In April 2022, MBIE and Engineering New Zealand presented a webinar about the recent decisions and members’ many questions around occupation regulation.
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Questions and answers
Answers to questions asked during Engineering New Zealand’s webinars about MBIE’s recent announcements on a new system for regulating engineers.
Scope and Coverage
Will the new system include engineers who do not work in the building sector?
Yes. All practising engineers, including those practising outside the building sector, will need to be registered.
Registration and Scope
How will ‘engineering’ be defined?
MBIE’s working definition is ‘Any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing, supervising, or managing that requires the application of engineering principles and judgement and concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interest, the public welfare or the environment.’
This definition will be further refined as legislation is drafted. You will have a chance to comment on the definition when the draft legislation is presented for consultation.
Will there be tiers of registration to recognise expertise in non-licensed disciplines?
No. Registration is not intended to indicate competency, either generally or in a specific field. All practising professional engineers will need to be registered. Engineers undertaking restricted high-risk work will need a licence.
Will existing registered engineers need to register again?
Currently there is no equivalent to registration. Engineering New Zealand membership is voluntary, as is being a chartered professional engineer. This means registration will be new for all engineers.
Those needing licenses will also need to apply for these and we will work with CPEng holders through this process.
How will being registered reduce risk?
Registration means all engineers will be subject to a code of ethical conduct, continued professional development, and a complaints and disciplinary process. Commitment to ethics and CPD, as well as stronger measures for managing substandard performance, will lift the performance of the profession. This will go some way to reducing risk posed by engineers who act unprofessionally or beyond their competence.
Will the previous engineering technologist registration pathways be modernised to ensure those working in restricted fields can be assessed as being competent at that level?
Prerequisites for licensing will be determined by the Engineers Registration Board and the Minister. We expect some licensing classes will have multiple entry pathways.
How many registered engineers will there be?
We don’t know for sure. Engineering New Zealand has about 22,000 members and there are 4,000 chartered professional engineers, many of whom are also Engineering New Zealand members. MBIE estimates there are about 38,000 unregistered engineers but acknowledges this may not be accurate.
If a New Zealand company is using offshore engineering design services for work performed in New Zealand, will they be exempt?
No. All engineers working on New Zealand projects will need to be registered. Further details on this process are pending, including a possible temporary registration provision.
As well as engineers having protection of title, is ‘Engineer-in-Training’ (EIT) going to be considered as used in the United States and Canada?
Not at this point. There will be two protected titles for professional engineers: registered and licensed (although this may change as the Bill is developed).
Will there be an exam for registration like in Canada?
The details of how licensing assessments will work won’t be known for some time. They may include tests or exams, written assignments, work samples, or other means of assessment.
There is no mention of a competency standard for registration. Would you please clarify intentions in this regard?
Registration is not a mark of competency and is intended to apply to all practising engineers.
Why are Engineering Technicians and Engineering Technologists not seen a professional engineers when it is expected they do the same work and at the same level as someone with a BEng?
The title of professional engineer is typically associated with a four-year Washington Accord degree, but we and MBIE recognise there are other pathways into the profession. The new system will need to have a mechanism for engineers to show equivalent knowledge if they don’t have an Accord degree. There is also expected to be a separate register for technicians and technologists, though at this stage Government has indicated this would be a voluntary register.
What does this mean for Professional Engineering Geologists?
The Cabinet paper is silent on this, but MBIE is aware there will need to be a place for PEngGeols. This will be worked through as the legislation and regulations are developed.
Is there an expectation that becoming registered will be similar to becoming chartered and that it will be transferable to other similar bodies around the world such as ICE?
Registration is not intended to be competency-based and is not an equivalent to chartership. We recognise the importance of chartership for international mobility and mutual recognition, and we expect there will still be demand for this, whether it’s met by the new system, or by a competency-based membership class like our current Chartered Member class.
How will disciplines such as transportation engineering be treated when professional services are provided by both engineers and non-engineers, such as planners?
These regulatory changes only apply to engineers and allied professionals such as engineering technicians and technologists.
Protection of Title
Will engineers have a protected title?
Yes. The working title is ‘registered engineer’, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet. A title of ‘licensed engineer’ is also expected to be introduced. Misuse of the protected titles will be an offence.
Washington Accord/International Equivalence
Will a Washington Accord degree – which can be restrictive – be an explicit requirement of registration?
Details of registration requirements are still to be determined but we expect a Washington Accord degree or equivalency is likely to be a requirement for registration as a professional engineer. There will be provision for engineers who do not have an engineering degree.
How will engineers from other countries be incorporated into the system?
Like CPEng, engineers from overseas are likely to need to they satisfy eligibility requirements, such as a Washington Accord degree or equivalent. For engineering technicians this is Dublin Accord equivalency and for engineering technologists this is Sydney Accord equivalency.
How can we ensure equivalency and mutual recognition with other countries, like Australia?
The details of this are still to be determined. MBIE’s advice to Cabinet outlined the need for mutual recognition to allow for international mobility and we expect the new system will address this. Under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement, New Zealand registered engineers would be eligible to register in a comparable regime in Australia and vice versa.
What’s the difference between licensing and registration?
Registration is about professionalism and ensuring all engineers are part of a system that upholds standards and continuous learning. Licensing is about specific competency, particularly in areas that pose greater risk to public safety. All practising engineers will need to be registered but only engineers working in high-risk areas, identified in regulations, will need to be licensed.
What disciplines will require a licence?
Engineers working in high-risk disciplines will require a licence to practice. We understand decisions about who will need a licence will be made by the Minister, in consultation with key stakeholders. We expect this will include structural, geotechnical, and fire safety engineering. Other disciplines will be added to this list.
