New Zealand's aviation regulatory system is based on a life cycle approach. Participants enter the system, operate within it, and ultimately exit.

Aviation Life Cycle

Our civil aviation system is, with few exceptions, a closed system. CAA is responsible for controlling and authorising entry into it, for providing assurance that the overall system and the participants within it are functioning safely and securely, and for identifying and addressing situations of risk and non-compliance with requirements.

We work with participants and with leadership within the aviation community to ensure the system continues to function effectively and to consider ways of improving it. Aviation participants are responsible for understanding and fulfilling the requirements and responsibilities placed upon them by legislation and by the civil aviation rules. We support this by providing and fostering information, advice, and education to participants.

Civil Aviation Act 1990

The Civil Aviation Act 1990 places responsibility for the safety of operations on document holders. In return, document holders can exercise the privileges within their document.

The Act establishes the scope of the Director's responsibilities. It prescribes the functions, duties, and powers of the Director. It defines the relationship between the CAA and civil aviation participants, their roles, and responsibilities.

New legislation passed in April 2023 (and to come into force in April 2025) will replace the current Act and the Airport Authorities Act 1966. The new Act includes changes that will affect the CAA and the wider aviation sector. These changes include new regulatory powers including changes to our monitoring, investigation and enforcement powers and new regulatory tools, such as the ability to accept enforceable undertakings and issue improvement notices. There will be a two-year period of transition, however, before the new legislation comes into full effect. During this transition period, we are working to realign the existing aviation rules to the new Act and to develop new rules to support the some of the new Act’s provisions. 

Managing safety information

The core regulatory functions of the Director, such as standards development, entry control and safety education, all depend on the flow of compliance and safety information into the CAA. This includes information from accident and incident investigations, self-reporting, mandatory operating reports, complaints, and aviation safety data from any source, as well as insights and findings from monitoring activities. The CAA collects and analyses this data to show the industry's safety performance. This information is used to identify any changes required to improve safety, including changes to rules and other CAA processes. The CAA also provides support and advice to document holders to assist and promote compliance with the rules.