New structures for new challenges

10 Oct 2019 New structures for new challenges image

Einstein famously said the definition of insanity is to do the exact same thing again and again and expect things to change.  Ever since he said that we have proved it to be true.

The Government has some really big changes coming: climate change mitigation, environmental initiatives including improving freshwater quality, and educational reforms.  Many of us are involved in making submissions about these changes and hopefully then, we will work with the policy advisers to make these new policies workable. 

These changes are major.  They are not evolutionary, they are revolutionary.  They require new thinking and us to embrace new ways of doing what we have done in the past.  There is a real risk here and that is to try and deliver these new revolutionary policies with the same structures.  Einstein would just nod in agreement.

The Government has identified the philosophical and conceptual and we, the people of New Zealand, are submitting on that.  However, the design and detail of the new policies is being done with a high degree of replication, albeit with new names, of the structures we have now.  If the delivery and administration structures in essence stay the same, then the risk is what was delivered in the past will just be what is delivered in the future.

My first example is delivering new environmental measures, particularly around freshwater quality, through the current Regional Council structure.  My question is, if the new requirements are to be delivered through Regional Councils, will we actually achieve change?  Or will the past just be repeated? 

Ask any group of growers or farmers what the biggest impediment to making environmental changes and adopting growing systems is and they will answer, the Regional Councils.   So how about we look at new structures to deliver environmental improvements and climate mitigation?  How about that new structure be designed and delivered for rural New Zealand through the farmer and grower groups who are making the changes on their farms?  This could be done through independently audited Farm Environment Plans based on good management practice by each grower for their property.  Keep the Regional Councils out of what happens on-farm.

The educational reforms are my second example. There is a real focus on how the industry groups and the education providers are to be constituted, and what their roles are to be to deliver the new policies.  But here the real problems with vocational education are:

1/ Starting vocational education at an early stage, for example back at Year 8 and 9

2/ Inflexible and unresponsive centralised control

3/ Funding the whole education system so that it can effectively function. 

But what is not changing out of these three areas vital for reform is number 2/: the central Government bodies who are actively designing the new structures to deliver the new policies. 

Unless these organisations are radically changed, the real risk we face is that all we will have is a new industry and provider structure that is forced to deliver the current aged and ineffective training we have today.  In other words, the reform needs to go much further and tackle all the core issues. 

So my message to the Government is we support your reforms, we will work with you to make them successful, but what you need to do is ensure that the structural impediments to your policy revolutions’ success are changed too.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive