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What is an inquiry?

Inquiries are investigations set by the Government for the Commission with typically a 12-15 month timeframe. The time allowed recognises the importance of high levels of research, consultation and engagement, so that the Productivity Commission can produce well-informed, evidence-based policy recommendations for the Government. 

See below for an example of an inquiry timeline, but note each inquiry varies and the actual process is tailored accordingly.


Our brief

The Cabinet of New Zealand selects a number of inquiry topics and the Commission can also put forward suggestions. Consultation then follows by the Minister of Finance with the Government and officials to decide on the final topic.

Treasury officials under the Minister of Finance's direction (and relevant portfolio Ministers) develop and outline the scope of inquiries in a terms of reference - our brief. The Commission then works independently according to the New Zealand Productivity Commission Act to meet the brief.

Issues paper

The Commission releases an issues paper asking specific questions to gather opinions, evidence, ideas and information on the inquiry. The public are encouraged to make a submission on the issues paper or to comment on any issues they consider relevant to the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Submissions help ensure the inquiry is well-informed and relevant, and that our advice is current, credible and workable. All submissions are reviewed and analysed by the inquiry team. Submissions are then used as appropriate or cited, where relevant, in our draft report.

Alongside the issues paper, a comprehensive research and engagement process takes place. The Commission meets with a large and diverse group of stakeholders, local and international experts and interested parties to discuss the issues paper, obtain relevant information and test ideas. In-depth research and analysis is undertaken. Specialist consultants may also be contracted to provide expert advice and quality assurance on specific issues.

Draft report

The draft report contains the Commission's draft findings and recommendations. The report is issued for public review and critique, providing another opportunity for interested parties to have their say by making a submission. All submissions are publicly available on this website. 

The report is submitted to the responsible Minister and any referring Ministers and a briefing meeting is offered.

The Commission listens carefully to all feedback and carries out further work to produce a final set of findings and recommendations.

Final report

Our final report is submitted to the Minister of Finance (and referring Ministers) and a verbal briefing offered. The Minister must present a copy of the report to the House of Representatives as soon as practicable after receiving it. Only then can the final report be made publicly available (on this website).

The final report and associated inquiry material (eg, research reports, submissions, summaries) are published on this website.



Every inquiry is independently evaluated against the Commission's performance framework. Typically three external sources of feedback are used: an expert review, participant focus group(s) and online survey. The results are made publicly available on this website on the respective inquiry page.

Government response

It’s up to the Government to decide what, if any, action they take on the Commission’s findings and recommendations. 

The Government has issued formal responses to most inquiry reports, specifying which recommendations it agrees with and will implement. Responses are published by The Treasury here.