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Seymour’s Ministry of Regulation aims to streamline bureaucracy

In brief
  • David Seymour becomes New Zealand’s Minister for Regulation.
  • The goal is to simplify and streamline regulations, to reduce barriers to effective operations.
  • There are too many targets to mention but Early Childhood Education (ECE) was specifically identified, as were the primary and financial industries. 

Where we’re going, we don’t need red tape! 

In a move to address NZ’s complex regulatory landscape and  excessive red tape, ACT Party leader David Seymour has taken on the role of Minister for Regulation. Seymour may not have quite the same zing as Back To The Future’s Marty McFly, but his great regulation hunt harks back to The Great Quango Hunt of 1986.

Seymour's Ministry of Regulation
I have a feeling some of these guys are going to take it 
personally when we start cutting all the tape around here.

Dreamt up by the Lange Labour government – the spiritual origin of the ACT Party – the summer of 85/86 saw ‘shoot to kill’ orders go out from Deputy PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer on hundreds of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (Quango’s) wasting taxpayer money and creating localised red tape.

Fast-forward 38 blockbuster Christmas movie seasons, and Seymour – now firmly ensconced as the new Minister for Regulation – is gunning for needless red tape and promising it will die hard, with a vengeance.

This appointment, along with a new ministry, comes with the task of simplifying and streamlining the country’s web of regulations, making them more efficient, transparent, and sensible. 

The creation of the role and the adjoining ministry were key campaign promises by Seymour that were unveiled at this year’s annual party convention in June. While the announcement was somewhat panned at the time by some of the media for lacking soundbite sizzle, the move could potentially make NZ a world leader in regulatory reform. 

Key functions of the ministry

The Ministry of Regulation, under Seymour’s leadership, will play a major role in evaluating new government proposals for legislation and regulation. These proposals will be assessed against a set of principles designed to ensure good regulation, including criteria like problem definition, cost-benefit analysis, regulatory design, workability, and simplicity. 

The ministry’s mandate extends to reviewing existing regulations, department by department. The public will no doubt bring many stories forward of time wasting and tail chasing, providing comic relief even before actual regulatory improvement.

Upon completion of a six-month review of a chosen sector, the minister will issue a report identifying regulations targeted for reduction. 

The minister responsible for the sector being reviewed then has three months to either support the removal of these regulations or provide a rationale for their continued existence. 

According to Seymour, economic growth lies in removing barriers, which transform productive workers into administrators spending inordinate time complying with regulations. That red tape, says Seymour, can be traced directly back to the previous Government’s hiring of 15,000 extra government workers. A move that many say has not seen any return in improved services to the public. 

Seymour’s first target as minister is Early Childhood Education (ECE). Primary industries, The Natural and Built Environment Act, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the Clean Car Discount are also in Seymour’s sights.  

Challenges and the path forward

The ministry’s sector-by-sector regulatory reviews may face resistance from affected agencies. There may be turf wars as agencies push back against efforts to reform or scale back their authority. 

Economist Oliver Hartwich says cultural change within the public sector, viewing regulations as living systems that require ongoing improvement, will be essential for the ministry’s long-term success.

Wait and see

By prioritising efficiency, transparency, and sensibility in the country’s regulations, it will be interesting to see how far the new ministry’s influence reaches. 

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