Standards and conformance regulatory system

This page describes the standards and conformance regulatory system and its objectives. It also lists the other government agencies involved in the system and main stakeholders.

System description and objectives

The standards and conformance system is an institutional framework that seeks to:

  • protect the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals and consumers
  • facilitate international trade
  • sustain industry
  • support innovation.

The system achieves these things by implementing and verifying adherence with domestic, joint (Australia and New Zealand) and international standards, measurements and technical regulations. Specifically it provides frameworks for:

  • standards development and management
  • scientific and legal metrology – the development and use of measurement standards and methods for trade and scientific purposes
  • calibration, accreditation and conformity assessment services.

The system is foundational as an institutional framework that establishes service delivery agencies with specific functions. It is sometimes called the Quality Infrastructure system.

The conformance element of the system is supported by a strategy that was agreed by the Government in June 2019. The strategy provides a common direction and goals for enhancing conformance. More information about the implementation of the strategy is available below.

Ministerial portfolios and statutes

Portfolios Statutes
  • Standards and Accreditation Act 2015
  • Measurement Standards Act 1992
  • Weights and Measures Act 1987
  • Fair Trading Act 1986

In addition to the statutes that establish the legislative framework for the standards and conformance system, the following international treaty agreement with Australia is an important foundational document that establishes a trans-Tasman delivery agency:

  • Agreement between New Zealand and Australia concerning the Establishment of the Governing Board, Technical Advisory Council and Accreditation Review Board of the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand

Regulatory agencies and their roles

The diagram below shows key agencies involved in the standards and conformance system and their general functions.

Agencies with roles in standards and conformance.

MBIE is the agency with oversight, policy and regulatory stewardship responsibilities for the standards and conformance system.

The other key agencies in the system are delivery agencies:

Collaboration and information-sharing

Most of the delivery agencies in the system are operationally independent of MBIE and formal statutory and treaty-based governance and accountability and reporting requirements apply to them.  

MBIE facilitates the Standards, Accreditation and Metrology Group as a collaboration and information-sharing mechanism between the agencies. The group includes MBIE’s Trading Standards team. MBIE also regularly engages with the agencies in other ways, such as regular meetings with the chief executives, chairs and boards.

There is a substantial international dimension to the standards and conformance system. The system supports exporters to get their goods into overseas markets and gain the trust of overseas consumers. It also provides an important check on the quality of imported goods.

MBIE works with other agencies to reduce unnecessary barriers to trade created by standards and conformance requirements in regulations. For more information, read the Technical Barriers to Trade Strategy.

MBIE and the delivery agencies participate in international bodies, networks and initiatives to facilitate trade, advance New Zealand’s interests and meet our international obligations.  Examples include:

  • International standards setting bodies (eg International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC))
  • International accreditation body networks (eg International Accreditation Forum)
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Sub-committee on Standards and Conformance
  • World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Committee.

The delivery agencies also cooperate closely with counterpart agencies overseas (for example with standards and conformance agencies in Australia).

Regulated parties and main stakeholders

Regulated parties

The standards and conformance system does not directly regulate third parties.  Rather, it provides frameworks that enable other regulatory systems to incorporate standards and conformance as a way of implementing and verifying adherence with those systems’ requirements.

Main stakeholders

Stakeholders include the businesses and regulatory agencies that use the system to achieve relevant business or policy objectives. The standards and conformance delivery agencies work with a range of regulators on a day-to-day basis.

Consumers are stakeholders too. The system plays an integral part in consumer safety and protection, and ensuring that goods and services are of an acceptable quality.

Processes for engagement with stakeholders

  • MBIE uses and maintains stakeholder networks for engagement purposes.
  • The delivery agencies engage closely with their own stakeholders.

Proposed regulatory changes

No regulatory changes are proposed at this time. The current focus is implementing recent regulatory changes, discussed in the next section.

Planned service and operational changes

Implementation of revisions to the International System of Units

The International System of Units, known as the SI, is the globally-agreed basis for expressing measurements. In May 2019, the SI underwent a major revision and new definitions for base units of measurement (eg the kilogram) were adopted by the international community, including New Zealand. The new definitions improve the SI without significantly changing the size of any units and provide a springboard for future innovation. The changes came into force on 20 May 2019 with the commencement of the Measurement Standards Regulations 2019(external link).

New Zealand’s adoption of the definitions will allow us to remain consistent with international best practice and allow precision measurement to be available to everyone. The Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) is the primary agency responsible for implementing the new SI definitions into New Zealand. MSL is updating its primary measurement scales, reference equipment and techniques to reflect the new definitions.

Conformance system strategy

MBIE is leading the implementation of the Conformance System Strategy (2019-22). The strategy was agreed by the Government following a review in 2018-19.  The strategy focuses on best practice, effective regulatory use of conformance, skills and technology, and international connections. MBIE will work with the delivery agencies and stakeholders on system performance improvement actions within each of these focus areas. The strategy is available at www.mbie.govt.nz/conformance.

Regulatory use of conformance

An important focus of the Conformance System Strategy is improving the regulatory use of conformance. In 2019 MBIE will develop and deliver guidance and capability-building material for legislation designers about using the conformance system.

Science and standards development

Following joint work that concluded in May 2019 between the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor (PMCSA) and MBIE on the science-focussed elements of future standards development, Standards New Zealand will now seek the involvement of the MBIE Chief Science Advisor when developing new standards or revising existing standards which include new or unsettled science.

Further information

The delivery agencies’ websites have further information about the agencies’ own service design and operational change initiatives:

Read MBIE’s Guide to New Zealand's Standards and Conformance System [PDF, 983 KB] for more details about the role of standards, conformance, accreditation, policy and regulations, and how they all fit together.