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Access to Secondary Legislation Project news

20 June 2017 update: Legislation Bill introduced

A new Legislation Bill has today been introduced to Parliament.

More about the Bill »

21 March 2017 update: Engaging with agencies on their subordinate instruments

In December 2016, Cabinet approved a proposal for the PCO to develop a system to enable subordinate instruments drafted by agencies to be published on the New Zealand Legislation website. This will result in a single, comprehensive, official source for all New Zealand legislation.

The PCO is drafting a Bill to implement the proposal. This will involve a substantial re-write, and replacement, of the Legislation Act 2012. The PCO will soon be consulting departments on the Bill, with a view to its introduction before the House rises in August.

The PCO has established a team of legal researchers who are searching for all provisions in legislation that empower subordinate instruments to be made that are legislative in nature. Amendments will be made to all such empowering provisions to specify that instruments made under those provisions are required to be published on the NZ Legislation website.

As the legal research team completes its analysis of the Acts that each agency administers, the team is contacting the agency to:

  • confirm that we have a complete list of the Acts they administer
  • confirm that we have found, and correctly categorised, all empowering provisions in those Acts
  • check whether there is a need, on a principled basis, to exempt any instruments from disallowance
  • check whether there is any reason why an instrument cannot be published in full on the NZ Legislation website
  • agree the amendments to be made to the relevant empowering provisions.

The Access to Subordinate Instruments Project team is also discussing the following matters with agencies:

Providing links to instruments on the NZ Legislation website

The NZ Legislation website provides links to “Other Instruments”, which are instruments that are not drafted by the PCO and are hosted on agency websites or in the Gazette.

The project will take some time to implement. In the meantime, by expanding the collection of Other Instruments that are available on the NZ Legislation website, we can improve access to legislation right away.

We encourage agencies to provide us with links to the instruments they make, so we can provide links to them in the Other Instruments collection on the NZ Legislation website.

Trialling a drafting template

The PCO is developing a template for agencies to use for drafting subordinate instruments. The template will help ensure that instruments contain a minimum set of information (title, empowering Act and provision, date of commencement, the maker, the date of making, and the administering agency) that will assist in meeting the publication requirements of the revised Legislation Act. From May this year, the PCO will begin trialling the template with a small group of agencies to test and refine it.

We are also investigating technology to enable instruments drafted in the template to be automatically converted into HTML format so they can be published on the NZ Legislation website in much the same way as Acts of Parliament are now.

Access project is part of PCO’s legislative stewardship initiatives

The access project is a key element in the PCO’s legislative stewardship initiatives. The PCO will soon be engaging with agencies about the best ways for us to assist and work with agencies to support and promote legislative stewardship in other areas.

8 December 2016 update

Cabinet has given its approval for the Access to Subordinate Instruments Project to proceed, and for a Bill to be drafted to implement the Project. The drafting of the Bill will commence early in 2017, with the aim that it be introduced before the 2017 general election.

In preparation for the drafting of the Bill, the project team has started analysing all legislative empowering provisions. This analysis is a significant and complex piece of work, and includes identifying whether an instrument made under an empowering provision has legislative or administrative effect, and whether there are any reasons the instrument could not be publicly published or should not be disallowable.

The project team will start working with agencies early next year to validate this analysis and confirm the proposed amendments to the empowering provisions. This in turn will inform which instruments are to be published on the NZL website.

The project team is currently collecting information from agencies that will be used to inform the design of technology systems for the drafting of subordinate instruments by agencies, and the publication of those instruments on the NZL website. An iterative approach will be taken to the development of these systems, and they will be rolled-out in a phased way.

29 September 2016 update

ASIP is progressing well. Preparation of the ASIP business case and the first Cabinet paper is well underway. We will shortly be consulting departments on the Cabinet paper, which will seek approval for the project and for the drafting of a Bill and a lodgement and publication system to give effect to the project.

The project team is currently working to identify the most suitable lodgement and publication system for meeting ASIP’s objective of publishing all subordinate instruments on the New Zealand Legislation website. Two workshops (that include agency representation), together with the feedback we have received from agencies and the responses we received to a Request for Information we made to IT vendors, are helping us identify the best system.

We are very pleased with the level of agency engagement to date. The project team’s presentations about ASIP at the end of July and start of August were well attended—75 (of the 107 agencies we had identified) came. Of those agencies, 67 also completed the Agency Information Survey we sent to them following the presentation.

The survey results and subsequent questions from agencies have identified that agencies have some uncertainty about whether the instruments they are responsible for are legislative or administrative in their nature, or a mix of both. This distinction is important, as it will determine which instruments must be published on the New Zealand Legislation website.

The project team intends to address this by amending each empowering provision in the statute book to specify whether an instrument made under that provision is legislative or administrative, based on whether the instrument has legislative effect.

The project team is also developing guidance material to assist Parliamentary Counsel, and legal and policy advisers from agencies, when drafting an empowering provision to determine whether an instrument made under that provision will be legislative or administrative.

Provided the project is approved by Cabinet, drafting of the Bill that is required to give effect to ASIP will commence in early 2017. As part of that process, the PCO will consult with each agency about the changes that are to be made to the empowering provisions in the enactments that agency is responsible for.

If you have any questions about ASIP, or are not sure who your agency’s key contact is, please contact the ASIP team.

27 July 2016 update

Presentations for agencies that draft subordinate instruments, or that otherwise may be affected by ASIP, are underway. The full project design sheets are now available to view »

These design sheets show the analysis, research, planning, and thinking to date. It is important to note that the changes described in these design sheets are only proposals as no decisions have yet been made. The project is seeking input from agencies on their current processes, systems, and tools for making subordinate instruments, which will feed into the project design and the development of the ASIP Business Case.

