What is a Royal Commission?
A Royal Commission is the most serious response to an issue available to the
New Zealand Government. It investigates matters of great complexity or
A Royal Commission is independent from the Government and reports to the
Governor-General. The way the inquiry is conducted and the Commission is run is
decided by the Chair and Commissioners. The Government cannot interfere in the
direction taken by an inquiry or influence the findings.
A Royal Commission is engaged in fact-finding. It investigates why the
situation came about and then recommends policy or legislative changes to
prevent it happening again.
Every Royal Commission addresses a unique mix of issues as defined by the terms of reference. This key document defines the
matters the Royal Commission is created to inquire into and directs it what to
do about finding a solution.
A Royal Commission can inquire into any matters it sees fit in order to get
to the bottom of the issues. Chaired by a High Court judge who is
appointed by the Governor-General, it has the powers of compulsion in regard to
witnesses, documentation and awarding of costs. This enables the Royal
Commission to uncover information which might otherwise be difficult to
Evidence is gathered from a range of different places and sources, including
from participants and through the Commission's own investigations. Public
hearings are one important part of the inquiry process. They provide an
opportunity to clarify matters, test disputed material and ensure that key
evidence is discussed in public.
A Royal Commission is not able to determine legal rights and liabilities.
Findings and recommendations are not binding upon any party, including the
For more information see: www.royalcommission.govt.nz