Establishing an independent Inspector-General of Defence

07/06/2022 Publication

The Government has agreed to establish an independent Inspector-General of Defence (IGD) to oversee the activities of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). The IGD would be an independent statutory officer with investigatory and assurance functions to complement and strengthen the existing system of oversight over the NZDF.

A bill is currently being drafted to give effect to the Government’s decisions, which is intended to be introduced into the House of Representatives in due course.

See below for more information and copies of relevant documents on this work that have been proactively released.

Update: Release of May 2022 Policy Decisions

In May 2022, the Government made final policy decisions on the scope, functions, powers and form of a new Inspector-General of Defence in New Zealand

The following documents have been published regarding the establishment of the Inspector-General of Defence:


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 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 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.

Establishment of the Inspector-General of Defence

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 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. The February 2021 Cabinet documents are available(external link).

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(external link) on the establishment of the IGD.

Next steps for this work

New legislation (i.e. a bill) will be needed to establish the IGD. A bill is currently being drafted to give effect to Cabinet’s final policy decisions. Once it is ready, it will be introduced into the House of Representatives and undergo the legislative process. The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the bill during the Select Committee stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the IGD intended to do?

The IGD would 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 would have three 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; and

  • an enquiry function: to request information to support the IGD’s understanding of the NZDF’s operational activities in an evolving defence context.

What will the IGD be able to look into?

It is proposed that the IGD would be able to look into all NZDF activities. It would not be able to look into the activities of Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand, which is a semi-autonomous unit within the NZDF.

Veteran’s 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.

Who will the IGD be independent from?

The IGD would operate independently including from the NZDF, the Ministry of Defence, and Ministers. Strong independence ensures that the IGD would not be overly influenced by or reliant on others when initiating or undertaking its work. This level of independence would also give Ministers and the public reassurance about the integrity of the IGD’s work.

The IGD would be supported by statutory powers, offences and penalties, with a range of safeguards to protect people, information, national security and international relationships.

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

Funding for the establishment has been set aside in Budget 2022. It will be made available when the Bill establishing the IGD becomes law. 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?

New legislation (i.e. a bill) would need to be passed to establish the proposed IGD.

At this early stage it is estimated that the IGD would be up and running within a year of a bill passing. This timing is subject to the Government deciding to introduce a bill to the House of Representatives, and then the bill being passed into law.

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 Inquiry authors, and the authors of the book Hit and Run. In addition, the consultation document was published online on the Ministry of Defence’s website. In total, 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.

What changes to the proposals were made as a result of the consultation process?

All feedback was carefully considered and some substantive changes were made. The key changes made include:

  • amending the process for investigations into ongoing or in-theatre operations where a visit to an operational theatre is required;

  • increasing the IGD’s access to confidential or sensitive information held by the NZDF with appropriate safeguards; and

  • the ability for the IGD to receive complaints (including from whistle-blowers).

More detail on the changes made in response to feedback can be found in Appendix B of the May 2022 Cabinet paper, and the Regulatory Impact Statement. Both of these documents have been proactively released and are available on this website.

Who is the Government consulting with on the proposals to establish an IGD?

The Government has reached out to seek views of interested stakeholders, with a range of diverse perspectives. This includes relevant legal experts and academics, Māori representatives, veterans’ organisations, non-governmental organisations, the Inquiry authors, and the authors of the book Hit and Run.

I have a view – what should I do?

You will have the opportunity to have a say on the design of the IGD as part of the Select Committee stage, once new legislation is introduced. Individuals and organisations are able to make written and oral submissions to the Select Committee that is considering the bill. The Select Committee would then consider what submitters have told them, along with advice from officials, and share the committee’s findings and recommendations with Parliament.