If you think your agency should come to the presentations, please contact

1 July 2016 update

The ASIP team is preparing a series of presentations for agencies who draft subordinate instruments. These presentations will occur in late July and early August and will cover information about ASIP and the changes each agency may need to prepare for. Agencies will also be asked to provide information about the subordinate instruments they are responsible for, and their systems for drafting and publishing them, to help inform the project design. 

If you think your agency should come to the presentations, please contact

12 May 2016 ASIP update

As set out in the September 2015 edition of the PCO Quarterly, we have established a project team to develop the PCO’s information and business systems so that all tertiary instruments can be published on the New Zealand Legislation website. The aim is for all of New Zealand’s legislation to be available on one website.

In late December 2015, we sent a letter to the Chief Executives of each of the 68 agencies that have the ability to make subordinate instruments. The letter outlined the aims of the project, why we are undertaking it, what it entails, the likely impact it will have on each agency, and a few things that agencies could usefully do to prepare in the meantime.
We have heard back from a number of agencies, and appreciate the enthusiastic and supportive responses we have received.

We will make contact with all agencies again in the next month or so, once we have completed our research and our initial design work. We will arrange to meet with all agencies via a series of meetings so we can outline our thinking to that point, and seek each agency’s thoughts and comments, including any particular concerns or needs they may have.
This consultation stage will be an important part of ensuring that what we develop meets the needs of users, which is a particular focus of the project team.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the project in the meantime, please contact us.

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 PCO’s Access to Subordinate Instruments Project (ASIP)

29 September 2015

Chief Parliamentary Counsel David Noble announced today a new project team to be led by Richard Wallace, one of PCO’s four drafting team managers. The project team will develop the PCO’s information and business systems so that all tertiary instruments are available on the New Zealand Legislation (NZL) website, providing a single, official, public source for all NZ legislation.

This project is part of the PCO’s continuing programme to improve access to legislation in New Zealand and response to a directive from Cabinet to investigate a means for ensuring access to all NZ legislation. It also follows PCO’s recent discussions with the Regulations Review Committee of Parliament over their inability easily to identify and track disallowable instruments that are not drafted and published by the PCO. In addition, it will also respond to issues identified in both the PIF Review of the PCO and Parts B and C of the Report of the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident.

David notes that the PCO has already carried out initial enquiries and research concerning:

  • similar systems operated in neighbouring jurisdictions; in particular, the Commonwealth of Australia, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory
  • the feasibility of developing the information systems that support the PCO’s drafting and publishing service and the NZL website for these purposes
  • the level of financial and staffing resources needed to make these developments (given PCO’s current appropriation)
  • the amendments that would be required to various empowering provisions across the statute book and to the relevant provisions in the Legislation Act 2012. Part of this will also seek to simplify and clarify the current terminology used to describe different types and levels of subordinate legislation.

Further analysis, within the structure and management of a formal project, is now required to deliver the type of comprehensive registration and publishing system needed to capture the tertiary level legislation that the PCO does not currently draft or publish (other than via the “other instruments” link on

From the initial work PCO has already undertaken it is clear that:

  • reliance upon the New Zealand Gazette as the vehicle for capturing and publishing tertiary instruments is not a sensible option and does not deliver the required comprehensive, single, official source of all NZ legislation for the public; nor would it resolve the issues which the public and the Regulations Review Committee currently have with this category of subordinate instruments
  • the system operated by the ACT Parliamentary Counsel Office in Canberra appears to be preferable to other models so far examined, although the scale of the task in New Zealand is significantly larger and covers a far wider spectrum of departments and agencies that prepare these “tertiary-level”  subordinate instruments; this includes non-Crown bodies, such as the New Zealand Law Society
  • to be workable for all of those bodies, the system cannot operate using the PCO’s specialised in-house drafting and publishing tool
  • the system the PCO develops will need to both create a “way in” to the NZL website’s underlying database and structure, and provide a number of simple-to-operate templates or frameworks for use by those who draft, publish, and enforce these “tertiary-level” subordinate instruments.

“This will be no small task for the project team to achieve. Currently the NZL website provides links to more than 870 existing tertiary instruments, but there are likely to be far more than that in existence. The number and variety of tertiary instruments in New Zealand is much greater than was the case in the ACT when they developed their system”, David says.

Richard will be seeking to engage, as members of the project design team, both PCO staff and other people who produce, review, and use these tertiary-level subordinate instruments. This is to make sure the information technology is designed to work for:

  • the producers of tertiary instruments
  • the users of tertiary instruments (including the general public), via the internet and printed copy
  • the reviewers of tertiary instruments (in particular those with the power to disallow these instruments; that is, Parliament on the recommendation of the Regulations Review Committee).

“This project to capture all tertiary legislation will be the single most significant technology-assisted development of the NZL drafting and publishing system and website content since we delivered the website back in 2008. We need to ensure that we can design and deliver a system that works for all producers, publishers, reviewers, and users of these instruments, and to do so having learned the lessons from the post implementation review of the Public Access to Legislation project [PDF 440KB] in the early 2000s”, David concludes.


“Subordinate instruments/legislation” refers to instruments/legislation that have legislative effect and are made under an empowering provision in a superior enactment. For example, a regulation or a notice that is made under an Act of Parliament.

“Tertiary instrument/legislation” refers to a category of subordinate instruments/legislation that are drafted by government departments or other agencies and are not published in the official Legislative Instruments series nor on the New Zealand Legislation website.  For example, a “notice” that is drafted by a government department and is published on the department’s website or in the Gazette is an example of this category of subordinate legislation.

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