Kiwis endangered by unlicensed occupations

Roger Partridge
Insights Newsletter
22 April, 2022

They may not know it, but unsuspecting Kiwis will soon be protected from unregistered log traders and forestry advisers. What a relief that should be.

The Shane Jones-sponsored Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Act was introduced under urgency in the midst of the pandemic in May 2020. Forced along by Jones’s fanciful election-year plans to boost employment in his Northland electorate, the Bill passed into law in August that year.

Jones is long gone from Parliament. But in the intervening two years, the Ministry for Primary Industries has been busily consulting with the forestry industry on a suitable registration regime.

And well they might. Even though the Ministry’s Regulatory Impact Statement could not point to any quantitative evidence of benefits from the proposed licensing regime, tasks as important as regulating log traders should not be rushed.

Submissions on the new regime closed in January this year. From 6 August, log traders and forestry advisers will have a further 12 months to become registered. After that, the public will be safe. No one will face the risk of an out-of-control log trader. Phew!

But the process Shane Jones kicked off to protect the country from cowboy log traders raises an important question. What other unregulated and unlicensed occupations in New Zealand could benefit from similar control?

A quick scan of the 2018 census reveals a shocking list of unregulated roles. Among them are some of the country’s most common occupations. From sales assistants to chief executives and from hairdressers to dairy farmers, the list goes on and on.

Who knew, for example, that flowers could be arranged by an unlicensed florist? Or that office managers could manage without registration? Just consider the risks we have been living with when waiters and kitchenhands can go about their work without certification.

And where is the Building Labourers and Painters Amendment Act? Surely if people selling logs need to be licensed, those cutting them up and covering them in paint should be too?

Of course, occupational licensing is not without cost. The higher the registration or licensing fees, the greater the risk of people being shut out of an occupation. But do we really want jobs that just anyone can do?

Or maybe the three-year period allowed before log traders and forestry advisers suggests something else. That complex and costly occupational licensing regimes like the forestry one are solutions looking for problems.

Hairdressers, sales assistants and florists can perhaps breathe sighs of relief.

On the other hand, protecting Kiwis from unqualified politicians and policymakers is another thing altogether.

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