Browse through the frequently asked questions on the CPEng review proposal.
Do you have a question that’s not answered below? Email us and we’ll add it to this list.
Need for change
Why does CPEng need to change?
We know that the public and regulators don’t have enough confidence in the current system. This is due to high-profile failures that have received substantial media coverage, starting with the CTV Building but also over the past few years. It’s meant regulators have started to create their own parallel systems, like Auckland Council’s list of “approved” engineers. CPEng isn’t fit for purpose – and there is also confusion about its intended role. We want to fix this.
Will the proposal create a dumbed-down CPEng compared to what currently exists?
No, that’s definitely not the intention – we are looking to raise the bar. This means that it will potentially be harder to gain CPEng, particularly with respect to any class of registration that is developed.
Why haven’t you made changes to CPEng sooner?
We’ve been expecting regulatory change given previous signals from the Government, especially the consultation in 2019. But given the time this is taking, we’ve decided to change what’s in our control now, rather than wait any longer. We’re hearing really strongly from our technical groups that this is urgent and we need to respond to that feedback.
Why are you consulting rather than just going ahead and making the changes?
We know that many people see the need for change and would like it to happen quickly. But CPEng and member feedback is a really important part of this process, and we need to get the proposals right. Consultation is also required under the Act to change the Rules. Once we have heard people’s views, we will look to implement change quickly if that is supported.
What will change?
What are you proposing?
Our discussion document contains 18 proposals for change, including changes to the assessment and reassessment processes. They also include introducing classes of CPEng that set clear competence requirements for specific disciplines and have their own postnominal; for example, CPEng (Structural) or CPEng (Fire). This would set a higher and more clearly defined bar, developed in conjunction with technical groups.
And we’re proposing changes to the complaints and appeals process that will make them more efficient and proportionate.
At the same time, we want to make the general CPEng a respected quality mark that professional engineers of all disciplines strive for. This would pave the way for changes to our membership pathway in the future.
Will you introduce a written exam?
Perhaps – we would want to develop robust assessment options for any classes of registration in consultation with technical groups. We’re interested in your feedback on this.
Will fewer people pass CPEng?
Potentially yes, especially on their first try. At the moment, nearly everyone passes, and we’ve heard feedback from our technical groups that this indicates the bar isn’t high enough. Our proposals will change the assessment process in support of raising the bar; for example, people won’t have the same virtually unlimited opportunities to resubmit material.
What should I do if I’m currently in the process of applying for CPEng?
Keep going! Nothing will change immediately, and we would create a fair way of transitioning people into any new regime.
What incentives (eg legislative) will there be to have CPEng? Especially in more general fields like asset management, project management?
CPEng is currently a voluntary quality mark and this will not change through the proposals we are making. The Government has, however, been talking about introducing licensing classes and restricting certain types of safety critical work. We think that the changes we are proposing, particularly around the introduction of classes of registration, have the potential to provide a framework for licensing or restricting work, but this would require wider regulatory change. While any licensing requirements are likely to only impact a percentage of engineers, a key objective of our review is to create an unambiguous chartered label that is widely recognised and sought after by the profession, employers, clients and the general public – both here and overseas.
Would raising the bar for specific disciplines dilute the weight of CPEng of other less risky disciplines?
That’s definitely not the intention. We’re looking to raise the bar for general CPEng as well as introducing new discipline-specific classes.
New classes of CPEng
Why are you proposing new classes of CPEng?
In conjunction with technical groups, we are developing Bodies of Knowledge and Skills for specific disciplines. We want to make it clear when people are assessed against those BOKS, which provides more assurance that they can do specific work. This will set a clearer bar for these disciplines and provide greater assurance of competence for regulators and the public.
What disciplines will have classes of CPEng?
At the moment, we have developed BOKS for structural, geotechnical and fire, so these would be the disciplines we start with. We do envisage BOKS being developed for other disciplines, in conjunction with the relevant technical groups, especially if those groups see a need.
What’s the difference between CPEng and a specific class of CPEng?
