Integrity Protection in Public Policymaking

Options for the regulation of lobbying in New Zealand

The issue: Integrity Protection in Public Policy-making

In a healthy democracy political decisions are informed by a wide range of voices and serve a broad public interest. Integrity in public policymaking means everyone’s voices are considered equitably and no-one is allowed to distort the decision-making process in their own interest at the expense of the collective good. 

Increasing integrity:

  • Creates trust in government 
  • Benefits the health and wellbeing of people and the environment
  • Fosters a more robust and equitable economy and society.

The problem: Some people have louder voices and more opportunities to be heard

“Lobbying” may be broadly defined as the practice of engaging in advocacy activities to influence government policies and decisions. If these activities are conducted in an ethical way, it can give decision-makers access to important information and a range of perspectives. 

Lobbying becomes harmful if it is carried out unethically. When some people abuse confidential information or have special access to decision-makers they have greater power to shape policies for their own benefit rather than the common good.

New Zealand does not have the kind of regulatory mechanisms in place to reduce the potential harms of lobbying that are now internationally regarded as standard. 

Regulation will strengthen the integrity of public policymaking

We can protect the integrity of public policymaking and ensure that public officials develop policies based on the collective good if we:

Introduce legislation to regulate lobbying

New Zealand currently lacks any regulations on lobbying.

Manage commercial conflicts of interest

There is an absence of policies and procedures to declare and manage commercial conflicts of interest for external (i.e. non-government) input into policymaking.

Extend transparency legislation

There are significant weaknesses in the current information disclosure regime, including through the Official Information Act.

Voluntary measures won’t go far enough

Voluntary codes of conduct might encourage lobbyists to be mindful of standards and practices to uphold, but no independant industry or regulatory body exists to provide oversight or ensure compliance. Regulation will enhance public trust in decision-making and ensure high-quality policy-making.

Standard tools for regulating lobbying:

  • Enable the public to know who is lobbying whom, ensuring policy-makers listen to a more balanced slate of views
  • Weed out unethical or corrupt forms of lobbying
  • Prevent the abuse of confidential state information.

Ensuring a better balance of special interests in the policy making process will result in greater stability, with laws less likely to be overturned at every political cycle. Citizens will have greater confidence in government if they have assurance that decision-making processes are open and transparent and everyone’s voices are heard and valued.

A Balance of Voices: Options for the regulation of lobbying in New Zealand

Thank you to everyone who has participated in consultation on this issue and the draft report.

Your feedback will inform the final report, and HCA’s campaign for regulation of lobbying in New Zealand.