Impact of Evidence on Decision Making at New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries

In 2020, the Hunt Lab is collaborating with New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to study the impact of changes introduced since 2015 to the Ministry’s process for biosecurity decision-making, aimed at improving the quality of presentation of arguments and evidence within reports.

MPI has an established process guiding its decision-making on risk posed by importation of certain goods. Since 2015, it has been taking steps to improve these processes, with a focus on improving the the quality of presentation of arguments and evidence within internal reports on the basis of which decisions are made. These changes have included the introduction of the “CASE” argument mapping framework (van Gelder 2016) as basis for drafting report sections.

The project will assess the extent to which these changes have affected the drafting of reports, and the impact of such changes on decision-making. As the first project of its kind, it will also contribute to broader knowledge concerning the ways in which report drafting, and substantive changes to how it is undertaken, can affect decisions.

The project centres on qualitative analysis of Import Health Standards decisions undertaken by the Ministry based on internal reports. Decisions examines span a 10-year period, and are coded for such things as strength of requirements imposed, quantity of evidence offered, and the extent of CASE-mapping structure utilised.

The project is expected to generate a set of findings, which in turn will inform the New Zealand MPI’s revision of guidelines for articulating and presenting evidence and arguments in reports, as well as any relevant changes to be made to MPI staff training and internal review processes.



van Gelder, T. J. (2016). Mapping an argument: Dispelling the curse of knowledge. Decision Point, 95-April 2016, 9. See also


Other Hunt Lab Projects