General CPEng will remain, although we are looking at changes to assessments and process in support of raising the bar. If you do specific work, for example, structural design, and there is a relevant class of CPEng, eg CPEng (Structural), then you would apply for that class not for general CPEng. We expect regulators will come to only accept structural work from people with CPEng (Structural).
Can you have more than one class of CPEng?
Potentially yes, as long as you have completed the separate assessments for each class.
How will councils/other regulators know what qualification/post nominal to accept for sign off?
Once we’ve heard your feedback and determined the way forward, we need to make the changes to CPEng. And then we would communicate clearly to regulators and other stakeholders, including clients, about any new system and what it means for them. This is a really important part of making any changes.
I have many years of experience but don’t want to sign off new buildings. How will I retain recognition of engineering capability?
General CPEng will remain, although we are looking at changes to assessments and process in support of raising the bar.
Has any consideration been given to cross discipline industry-specific CPEng classes – eg railway, aviation?
That’s something we’d be really interested to hear feedback on, both from individuals and from technical groups.
Will discipline specific organisations (eg Water NZ or other discipline-specific engineering associations) be involved in development of assessments and criteria for discipline-specific classes?
We’re really interested in feedback from any implicated stakeholders and we definitely intend to work with the relevant technical groups to develop the discipline-specific classes and assessment.
Is there a list of proposed CPEng classes or will this be consulted at a later stage?
We’re really interested in your feedback about what these classes should be. At the moment, we’ve developed or are in the process of developing BOKS for structural, geotechnical and fire.
I’m seeing engineering technologists using CMEngNZ as a post nominal and signing off high-risk geotechnical work.
If you see something like this, you need to let us know so we can take action.
More experienced practitioners become managers, ie that’s their practice field. Do you see this continuing or will they need to stay with structural, civil etc?
We are committed to ensuring that we continue to provide a Chartered home for engineering managers – but some regulatory sign-offs may be linked to a class of registration in future.
Who defines the standard for each discipline? How do you ensure consistency across disciplines? How about disciplines with a small field?
We see technical groups as playing a key role here, alongside our in-house educational experts.
Where does this leave engineers who work as general practitioners in structural, geotechnical, civil?
We’re really interested in feedback from people in this position. It might be that people need to have one or more classes of CPEng depending on the work that they do.
If multiple classes happen, would this require multiple separate assessments?
Potentially, if you wanted to hold more than one class. We envisage that if you wanted to hold CPEng with one class, that would be one assessment in total.
Why not increase peer review requirements instead? (rather than raise bar for entry for everyone)
We need to think about the levers that are under our control. Peer review is an important part of the quality assurance system engineers work in but requirements around peer review are often decided by other regulators or clients.
These changes seem aimed at making it harder for engineers/CPEngs to comply. Doesn’t this punish all rather than reward? (given the majority are doing things right)
It’s hard to get that balance right – what we know at the moment is that CPEngs have been associated with high-profile failures. This implies something in the system is not working. We know there is strong support from many engineers to raise the bar and that’s why we started this review.
However, several of the proposals relating to reassessment and the complaints and disciplinary process are aimed at developing a more risk-based approach that focusses effort and potentially creates a lighter-touch compliance regime for engineers who can be seen to be practising competently and safely.
Will BOKS be introduced across all disciplines?
We need to consider whether there is a need for BOKS and evidence of the ability to do specific work. We’re interested in feedback about this.
Would annual audits be as effective as reassessment every six years?
It’s not an either/or. Some audits would lead to reassessment. The overall impact is better targeting assessment effort where the risk is higher – because of concerns or because an engineer is working in a high-risk area – as well as maintaining a degree of random assessment. The current system of reassessment for all is highly resource-intensive and just isn’t delivering the kind of outcomes that support trust and confidence in the profession.
How would audits work? What exactly would be audited?
This is something we’ll be working on further if engineers support the proposals.
Would CPEngs only be reassessed if red flags were raised or they did not pass the audit?
