Regulation affects every aspect of our lives, says Professor Jeroen van der Heijden, inaugural holder of the Chair, which is in the School of Government at Victoria Business School.
“Broadly defined, regulation is the institutions, processes, and instruments in place to steer behaviour towards desirable societal ends,” says Professor van der Heijden.
“Through the Chair, I aim to advance our understanding of regulation and governance, regulatory practice, and regulatory stewardship. My core measure of success, however, is whether in five years from now organisations and individuals from the regulatory sector consider the Chair as their first port of call if they have questions on how to improve their regulatory practice.”
The Chair has been established with sponsorship from the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative (G-REG) and The Treasury.
Yesterday’s launch was introduced by Keith Manch, Chief Executive and Director of Maritime New Zealand, which is a member of the G-REG network of around 50 central and local government regulatory agencies.
Professor Ian Williamson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Commerce at Victoria University of Wellington, says Victoria Business School was keen to work with G-REG and The Treasury to establish the new Chair.
“Regulatory practice plays a crucial role in New Zealand life and we want not only to enhance understanding of that but also to help ensure best possible practice through research and teaching.
“We are delighted to have secured a researcher and thinker of Professor van der Heijden’s calibre as our inaugural Chair. He was in the process of returning from Australia to live and work again in the Netherlands when he heard about this position, and it is testament to the value he places on it that he changed his plans in order to take up the role.”
Professor van der Heijden was an associate professor in the School of Regulation and Global Governance at Australian National University in Canberra from 2011 until this year. He continues there as an honorary professor.
His other previous positions include as an associate professor in the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University & Research and an associate professor in Amsterdam Law School at the University of Amsterdam, both in the Netherlands.
He has also been a visiting research fellow at the University of Oxford and a visiting associate at the London School of Economics, in the United Kingdom, and a visiting professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan.
Alongside regulatory practice, he is an expert on cities and climate change, and will continue his extensive research on urban climate governance (involving more than 50 cities around the world) at Victoria University of Wellington.
His regulatory practice research will include looking at regulatory resilience (seeking to understand how we can prepare regulatory regimes for external shocks and crises) and co-creation (incorporating those who are regulated in the development and implementation of regulation).
His first focus is on ‘nudging’ and behavioural economics.
“In a nutshell, a nudge is an indirect suggestion, positive reinforcement, or change of environment to influence behaviour towards desired ends, but without coercion,” says Professor van der Heijden.
“A typical example is the KiwiSaver scheme. KiwiSaver is a voluntary scheme. Normally, a voluntary scheme works with an opt-in system. You as the consumer have to make a decision to join it. Yet people tend to push the decision of joining retirement schemes into the future. Until it is too late.
“To overcome this problem, the government decided to automatically enrol people in KiwiSaver. You can still decide to opt out of it. Changing the default from opting out to opting in is a typical nudge.”
Professor van der Heijden says that, as a whole-of-government initiative, G-REG is unique in the world, and it is one of the examples of state-of-the-art New Zealand regulatory practice he aims to showcase internationally.
His research will look both in this country and overseas, and will help us “understand why some regulatory interventions are a success, such as the New Zealand regulatory regime for outer space and high-altitude activities, and why others are a failure, such as the regulatory regimes resulting in the leaky building crisis”.
As well as research, Professor van der Heijden will be running regulatory clinics for practitioners and overseeing an education programme.
The Chair in Regulatory Practice is part of Victoria University of Wellington’s commitment to ‘Advancing better government’, one of the University’s distinctive strengths.