What is regulatory stewardship?

Our laws govern how we, as a society, live our everyday lives and achieve our goals and aspirations. As our society continues to grow and develop at a rapid pace, government agencies must respond just as swiftly to ensure our policies, laws and regulations continue to be an accurate and relevant reflection of our society and values.

Regulatory stewardship is the monitoring and care of regulatory systems for which an organisation has policy or operational responsibilities. Its goal is to ensure that regulatory systems remain fit for purpose over the long term.

For government agencies, regulatory stewardship means adopting a whole-of-system, proactive, collaborative, and long-term approach, that can anticipate, and respond to, change over time.

A regulatory system is a set of formal and informal rules, norms and sanctions that shape people’s behaviour and interactions in pursuit of a broad goal or outcome.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, regulatory stewardship is a statutory obligation. Section 32(1)(d) of the State Sector Act 1988 makes departmental chief executives responsible for the stewardship of the legislation administered by their agencies. We’re expected to take the same care of our regulatory systems or ‘regulatory assets’ that we do for other, more tangible, assets, such as buildings and equipment.

Government Expectations for Good Regulatory Practice

These include expectations relating to regulatory stewardship. Regulatory stewardship involves:

  • Monitoring, reviewing and reporting on existing regulatory systems - this includes working collaboratively:
    • to monitor the ongoing performance and condition of a regulatory system and the regulatory environment in which it operates, recognising that this environment is continually changing
    • reviewing the system regularly to determine whether it’s still fit for purpose and likely to remain so in the medium to longer-term
    • reporting on the results.
  • Robust analysis and implementation support for changes to regulatory systems - this includes a systematic impact and risk analysis process before changes are made, and ensuring affected and other interested parties can directly contribute to the design of regulations.
  • Good regulator practice - this includes providing accessible and timely information and support to help regulated parties understand their obligations, and equipping regulatory workforces with the necessary knowledge and skills.

Regulatory stewardship recognises that regulatory systems are living systems and, as such, are subject to change. It understands that we need to continually review the system’s performance and anticipate, and respond to, those changes.

Further information on regulatory stewardship and Aotearoa New Zealand’s regulatory management system can be found on the Treasury website:

Regulation(external link)