Those people would be reassessed – but there would also be a degree of random reassessment that could capture anyone.
How would examinations be different from university qualifications? Particularly in respect to a specific field like geotechnical, which someone may have worked in for the majority of their career?
If there was an examination, it would be based on the BOKS developed in conjunction with technical groups, and specifically test the candidate's grasp of that BOKS.
Would you consider a confidential reporting or whistle blower system to help with this audit process?
We’re interested in feedback on this. Recently we have joined CROSS-AUS for confidential reporting of structural incidents, though this has a different focus and is not about identifying issues with individual practice.
If structured assessments are introduced, will it be a one-off examination? Or exam every 6 years to keep CPEng?
Potentially one off, with reassessment replaced by audits as described in the discussion document.
Timing and transitions
When will this be introduced and how will the transition from the current system work?
First, we need to hear what you think to decide next steps. We’ll be assessing all the feedback we get in early 2021. If we change the system, then we need to make sure that existing CPEngs aren’t unfairly disadvantaged. We’d work through what that transition would look like with our technical groups and in consultation with BCAs/other regulators – and it would be phased and fair.
Will current CPEngs be automatically transferred to the new system? eg practice areas mapping over.
That’s something we need to work through. In terms of the new, discipline-specific classes, these are intended to raise the bar so we don’t envisage an automatic transfer from practice area. But the transition would need to be phased and fair. We’re interested in your feedback on this.
I was a registered engineer under the old system – but had to jump through all the hoops again if I wanted to be CPEng. Will this happen again? Would I have to reapply/be reassessed.
CPEngs would not be required to reapply to become CPEng under these proposals. However, registration in a particular class would probably require an additional assessment, and the process for retaining registration might change.
Are there any implications for members currently Chartered under overseas institutions?
International mobility for baseline CPEng would remain. This is a very important feature of the system. Whether this would include discipline-specific classes of CPEng needs further consideration and we’re interested in your feedback.
Will the cost of CPEng increase with the proposed changes? Have you costed any of the proposed changes?
This is something that needs further analysis, with some areas of the proposal (eg greater efficiency) potentially reducing costs while others (eg discipline-specific assessments and remuneration for assessors) potentially increasing them. We want to hear your feedback before we do that work. We recognise that cost is an important consideration for many people.
When will you determine next steps?
We will analyse the feedback and look at next steps as quickly as we can – look for an update in February.
How will we make sure these changes don't negatively impact small consultancies?
We’re really conscious that any transition needs to be fair – we’re interested to hear from you about this.
CPEng and membership
Is the plan that people who are currently Chartered Member will transition to CPEng?
When we created Chartered Member in 2017, it was with the understanding that CPEng would be repealed in the near future. This hasn’t happened as we expected so we need to reconsider Chartered Member in light of the confusion between it and CPEng. Having one unambiguous Chartered quality mark is the ideal. There are ways to tweak CPEng so that it appeals to people who previously didn’t see it as relevant.
What will happen to Chartered Member?
We are really interested in feedback on this. There are several options, including removing it or modifying it. We have heard strongly that, if CPEng continues to exist, having Chartered Member creates confusion.
In terms of technologists, technicians and engineering geologists who are Chartered Members in their respective categories, if Chartered Member ceased to exist then we must create an appropriate alternative quality mark. This could be registers, with titles like Chartered Technologist, Chartered Technicians and Chartered Engineering Geologist.
Wouldn’t creating registers for technologists, technicians and engineering geologists be returning to the status quo before 2017?
Superficially yes, although these registers would be different from the ones disestablished in 2017 and there would be a single unambiguous, Chartered quality mark for each occupational group, rather than the competence-based membership classes and registers that existed prior to 2017.
If you create a closer relationship between CPEng and membership, what about people who are CPEng but don’t want to be a member?
They would be able to opt out. In practice, very few people are CPEngs who are not members: As of 4 November 2020, 97% of people with CPEng are also members (3867 of 3991).
Will I still get my CPEng certificate in December?
