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Journal article

What does good regulatory decision making look like?

Regulatory instruments Policy Public sector Regulation Decision making Regulatory system New Zealand


This article addresses a key theme of regulatory activity – decision making – in the context of the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative (G-Reg). This initiative has a broad focus on the improvement of regulatory practice and the development of the regulatory profession in New Zealand. In doing so, the article addresses decision making across regulatory systems. The term regulatory systems refers to:

  • the end-to-end approach of government intending to influence or compel specific behaviour, including policy development;
  • the design of instruments intended to achieve the intention;
  • the implementation of those instruments;
  • identifying and understanding the outcomes achieved; and
  • assessing and reviewing the success of each of these components, as a whole. This can be thought of as involving three main interrelated system phases: design, implementation and review.

The article discusses the mechanics, influences and principles involved in good regulatory decision making. First it deals with design and review, as those phases essentially set the context of implementation. Then it deals with implementation and how the advent of G-Reg creates the conditions for improved regulatory decision making in this phase. It concludes with a brief description of what we will see if regulatory decision making at an individual case, industry and system level is, in fact, ‘good’.


The intent of this article was to explore matters relating to good regulatory decision making. It doesn’t break new ground, except perhaps by seeking to articulate a clear framework to judge what good regulatory decision making might look like in an overall sense (Table 4), but brings together a number of aspects that will be known individually or collectively to readers who work in the regulatory field. The scope of things that affect good regulatory decision making is broad and different in various phases of regulatory systems, but with common threads, such as dealing with risk and ensuring that the benefits of regulatory activity outweigh the costs. Other common features are the need for clarity of decision-making rights, effective policies and workable frameworks to guide and support advisers and deciders. The article seeks to ‘put it all together’ as part of the continuing process of developing a shared view of key aspects of regulatory practice that is important to developing this as a professional enterprise.

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