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 for the Commission and we also make suggestions. Consultation then follows by the Minister of Finance with the Government, business groups and the Commission to decide on the final topic.

The Government provides our brief, a ‘terms of reference’ which outlines the scope of the inquiry. The Commission then works independently according to our Act to meet the brief.

Issues paper

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

All submissions are reviewed and analysed. Submissions help ensure the inquiry is well-informed and relevant, and that our advice is current, credible and workable. Submissions are used as appropriate, citing or directly incorporating information, where relevant, as we produce our draft report.

Alongside the issues paper, a comprehensive engagement process takes place. Our team attends relevant events and meets with a large and diverse group of stakeholders, local and international experts and interested parties to discuss the issues paper and obtain relevant information. Ideas are discussed and then tested to inform our draft report.

Draft report

The draft report describes our findings and makes recommendations to the Government to meet the brief. The report is submitted to the responsible Minister and any referring Ministers and we offer a briefing meeting.

The draft report is then issued for public and stakeholder review, providing another opportunity for interested parties to have their say by making a submission.

We listen carefully to all feedback and carry out further consultation before finalising our findings and recommendations in a final report.

Final report

Our final report is accompanied by summary documents and submitted to the responsible Minister and any referring Ministers. They are invited to meet with us to brief them on the report.

The responsible 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 (e.g. on this website). It’s then up to the Government to decide what, if any, action they take on the Commission’s findings and recommendations.


An independent evaluation is carried out against our performance framework using three external sources of feedback: an expert review, participant focus group and online survey. The results are shared on this website on the respective inquiry evaluation page.

Government response

The Government can provide a formal public response. Previous responses can be viewed here.