Without it, we’re lost – government places new importance on regulation in New Zealand


Roads the Importance of Regulation

We should not forget that regulation is, right now, in action all around us. It silently governs what is and what isn’t possible.

Everything you do, from squeezing toothpaste onto your toothbrush in the morning, to buying a new car from a dealership, is governed by regulation. It dictates the ingredients of the toothpaste, the bristles of the toothbrush, the engine components in the car, and the roads you’ll drive it on.

Regulatory standards are what make up regulation, and compliance with these standards is ensured by individuals at organisations across New Zealand. If you’re one of these people, you will be operating with regulation every day. While the rest of us will remain largely unaware of it.

The importance of regulation in so many aspects of our lives should not be underestimated, and improved regulatory practice has recently been called for. Big changes are taking place that we all should be aware of.


In practice

Over the years, there have been good consequences and bad consequences of regulation in New Zealand. The Minimum Wage Act of 1983, ensuring fair pay for workers, is considered on the good end of the scale. The Cave Creek Disaster of 1995, in which 14 people died because a viewing platform was not built by qualified engineers, is considered at the bad end.

Without any sort of regulation at all, chaos would ensue. But for regulation to work effectively, every part of the process, from creation to application, must be carefully carried out. This requires regular evaluation of the knowledge of those involved, and the tools used.

Individuals who act as regulators must use the right tools at the right time to achieve the desired outcomes. Regulators must source intelligence, handle information, publish information, and take action that is legal and informed. The traffic warden, for example, is an individual regulator who must know the regulation around parked cars, and when and when not to ticket. If this is carried out, an ordered and safe environment is the outcome.

It’s a lot of responsibility, and requires the right up-to-date knowledge.


What’s changed

In 2014, a report was published by the Productivity Commission into regulation in New Zealand. It outlined several recommendations to the government which covered the following four areas: Stronger ownership and leadership from the centre, greater focus on improving the quality of legislation, greater professionalisation of the regulatory workforce, review and evaluation. This is to be driven by central government with the aim to move regulatory outcomes towards the good end of the scale, and avoid future disasters.

The government response has involved the establishment of the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative, which aims to upskill the regulatory workforce. Skills is proud to be a part of this Initiative.

It is currently driving towards updating knowledge of regulatory practice in as many areas as possible. If you work with regulation, this is very relevant to you.


Moving forwards

Toothpaste the Importance of Regulation

And how will this happen? Skills’ involvement in the new approach to regulatory practice is the development of a series of brand new qualifications. These range from induction level for those new to the sector, up to specialist investigations practice, with more in between. The qualifications are nationally recognised and an advanced online Learning Management System (LMS) has been developed by Skills for individuals to complete the learning and assessment in their own time.

The government wants to ensure that as many people as possible, from the bottom to the top, are more aware of regulation and how it applies to their own context. Maritime officers must know how best to gather intelligence, building consent officers must approve safe and durable buildings, customs officers must implement guidelines for restrictions of goods.

It’s an exciting project to be involved in, and Skills will be helping the government to improve regulatory practice in every way we can. We will be providing more updates on the process and its impact along the way.


Take a look at the article about the first ever graduation ceremonies in the world for G-Reg qualifications, held by NZTA in June.

If you’re an organisation or individual looking to upskill in regulatory practice and want to know more about the qualifications, get in touch with Tony McKenna, Sector Manager for Local Government at Skills tonym@skills.org.nz or call him on 027 291 1259.