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Citizens and the law

Universal rights and New Zealanders

Holding the balance
New Zealand's Bill of Rights
Delivering justice
Reforming the law
Checks and balances with Officers of Parliament
Investment watchdog
Fair financial dealing
Healing the past, building a future with Treaty Settlements
Who looks after your civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights 
Rights of the child from UN . 
The laws we live by and the Diversity Action Programme
Advocates for health and disability service users
Citizens' Advice Bureau



Checks and balances

The Ombudsmen

Officers of Parliament help ensure accountability of government officials on behalf of the House of Representatives. To be effective and credible in this role, Officers of Parliament must be independent of the government. To ensure their independence:

  • they are appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendations of the House
  • they report directly to the House
  • their salaries are met by permanent legislative authority and do not require the approval of government
  • requests for funding are reviewed by the Officers of Parliament Committee, which is non-partisan and chaired by the Speaker of the House
  • the Officers of Parliament Committee takes a lead in appointing new Officers of Parliament.

In 2006 Officers of Parliament: Ombudsmen (John Belgrave and Beverly Wakem), Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (Dr Morgan Williams), Controller and Auditor-General (Kevin Brady) and Deputy Controller and Auditor-General (Kevin Simpkins).

The Ombudsmen

An Ombudsman is independent and impartial. Ombudsmen are not advocates for either the complainant or the organisation concerned. Their role is to impartially consider, after reviewing all of the evidence, whether the correct decision has been made. They investigate complaints about administrative actions (or failures to act) by government officials that have adversely affected individuals. An Ombudsman may also review requests for the release of official information that have been declined.

The Ombudsmen have specific areas they are authorised to investigate. These include complaints against any government department or organisation at the central, regional or local levels of government administration. Many actions taken by organisations such as health authorities, school boards, universities and city or regional councils fall within the Ombudsmen’s jurisdiction.

The Ombudsmen and their staff are required to maintain secrecy about matters they learn in their investigation. The exception is where the investigation cannot take place without information being disclosed.


The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has powers to investigate and report on any matter where the environment may be, or has been, adversely affected.

The Commissioner’s role includes:

  • investigating whether environmental laws are working as intended
  • investigating whether environmental planning and management of public authorities is achieving the right outcomes
  • advising Parliament and government on environmental issues
  • providing information to interested parties and the public and facilitating good environmental decisions.


The Controller and Auditor-General and the Deputy Controller and Auditor-General play a key role as agents of Parliament in helping maintain accountability in the public sector.

The main parts of this role are:

  • providing opinions on whether the accounts prepared by public bodies fairly reflect their performance
  • providing information to Parliament, in particular parliamentary select committees, so Parliament is able to oversee the way the executive uses resources – resources that are ultimately owned by citizens.

Matters regularly reported on are:

  • whether agreed goals and objectives have been reached
  • whether government powers have been properly exercised
  • whether resources have been used effectively and efficiently.

Find out more!

Tel: 0800 802 602, or:
Auckland, 5th floor, 17 Albert St
Tel: (09) 379 6102; Fax: (09) 377 6537
Wellington, PO Box 10 152, Wellington
Tel: (04) 473 9533; Fax: (04) 471 2254
Christchurch, PO Box 13 482, Christchurch
Tel: (03) 366 8555; Fax: (03) 365 7935

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE)
PO Box 10 241, Wellington,
Tel: (04) 471 1669; Fax: (04) 495 8350

Controller and Auditor-General
Private Box 3928, Wellington
Tel: (04) 917 1500 Fax: (04) 917 1509










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