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Standards are used by a range of organisations to enhance their products and services, improve safety and quality, meet industry best practice, and support trade in new and existing markets.

By referencing standards in legislation, regulators draw on leading practice developed by expert committees using a consensus-based and transparent process. Incorporating standards also lets regulators provide detailed requirements without encumbering the regulation or guidance with technical detail.

Standards can be:

  • referenced in Acts or regulations as legally mandatory
  • referenced in Acts or regulations as ‘acceptable solutions’ or ‘means of compliance’. This ensures compliance with legislation but does not prevent the use of an alternative method, provided it meets the specified legislative criteria
  • used by a government agency to detail a required condition of contract with an external supplier
  • incorporated into non-regulatory material as examples of leading practice or guidance for industry
  • employed as a means of compliance with industry regulation, for example, specifying requirements for audit certification
  • promoted as a means of dealing with legal liability issues, for example, compliance with various risk management standards may be cited in court as proof that all reasonable steps were taken.

A standard is not, of itself, mandatory or legally required. A standard has to be incorporated by reference in an Act or delegated legislation in order to be mandatory. Once referenced, it becomes part of the technical regulation framework.

It is important to consider the use of a standard within the policy analysis objectives under the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) system, overseen by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Standards New Zealand is available to discuss and provide advice on the use of standards to support policy objectives. There is more information in our booklet:

How standards are used in policy and legislation [PDF, 2.1 MB]

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed comprehensive information and resources to help policymakers understand the benefits of international standards and to support increased cooperation between standards developers and policy makers.

ISO Benefits of Standards(external link)