19 September 2023

Public participation helps build trust in democratic government and in the agencies that deliver public services. Trust is a foundation of democracy.

The Public Service Act 2020 enshrines the concepts of active citizenship, open government, responsiveness (understanding and meeting the needs and aspirations of New Zealanders) and stewardship (thinking about making a difference in the long-term).

Having your say is important – from signing petitions, to voting in elections, to contributing to local council consultations.

To help with this, we've put together a list of ways you can be an active citizen, and have your say on a range of issues that are important to you.

Enrol to vote

A fundamental right in any democracy is the right to cast a vote.

If you’re enrolled to vote, you get to have a say in general elections, local elections and referendums. Every vote is counted and that means your vote matters.

Elections are your chance to have a say about who represents you on the issues that you care about. 

To enrol to vote, or just to check your details, go to the Electoral Commission's website where you can quickly update your information online.

Enrol or update online – Vote.nz

Make a submission

Parliament's decisions affect all New Zealanders.

That's why you can have your say and influence the laws passed by Parliament by making a submission.

A submission is your chance to present your opinions, observations, and recommendations on a matter before a select committee.

Don't know how to make a submission? No problem, there's a specially developed guide to help you.

You can also sign up to get email notifications, so you'll know when submissions are open.

New Zealand Parliament Buildings in Wellington

Take part in consultations

You can give local and central government feedback on their plans before they make decisions. 

Your local district, city, or regional council will have up-to-date information about what consultation is open at any given time. Here is an A-Z of all local council websites.

Government agencies will normally list issues they are consulting on, on the home page of their website. There is also a list of some open consultations on the New Zealand Government website. Simply visit the site and browse all consultations, or drill down by agency, topic, or status.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is another way you can take part. The OGP is about strengthening democracy in New Zealand by ensuring citizens can contribute and influence what government does and how it does it. You can engage with the OGP when Action Plans are being developed and through the twice-yearly public report backs on the implementation of the fourth National Action Plan. Opportunities to have your say will be announced on OGP.org.nz.

Start or sign a petition

A petition is a document addressed to the House of Representatives and signed by at least one person. It asks the House to act on a matter of public policy or law, or to put right a local or private concern.

Anyone of any age can petition the House including corporations and unincorporated bodies with sufficient identity as organisations.

For a list of active petitions, you can visit the dedicated page on the Parliamentary website.

But remember, your petition can only be accepted if it conforms to certain rules, so check out the complete guide for petitions here.

Discover the insights briefings

Long-term Insights Briefings were introduced under the Public Service Act 2020.

They are designed to be ‘think pieces’ on the future, rather than government policy, providing information about medium and long-term trends, risks and opportunities that affect or may affect New Zealand.

The briefings provide an opportunity to enhance public debate on long-term issues and usefully contribute to future decision making.

Check out the full list of briefings on our Long-term Insights Briefings page.

Also check out our inaugural Long-Term Insights Briefing on Active Citizenship and Public Participation in Government.

Long-term Insights Briefing: Enabling Active Citizenship: Public Participation in Government into the Future(PDF, 8 MB) (PDF, 8 MB)

Request official information

People in New Zealand can request government information (official information) and can expect it to be made available unless there is a good reason to withhold it.

The Official Information Act 1982 (or OIA) enables citizens, permanent residents, visitors to New Zealand, and body corporates registered or with a place of business in New Zealand, to make a request for official information held by government agencies, including Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission.

The Ombudsman’s website has dedicated guidance to helping you make a request. It covers what is and isn’t official information, who can request, and how to make a request.

We also have guidance and information about OIAs on our Official Information page.

This includes publishing OIA statistics covering Crown entities and government departments subject to the OIA every six months.