What is a Royal Commission of Inquiry?

A Royal Commission is an option available to the Government to independently investigate matters of national importance. It investigates the facts, makes findings and recommends changes to prevent future recurrences. A Royal Commission reports to the Governor-General and the report must be presented to Parliament by the appropriate Minister as soon as practicable.


Who set the Terms of Reference?

The Government established the Terms of Reference, defining what must be investigated and any restrictions.

 Read the Terms of Reference


Who worked on the Royal Commission?

The Royal Commission was led by Sir William Young (Chair) and Jacqui Caine (Member), who were supported by Executive Director, Benesia Smith, MNZM and Andrew Butler and Nick Whittington (both Counsel Assisting). The secretariat provided administration, policy and research, community engagement, report development and communications support. The team was based in Wellington and Christchurch and travelled to towns and cities across New Zealand to talk to people and organisations.


Who decided how the Royal Commission should operate?

The Inquiries Act 2013 sets out that a Royal Commission can determine its own procedures. The two members that were appointed by the Governor-General decided the approach. The Royal Commission is independent of Government. A Royal Commission must inquire into any matters it sees fit that are consistent with its Terms of Reference and the Inquiries Act. Witnesses (including people and organisations) can be compelled to appear before the Royal Commission and must provide evidence. The procedures of the Royal Commission are set out in the Minutes of the inquiry and are described in the report.


When did the Royal Commission have to report its findings?

The Government set the timeframe for delivering the report. The Royal Commission was established on 8 April 2019. There were two extensions over the course of the inquiry to allow the inquiry to receive and analyse a significant volume of material and as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The final extension required the Royal Commission to report its findings and recommendations by 26 November 2020.


Who decides when and how to publish the Royal Commission’s report?

The Inquiries Act sets out that a Royal Commission must provide its report to the Governor-General. The Royal Commission delivered its report on 26 November 2020. The Governor-General then made the report available to the Minister of Internal Affairs. The Inquiries Act 2013 required the Minister of Internal Affairs to table the report in Parliament as soon as practicable after the inquiry has reported to the Governor-General. The full report became publicly available on 8 December 2020 when the Minister of Internal Affairs tabled the report in Parliament.


Does the Government have to act on the recommendations?

Recommendations made by the Royal Commission are not binding. The Government will consider the report and its response to the findings and recommendations will be independently announced.


What happens to the records received or prepared by the Royal Commission?

The Royal Commission prepared a Minute that describes how the records of the Royal Commission should be managed in the future. The Minute also includes some permanent and final orders made under section 15 of the Inquiries Act 2013 concerning some evidence and submissions. The Minute addresses all evidence, submissions, analysis and deliberations, and correspondence received or prepared by the Royal Commission.

 Read the final Minute

Members of the public, civil society and community organisations who supplied submissions to the Royal Commission may generally publish their own information. 

Requests for information created by a Public sector agency and provided to the Royal Commission as evidence or submissions should be directed to those agencies.

All substantive records held by the Royal Commission have been retained and become the responsibility of the Department of Internal Affairs, as the administrating agency for the Royal Commission. Eventually records will be transferred to the Archives New Zealand.