Yes, although we are keen to save a few trees and deliver these in an appropriate online format.
When will the change be implemented?
In early 2021, we will consider next steps after analysing the feedback we’ve received. If change then occurs, it will be implemented in a fair and phased way with input from relevant technical groups.
What if I’m half way through an assessment?
Will the post nominals for CPEng and Chartered Member change if these changes takes place?
We’re not proposing any changes to the CPEng postnominal at the moment, beyond the potential to extend the postnominal to include reference to a class eg CPEng (Geotechnical). In terms of Chartered Member, we’re really interested in your feedback about its place and appropriateness.
I have an upcoming application for CMEngNZ. Can I still apply with overseas recognition eg ICE Chartered?
Yes. Nothing has changed right now, and we need to hear your feedback before we decide on next steps. Any transition to a new system needs to be phased and fair.
Are you likely to get rid of the Chartered Member category in due course?
It really depends on your feedback. We know that confusion between CPEng and Chartered Member is a real issue, so if CPEng remains then we need to address that confusion, potentially by changing or deleting Chartered Member.
Can we have real clarity on the use of Chartered? Internationally this applies only to professional engineers. Technicians and technologists are handled differently.
We’re really interested in feedback on this, but there are a range of approaches taken overseas. Chartered Professional Engineer, Chartered Engineering Technologist and Chartered Engineering Associate is the framework in Australia, for example.
Will we require compulsory membership of relevant technical groups eg SESOC for structural engineers as well as Engineering NZ membership?
We’re interested in feedback on that, though it’s not something that’s covered in the proposal.
Government plans for regulation
Why did you proceed with Chartered Member in 2017 if there was a chance that CPEng wouldn’t be repealed?
We had positive signals at the time that our direction was the right one.
Isn’t there a chance that the Government will now come out with plans that conflict with the reform of CPEng?
We know the Government continues to work on how to regulate engineers. But we have also heard very strongly from technical groups that we can’t wait any longer for reform. We need to raise the bar in the parts of the system that we control. We have shared our plans for reform with MBIE ahead of this consultation.
What is the Government planning?
We know that the Government shares our goal of having a system that the public and regulators can trust and have confidence in, and that works for engineers. We understand that its plans have evolved since the 2019 proposals that were publicly consulted. We look forward to more information being shared. Whatever the Government proposes will take some time to come into effect, whereas there are some changes to CPEng that we can make relatively quickly.
Have you consulted with the Government on the proposal to reform CPEng?
We have shared our discussion document with MBIE and the Chartered Professional Engineers Council, and received positive feedback.
Is anything being done on the council side of approving consents and when external reviews are needed?
We are looking at the overall system as part of a wider piece of analysis. We look forward to discussing this with councils, including how we can work together to raise the bar.
What do we need to do if we disagree or have comments with the document?
When does the consultation process close and what are the next steps?
Consultation is open till 20 January 2020. Once we’ve analysed your feedback, we’ll determine the next steps – and we’ll keep you posted.
How long does the survey take and where can I find it?
The survey can be completed quickly if you choose not to provide any comments – these are optional. You are welcome to complete as much or as little of survey as you like – no questions are compulsory.
Can groups of engineers submit feedback for the proposal or are you only taking feedback from individual engineers?
We’re interested in your feedback however you want to provide it – whether that’s as a group or an individual. If it’s from a group, make sure you specify that in the survey comments, or alternatively emailing us might be a good option so you can make that clear.
How will others outside of the engineering community (including the public) hear about these proposed changes?
We’re consulting widely on these proposed changes and including key stakeholders in this early part of the process. If changes do go ahead, then communicating them to groups like regulators, clients and industry groups will be really important.
Will MBIE be involved in giving feedback, to check that the changes meet their expectations?
We shared the review with MBIE as part of our pre-consultation, to check we were on the right track. We’re interested in any further feedback MBIE might have.
Can I get a copy of the feedback?
We’ll be providing an analysis of the feedback once the consultation period ends.