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This article asks the not-so-obvious question of what kinds of people and organisations actually perform the role of a regulator, and why this might matter.

Whether an independent agency or a division/group within a department is in fact a ‘regulator’ is by no means obvious. It is complicated by at least three dimensions:

1. Lack of agreement on the definition of regulation

2. The surprisingly infrequent use of the word ‘regulator’ in organisations’ titles

3. Multiple or even contradictory functions allocated to entities that have important regulatory roles

How do you know you are a regulator?

The New Zealand Productivity Commission’s report on Regulatory Institutions and Practices provides a useful guide, suggesting that to be categorised as a ‘public sector regulator’, organisations need to be responsible for at least two of the following:

  • Making rules or standards
  • Informing and educating
  • Granting approvals
  • Promoting and monitoring compliance
  • Handling complaints from the public
  • Enforcing laws
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