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Learning to be better regulators: The importance of training and development

7 May 2020

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This guest editorial was written for the ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of practice monthly newsletter, highlighting new additions to the Regulation Policy and Practice collection on APO. The RP&P collection brings together a range of practical resources from national, local and state/territory governments, regulatory agencies and external institutions conducting monitoring, inquiries and reviews. You can receive this newsletter by joining the ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of Practice (membership is free) or subscribe to the newsletter directly.

The ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP) has responded to restrictions on face-to-face events, with a series of webinars designed to keep regulators engaged and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fortnightly webinars have, and will continue to, provide opportunities for regulators across Australia, New Zealand and the world, to discuss and share critical issues relating to regulatory practice.

The third webinar in the NRCoP series on Learning to be better regulators: The G-Reg journey was held earlier this month. Hundreds of regulators learned about New Zealand’s world-leading regulatory qualifications, specifically in terms of its design, development, and delivery.

Watch the third webinar “Learning to be better regulators: The G-Reg journey” here:

Tony McKenna, Technical Programme Manager, Skills NZ, discussed a number of issues with facilitator Dr Grant Pink, RECAP Consultants and Pracademic Advisor to the NRCoP. This article provides some additional context around the issues discussed during the webinar, including:

background and key events leading to the development of the qualifications
NZ regulatory compliance qualifications, and
key issues webinar participants raised during the webinar.

Background and key events leading to the development of the qualifications

G-Reg, as it is commonly known, is the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative, a network-based in Wellington of central and local government regulatory agencies established to lead and contribute to regulatory practice initiatives. G-Reg developed from the earlier Compliance Common Capability Programme (CCCP) which was also based in Wellington.


was established to consider a range of important issues relating to regulatory compliance and highlighted the need for focussed development and support for a professional regulatory compliance community.
published Achieving Compliance: A Guide for Compliance Agencies in New Zealand, June 2011.
has significantly advanced the development of the regulatory compliance qualifications framework, a body of work since progressed iteratively and collaboratively by G-Reg, and which now form the core qualifications discussed further below.

Other significant resources which now influence the regulatory landscape in New Zealand are:

The Regulatory institutions and practices (RIP) report, June 2014

The RIP:

is a comprehensive report, which runs to 525 pages, and contains 16 chapters; and
terms of reference had a stated aim ‘… to improve the design and operation or regulatory regimes over time and ultimately improve regulatory outcomes’ (p. iv).
Relevant to the webinar the RIP report asked and noted that:

Do all regulators need a generic set of capabilities? (p. 114);
Do regulators understand their capability requirements? (p. 120);
A range of qualifications is available… but completion rates are low (p. 121); and
Balancing general skills training with their specific application (p. 122) 

Watching the birth of the regulatory profession (Manch, Mumford, Raj, and Wauchop, 2015)

In an article in Policy Quarterly, a free public policy journal from the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies and the school of Government at Victoria University of Wellington, Manch et al noted that:

“Regulatory agencies cannot be fully effective unless the regulatory framework within which they are operating gives the necessary mandate, powers, tools and resources [with resources including a capable, competent and trained operational workforce, author emphasis added]”;
“Front-line regulators (compliance officers) cannot be fully effective if they are not given training, experience and support by the agencies they work for’ [which would include a commitment to ongoing or continual professional development, author emphasis added] (p. 72)”; and
“Regulators often have a key role in developing or shaping the regulatory settings in the environment in which they operate” [which would include an acute awareness by a regulator’s operational workforce of its ‘authorising environment’, author emphasis added] (p. 74).

The Government Regulatory Practice Initiative (G-Reg)

The G-Reg initiative is based upon, and contributes to, three main pillars:

People Capability – the five courses detailed below, developed in partnership with an industry training organisation and which are aligned with nationally accredited qualifications;
Organisational Capability – is advanced by G-Reg convening regular workshops and the publication of articles in practitioner and academic outlets; and
Professional Community – G-Reg has established, maintained and expanded its regulatory profession, with evidence of this reflected by the annual conferences held since 2015. These have been held at numerous locations through NZ, and since 2018 the conference has taken a ‘travelling roadshow’ format with the conference being repeated (roughly a week apart) in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch.

NZ regulatory compliance qualifications

The New Zealand Certificate in Regulatory Compliance qualifications include five courses that span four levels. An overview of the five courses is outlined below.

Course: Core Knowledge (Level 3)

Target Audience: For everyone who works in, wants to work in, or is closely associated with a regulatory compliance organisation.

Course: Operational Knowledge (Level 4)

Target Audience: For those who are either preparing to carry out, or supporting others to carry out, frontline regulatory compliance work

Course: Operational Practice (Level 4)

Target Audience: For those who carry out regulatory compliance operational work

Course: Specialised Operational Practice (Level 5)

Target Audience: For those who carry out audits, inspections, investigations and/or operations as a senior regulatory compliance practitioner – operating independently and applying specialised knowledge

Course: Diploma in Regulatory Compliance Investigations (Level 6)

Target Audience: For those who lead, manage, and conduct complex investigations

Find additional information about the courses, including course topics and content here.

Key issues regulators might wish to consider:

As evidenced by the questions asked at the webinar, regulators may want to think about what training and development of regulatory staff looks like for them, in their current and/or future operating context. These may be summarised as:

Is there a difference between training and continuing professional development? And if so, what is my agency focusing on?
Who is the training being conducted for – Practitioners, Managers, Executives?
What is our training covering and/or focussing on – Theory, Technical, Practice?
How is our training be delivered – Face-to-face, distance, online, or blended?
What is the requirement for training – Mandatory (e.g. Certificate IV, for inspectors and investigators) or Desirable (e.g. Advanced Diploma, for regulatory managers)?
Is our training accredited or non-Accredited? – if it is Nationally Accredited, is it in Australia or New Zealand?

Building regulatory capability and capacity within and across regulatory agencies is a challenging undertaking. As such it is important for staff within regulatory agencies to recognise that they have more in common with each other (irrespective of regulated: commodities, sectors, or industries) than they have differences. Therefore, coming together as a community of practice to share experiences and learn from one another is a key part of regulators honing their regulatory practice and commitment to the regulatory profession.

The ANZSOG/NRCoP is a national regulator community of practice that supports building networks to allow regulators to learn from each other.

By Dr Grant Pink, Pracademic Advisor ANZSOG NRCoP, Managing Director RECAP Consultants