Six principles

The Crown is committed to a principles-based approach to its dealings with the Royal Commission and survivors of abuse in care. The six principles were agreed by Cabinet as the core of a paper setting out how the Crown will respond to the Royal Commission.

The principles are a firm undertaking, and the Crown expects to be held to them. They aim to ensure the vulnerable are heard and valued, and that the Inquiry process is respected and supported. They guide government participation in hearings and investigations, as well as the Government’s broader support for the Royal Commission’s work.

The principles are:

  • manaakitanga – that is, treating people with the compassion, fairness, and respect that upholds the mana of all those involved;
  • openness – being receptive to new ideas, and to reconsidering how things have been done in the past and the way agencies operate now;
  • transparency – sharing knowledge and information held by the Crown, including the reasons behind key actions;
  • learning – listening attentively to survivors, learning from the Royal Commission, and using that information to improve systems;
  • being joined up – agencies working together closely, helped by a dedicated secretariat and chief executive sponsoring group, to make sure government engagement with the Royal Commission is coordinated and resulting actions on recommendations are collectively owned; and
  • meeting obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi – honouring the Treaty principles, meeting Crown obligations and building a stronger Māori-Crown relationship through the way the Crown operates and behaves during this process and after it, when implementing its lessons.


What is state care?

“State care” covers situations where the State has assumed responsibility, either directly or indirectly, for the care of an individual.

State care settings may be residential or non-residential, and voluntary or non-voluntary. Examples include social welfare and youth justice residences, psychiatric hospitals, schools, and Police or Court cells.

The Royal Commission’s terms of reference(external link) (clause 17.3) sets out full details of situations where “state care” applies, or does not apply, for the purposes of the Inquiry.



The Crown would like to see the following outcomes from the Royal Commission process:

  • survivors are heard, and feel heard
  • harm is acknowledged
  • the government care system is improved
  • this type of harm never happens again
  • Māori experiences and their impacts are recognised and respected
  • disabled peoples’ experiences and their impacts are recognised and respected


Cabinet papers

The Government’s decisions on how the State will support the Royal Commission to succeed are set out in the series of Cabinet papers below.

  1. In April 2019, Cabinet agreed the Crown’s strategic approach to its engagement with the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, based on six principles (manaakitanga, openness, transparency, learning, being joined up and meeting our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi).
  2. In September 2019, Cabinet agreed on a process for aligning the Crown’s business with the six principles guiding its response to the Abuse in Care Inquiry.
  3. In September 2019, Cabinet agreed on a process for working with non-government organisations (NGOs) and Crown entities to identify their support needs so they can engage appropriately with the Royal Commission and with survivors of abuse in care.
  4. In December 2019, Cabinet agreed to a new Crown Resolution Strategy for resolving historical claims arising from abuse in state care, based on the six principles.
  5. In December 2021, Cabinet agreed to develop an independent survivor-focused redress system, informed by the Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations. 
  6. In August 2022, Cabinet agreed to work on four immediate projects ahead of detailed design of the new independent redress system.


Providing Crown records to the Royal Commission

Following are questions and answers on the Crown’s information provision to the Royal Commission.

Why is the Crown handing over information to the Royal Commission?

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in state and faith-based care in New Zealand. To do this, it is carrying out a series of investigations into specific topics, until 2023.

The Royal Commission has two primary information sources – the testimony of survivors and others involved in State and faith-based care, and records held by the Crown, churches and other organisations. Both sources are essential to the Royal Commission’s work.

While the Crown is legally required to provide information formally requested by the Royal Commission, the Crown also provides other information to the Royal Commission that may assist its work. Information provision is a core activity at the heart of the Crown’s principles-based support for the Inquiry. The six principles guiding the Crown response, agreed by Cabinet in April 2019, are: manaakitanga, openness, transparency, learning, being joined up, and meeting the Crown’s obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

What records are being provided?

The Crown’s records on state care go back to the colonial era and comprise many thousands of documents in hard-copy and electronic form. They include information on policies and procedures, reports, Cabinet papers, data, institutional records and personal case files.

Records are held in numerous locations by Archives New Zealand, government agencies, Crown entities such as schools and district health boards, and non-government organisations that provided care on behalf of the Crown.

The records vary widely in quality and completeness. Many of the relevant records are now very old, and there were variable and sometimes inadequate record-keeping and archiving practices among the many organisations that hold (or held) them. There were also different legislative requirements for archiving and destroying records. Agencies are now required under the Public Records Act 2005 to create, maintain and dispose of records in ways that meet the Act’s provisions.

What’s involved in providing records?

The work involved in locating records requested by the Royal Commission and providing them in a searchable format, where possible, forms a major part of the Crown’s response to the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission issues frequent requests to the Crown for historical records that it needs for the different investigations it has under way. The requests vary widely in scale, from a few documents held by a single agency to thousands of documents across many organisations.

The older hard-copy documents are usually converted into digital form, generally by Archives New Zealand – the digital versions are direct duplicates produced with specialist software and guaranteed authenticity, rather than simple scans. The digitised documents are then provided to the Royal Commission in a secure electronic storage format. 

This short video explains how Archives New Zealand provides the Royal Commission with the information it requests from agencies: standard version of the video(external link) and accessible version of the video(external link)

Responses to the Royal Commission’s information requests are coordinated by the Crown Response Unit. The Unit helps ensure that government agencies provide information in a consistent way, and on time, and it helps agencies compile their responses. It also helps identify information that the Royal Commission might need, and helps the Royal Commission find the agency holding the information they seek.

Does the Crown provide the Royal Commission with any other information?

Yes – as well as answering the Royal Commission’s information requests, the Crown also voluntarily provides it with other relevant information. For example, the Crown Response Unit compiled a State care Timeline for the Royal Commission, which summarises the main institutional and legislative care changes since early last century.

How many documents has the Crown provided to the Royal Commission?

As of 30 June 2020, approximately 5,000 documents have been supplied directly to the Royal Commission, and another 50,000 documents have been made available for the Royal Commission to inspect so it can determine items of interest. These numbers will rise significantly over the coming three years, given that the Royal Commission is still in its early stages.

How does the Royal Commission ask for information from the Crown?

The Royal Commission usually requests information from the Crown by issuing a “Notice to Produce” under Section 20 of the Inquiries Act 2013. These are compulsory orders and cover all relevant information within their scope.

What about personal and private information – is this handed over too? How is the privacy of named individuals protected?

Some documents include personal details. To protect the privacy of the personal information it receives, the Royal Commission has issued a general order under Section 15 of the Inquiries Act that prevents publication of personal or identifying information that it holds without the Royal Commission’s permission. The Royal Commission shares the Crown’s commitment to protecting people’s privacy throughout its proceedings. For more on this, go to this link(external link) on the Royal Commission website (see document “Redress hearing information and FAQs”).

Can I get copies of documents about me that you have sent to the Royal Commission?

Yes – you retain the right to see your personal information held by government agencies, including personal information provided to the Royal Commission. Your request for your personal information would be assessed in the usual way under the Privacy Act and the Official Information Act, if relevant. This page(external link) on the Privacy Commission website helps you request your information. Agencies can also be contacted directly to request your personal information.


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