New Zealand: Out of control – our red tape tangle

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of OMB Watch’s ongoing analysis of the centralized regulatory review function in other industrialized countries. For other articles on the subject, see here, here and here.

From: New Zealand Herald

Governments are passing tidal waves of rules with no idea of whether they’re worth it, says Robert MacCulloch.

by Robert MacCulloch

The regulatory state in New Zealand is on the march. The number of regulations made by governments each year from 1985 onward has shot up.

The numbers don’t include local government regulations because nobody has counted them.

Has the rise of the regulatory state added to the well-being of our country? No-one knows, as there has been no serious attempt to measure their costs and benefits.

Instead our public debates over whether a regulation is good or bad are mired in claim and counter-claim, based on dogma, ideology and assertion.

Is there a better way? Yes there is. All political parties in New Zealand should commit to taking a disciplined approach to identifying and quantifying the costs and benefits of regulations, a process known as “cost-benefit-analysis”.


The past five US Presidents, from Reagan to Obama, have endorsed and strengthened cost-benefit analysis over the past three decades.

A remarkable political consensus has arisen under which Republicans and Democrats have come to agree on the vital need for cost-benefit analysis, which has become part of the informal constitution of the US regulatory state.

Obama made an unprecedented commitment to quantification of costs and benefits, and ordered executive agencies to review all significant rules, mainly with the goal of eliminating or streamlining excessive requirements.

A White House department, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is dedicated to overseeing the rigorous implementation of cost-benefit-analysis across all government agencies.

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