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Source: Public Service Association (PSA)

National Party leader Simon Bridges has proposed a ‘bonfire of regulations’, but the Public Service Association says it’s a smokescreen for an ideologically motivated agenda divorced from facts on the ground.

“New Zealand has one of the least regulated economies in the developed world, and while Mr Bridges is clearly keen to grab headlines he is simply not painting an accurate picture of this country,” says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.

“The regulations we do have in place are designed to make our country a better place to live, for example by ensuring our food and water are safe to eat and drink. They not only prevent the worst outcomes, such as workers being hurt or killed on the job, but also set a benchmark of quality for the products, services and spaces we enjoy as citizens of this country.”

Contrary to claims by Mr Bridges that employers are “strangled by red tape”, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report says New Zealand is the easiest country on the planet to do business and has been since 2016 – as noted and celebrated by the National Party themselves.

“PSA members work tirelessly in a range of local and central government agencies that deal with regulations,” says Mr Barclay.

“Not everybody notices or appreciates what they do, but whether it’s the leaky home crisis or the deaths at Pike River mine we certainly notice when regulation is absent.”

National say industries like construction, hairdressing and rental property are sectors that need fewer regulations around health, safety and protecting the rights of workers and tenants.

The PSA believes, however, that the facts suggest New Zealand may need more effective regulations rather than less.

In 2019 construction industry deaths at work hit a ten year high, and regional building bosses say health and safety regulations are not a significant cost to their business.

The New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers describe their industry as “the Wild West” and have repeatedly urged the government to increase regulations around safety and training, not decrease them.

New Zealand has one of the worst “excess winter mortality” rates in the developed world, with around 1600 people dying each winter from disease linked to their cold houses. In a 2017 survey, a staggering 84% of PSA members renting in Wellington said they spend more than half their income on housing, and rents have sharply risen in the capital since then.

The PSA says politicians should stick to the facts and avoid populist drum beating in an election year.

“Regulations are not handed down from heaven or set in stone, and an actual common-sense approach would bring workers, employers and industry experts together to periodically review whether our regulations are fit for purpose. Instead we have an arbitrary list delivered by a politician seeking election,” says Mr Barclay.

“We have seen this elsewhere, and copying policies from Donald Trump is unlikely to be a good idea. New Zealanders deserve to go home alive and intact from work, to warm dry houses. Doesn’t that sound like common sense?”