Since the Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission, the Government has been considering changes to the way engineers are regulated.
In 2017, Engineering New Zealand introduced a new Membership Pathway in anticipation of Government regulatory change, including the repeal of CPEng. This included the class of Chartered Member, which was never intended to co-exist with CPEng in the medium-long term.
In 2019, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released a proposal outlining a new regulatory system for engineers. This proposed replacing CPEng with a certification of general engineering competence and licensing for safety-critical engineering work.
We consulted with members and provided extensive feedback on that 2019 proposal. We supported Government’s desire to better align regulation of engineers with the risks that substandard engineering work poses to public safety.
This work did not progress ahead of the 2020 election.
Chartered Professional Engineer is a voluntary quality mark for professional engineers. It’s about general competence rather than proven ability to perform specific tasks. But in the absence of mandatory professional regulation, CPEng is being forced to play a role it wasn’t designed for.
CPEng doesn’t stop engineers operating outside their areas of competence. It doesn’t provide enough assurance that an engineer can do specific, safety-critical tasks. It needs reform, and we’ve heard that loud and clear from our technical groups and members.
So this year, we started to look at changes we could make to strengthen the system. We’ve been hearing about frustration with CPEng for a very long time – and we can’t wait any longer to take action.
Let’s keep what’s working – and change what isn’t
Last year, during our consultation on the Government’s then-proposals, we heard a lot of support from members for retaining CPEng as a general quality mark. The system has a lot of respect and goodwill behind it.
CPEng isn’t the right tool to manage specific risks but at the moment it’s regulators’ only option, which has led to parallel systems (for example, council “lists of approved engineers”). At the same time, while CPEng was intended as an overall quality mark for all professional engineers, many of its procedural aspects make it unattractive to engineers who don’t “need” it, diluting its impact. And some of CPEng’s requirements, like ongoing reassessment, are more aligned with what you would expect from a licensing regime. This adds to confusion about its role.
We know engineers and the public are frustrated and tired of what seems like endless consultation without any real change to how engineers are regulated. But we are confident we could make changes to CPEng that would substantially raise the bar and improve the system.
What could change?
Our review identifies 18 proposals for change. They include:
- Focusing on CPEng as the professional engineer’s quality mark and making it relevant for all disciplines.
- Introducing specific CPEng assessments for some disciplines (incorporating assessment against Bodies of Knowledge and Skills (BOKS) and developed in collaboration with technical groups), leading to registration classes that provide assurance engineers can perform specific work.
- Streamlining the assessment process using clear gates to proceed to the next step.
- Moving from standardised periodic reassessment for all to a more targeted, risk-based reassessment based on robust audit processes.
- Making the complaints and disciplinary process more robust and streamlined.
- Make CPEng sufficiently inclusive so that professional engineers from all disciplines can aspire to this quality mark
- More explicitly tying CPEng to Engineering New Zealand membership.
We are confident we could make significant positive change to the CPEng system, but we can only do that with the profession’s support.
Read the full proposal | 564.9 KB