Inspector-General of Defence established

20/07/2023 Publication

In July 2023, the Inspector General of Defence Bill passed its third reading and was made into law.

The Bill establishes an independent Inspector-General of Defence (IGD) to provide a mechanism for independent oversight of the activities of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). The IGD will be an independent statutory officer with investigatory and assurance functions to complement and strengthen the existing system of oversight over the NZDF.

The Bill can be viewed on the New Zealand Legislation website.


In July 2020, Sir Terence Arnold QC and Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC presented their findings from the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham and related matters(external link) (the Inquiry).

The Government accepted in principle(external link) all four recommendations of the Inquiry, of which the establishment of an independent Inspector-General of Defence (IGD) was one.

The other recommendations relate to:

  • The establishment of an Expert Review Group(external link) to ensure the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) organisational structure, record-keeping and retrieval processes are in accordance with international best practice. This Group reported back(external link) to the Minister in September 2021.

  • The promulgation of a Defence Force Order setting out how allegations of civilian casualties should be dealt with in-theatre and in New Zealand. Defence Force Order 35(external link) was promulgated in January 2021.

  • The setting of effective detention policies and procedures in relation to people detained by, or with the involvement of, New Zealand forces overseas and how allegations of torture by such persons are treated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is leading the work to implement this recommendation(external link).

A Senior Officials’ Group(external link) with members from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission, Ministry of Justice, Crown Law Office, Ministry of Defence and the NZDF was set up to develop a plan for establishment of an IGD.

In February 2021, the Government considered the plan(external link) for the establishment of an independent IGD to provide oversight of the NZDF and asked that the Ministry of Defence lead the work with support from the Senior Officials’ Steering Group.

In November 2021, the Government agreed in principle(external link), subject to the outcome of targeted consultation, to the proposed scope, functions, powers and form of the IGD. This means the Government supported the proposals, but wanted to consider feedback from others before making final decisions. A targeted consultation was undertaken in 2021(external link). A copy of the consultation document(external link), the submissions received(external link) and Summary of Submissions Report(external link) is available.

Changes were made to proposals as a result of submissions received and in May 2022, Cabinet made final policy decisions on the establishment of the IGD(external link). A regulatory impact statement(external link) was prepared to help inform the decision making process.

In October 2022, Cabinet agreed to introduce the Inspector-General of Defence Bill to Parliament(external link). The Bill passed its first reading on 9 November 2022, and was referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee for consideration.

The Select Committee received 13 written submissions and five oral submissions on the Bill. It also appointed an independent specialist legal advisor, Sir Kenneth Keith, to provide advice on the Bill.

As a result of the feedback the Select Committee received, Cabinet approved a policy change to the Bill(external link), and the Ministry of Defence recommended this changed to the Select Committee(external link).

The Select Committee completed its deliberations and presented its final report(external link) to Parliament, with a number of recommended changes.

The Bill passed its second reading, the Committee of the Whole, and third reading on 19 July 2023(external link).

Next steps for this work

The Inspector-General of Defence project will now transition to the implementation phase, which is expected to take about 18 months to complete. The implementation phase includes the establishment of the office and appropriate systems of the Inspector-General, and the appointment of an Inspector-General and Deputy Inspector-General of Defence.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the IGD intended to do?

The IGD will support the Minister of Defence in facilitating democratic oversight of the NZDF, and provide an avenue for the Government to assure Parliament and the public that there is independent scrutiny of the NZDF’s activities.

The IGD will have two functions:

  • an investigation function: with appropriate supporting powers, to scrutinise and respond to issues that have occurred;

  • an assessment function: to assess processes, procedures and policies, and identify gaps to prevent issues from occurring in the future.

What will the IGD be able to look into?

The IGD will be able to look into all NZDF activities. The IGD will be able to initiate investigations under its own initiative, or on the referral of the Minister of Defence, Secretary of Defence or Chief of Defence Force. It will not be able to look into the activities of Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand, which is a semi-autonomous unit within the NZDF.

Veterans’ Affairs is accountable to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and unlike the rest of the NZDF, operates under the requirements of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014, rather than the Defence Act 1990.

How much will it cost to establish the IGD and to run annually?

Funding for the establishment was set aside in Budget 2022. The funding consists of $1.130 million to establish and operate the IGD in 2023/24 and ongoing funding of $2.254 million per annum from 2024/25.

When will the IGD be established?

It is anticipated that the IGD will be up and running within 18 months of the Bill’s passing.

Who did the Government consult with on the proposals to establish an IGD?

The Ministry of Defence reached out to 36 individuals and organisations with a range of diverse perspectives. This included legal experts and academics, Māori representatives, veterans’ organisations, non-governmental organisations, the authors of the Operation Burnham Inquiry, and the authors of the Hit and Run book. In addition, the consultation document was published online on the Ministry of Defence’s website. A total of 15 submissions were received. The Summary of Submissions Report and copies of the submissions themselves have been proactively released on the Ministry of Defence website