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OBJECTIVE: To develop a new method for estimating the cost to governments of enacting public health legislation. METHODS: We adopted a central government perspective in estimating costs. The parliamentary cost of legislative acts and regulations in New Zealand was calculated from the proportion of parliamentary time devoted to law-making (i.e. sitting days in the debating chamber), and the cost of associated policy advice from government agencies was calculated from the proportion of documented policy issues related to law-making. The relative costs of acts and regulations were estimated from the number of pages in the legislation. FINDINGS: We estimated that, between 1999 and 2010, 26.7% of parliamentary resources and 16.7% of policy advice from government agencies were devoted to generating new laws in New Zealand. The mean cost of an act was 2.6 million United States dollars (US$; 95% uncertainty interval, UI: 1.5 to 4.4 million) and the mean cost of a regulation was US$ 382 000 (95% UI: 22 000 to 665 000). For comparison, the average cost of a bill enacted by the 50 state governments in the United States of America between 2008 and 2009 was US$ 980 000. CONCLUSION: We were able to estimate the cost of new legislation in New Zealand. Our method for estimating this cost seemed to capture the main government costs involved and appears to be generally applicable to other developed countries. Ideally such costs should be included in economic evaluations of public health interventions that involve new legislation.

Original publication




Journal article


Bull World Health Organ

Publication Date





532 - 539


Confidence Intervals, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Government Regulation, Health Care Costs, Health Policy, Health Resources, Humans, New Zealand, Public Health