of Crown-owned land
The Crown is not free to use, lease, or dispose of Crown-owned land as it sees fit. Through the Treaty of Waitangi, Treaty settlements, legislation, and Cabinet directives, the Crown has imposed principles, limitations, and obligations on itself that restricts the use, long-term lease, or disposal of Crown-owned land.
When developing policy proposals which involve the use, long-term lease, or disposal of Crown-owned land the proposal must, therefore, contain an assessment of the impact of Treaty of Waitangi principles (i.e. possible opportunities for partnership with iwi or hapu), and the stages of the Crown's property disposal process (Stage 3 of which addresses Treaty settlements). A summary of the Crown's property disposal process can be found here.
For advice on:
- the impact of Treaty of Waitangi principles - departments should consult with the Crown Law Office
- the Crown's property disposal process - departments should consult with Land Information New Zealand
- the impact of Stage 3 (Treaty settlements) of the Crown's property disposal process - departments should consult Land Information New Zealand, the Crown Law Office, the Office of Treaty Settlements, and Post Settlements Commitments Unit (part of the Ministry of Justice)
- consulting with or building relationships with iwi groups - departments should consult with Te Puni Kokiri and the Post Settlements Commitments Unit (part of the Ministry of Justice).