Do I require a licence if I am only signing off work?
All practising engineers will need to be registered and engineers working in high-risk disciplines will need to be licensed to sign off work in that area.
What will be the process for licensing?
Entry to licensing classes will be through a competency assessment. We don’t yet know what that assessment might look like. The competency assessment may vary depending on the practice field.
Can only licensed engineers work on high-risk work or can non-licensed engineers also do so provided they are supervised by licensed staff?
Licensed engineers will be able to supervise non-licensed engineers. This will allow non-licensed engineers to gain experience and skills to the required competency standard before they can be licensed.
Will Territorial Local Authorities that now require CPEng sign-off on producer statements require a licensed engineer to sign these?
Details of this still need to be resolved but, with the expiry of CPEng, we anticipate councils will require a licensed engineer to sign off producer statements, particularly if they relate to a restricted practice field.
Will licensed engineers be equivalent to CPEng engineers?
No, licensing is expected to be set at a higher and more specific standard than CPEng.
Will there be an interview and assessment for licensing and registration, similar to what there is for CPEng assessments?
These details will be worked through as part of the transition. The profession’s involvement will be critical at determining how candidates for licensing are assessed.
We do not anticipate that engineers will need to be interviewed for registration. While the Engineers Registration Board will set eligibility requirements for registration, our intention is that these requirements are simple and easy for engineers to meet (such as an appropriate qualification).
Are there specific requirements for the number of years of working experience in NZ before being eligible for licensing? Is overseas experience enough?
These details will be worked through as part of the transition and may differ between disciplines.
CPEng practice areas are not standardised or made public. Will this continue with licences?
No. Licences will be specific, standardised and public.
CPEng is assessed by an experienced practice engineer and the process is already slow due to the availability of people with sufficient experience. If licensing is taken to a higher level, the pool of people qualified will surely be smaller. How will resourcing this be managed?
Resourcing of the new system will be an important consideration.
Appropriate management of the system – including the supply of, and support for, assessors – is an ongoing conversation with MBIE. We agree this is a risk that will need to be addressed.
Will CMEngNZ be a prerequisite for being licensed?
No. CMEngNZ is a membership class of Engineering New Zealand – although it is competency-based, it is not part of the current regulatory system.
Will this fix the serious issues in the knowledge base assessment that asks engineers to have broad knowledge that is unrelated to their practice area?
The intent of the new system is to make competency assessments specific to high-risk areas (licensing). This will remove the current general knowledge base assessment that is not tailored to practice area.
Who will assess the competence of Licensed Engineers?
Details of assessments, including who will carry out assessments, are still to be worked through.
I haven’t seen much consideration for 'Construction Engineers' with the highest level of education ie, those working for contractors in civil infrastructure – roading, water, rail, earthworks etc. How will MBIE ensure that technical skills of Construction Engineers are valued and recognised?
If these engineers are working in a field that requires a licence, they will need to be licensed. Licensing is about competency, not excellence – the intent is to assure the public that engineers have the right skills for the job. Engineers who have excelled in their field and who want to be recognised should consider applying to become a Fellow or Distinguished Fellow of Engineering New Zealand.
If the Electrical Workers Registration Board is only to do with safety, why is that different to other licencing purposes? Also, should Approved Radio Engineer under the Radiotelecommunications Act be included as an Approved Radio Engineer getting licensing wrong could cause radio frequency interference that could stop safety of life services? And possibly considerable civil costs if an infrastructure project based on radio licensing is bad.
Overlap between MBIE’s proposals and existing legislation and regulatory regimes will be worked through in legislation drafting processes.
Having been a CPEng for more than 30 years in the Port and Harbour Engineering practice area, what register would I be attached to?
Government has not decided which disciplines will need to be licensed. This will not be decided until after primary legislation is passed. Licensing may apply wherever there is significant safety, environmental or economic risk.
Can we have licences for lower risk practice areas, for example general practitioners, civil engineers and management?’
We are conscious there may be a need for a mark of competence in areas that are not considered ‘high risk’. It is possible this may be answered through licensing – if not, then there may be a need for an Engineering New Zealand membership class that fills this space, like our current Chartered Member class. One of our key principles is that any regulatory system should be simple and easy to understand, so our preference is that licensing addresses any need for a competency-based assessment.
Licensing restricts who can practice in a particular field and imposes costs on the regulated person. Any potential licensing class will need to meet the criteria in the Act and demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the costs.
What will happen to CPEng engineers?
We understand licensing will require a reassessment, likely in the same timeframe as a CPEng reassessment. So, when the new system is in place, chartered professional engineers may move to the new system when their next reassessment falls due. However, the requirements for licensing will be different and it may be that not all chartered professional engineers will be eligible for licensing.
All engineers, whether or not they are chartered, will need to be registered. The Act will include provisions to deem those engineers as registered if they have already demonstrated they have meet eligibility requirements. We anticipate that CPEng will be included in this group.
If CPEng is disestablished and a discipline is not sufficiently high-risk to require a licence, how will an individual gain a new quality mark that carries meaning?
We are likely to continue to offer a general competency mark, possibly International Professional Engineer (which we currently administer for New Zealand engineers), but are working through the details of this.
I am currently working on my CPEng assessment. Should I continue?
Anyone thinking about being assessed or reassessed for chartership should continue with that process. It will take time for the new regime to fully come into force. We are also anticipating that as part of the transitional arrangements that CPEng will be deemed into the new regime as registered.
Should I become chartered in 2028 or wait until 2030 when the new system is in place?
We will support CPEng holders through the transition to either registration or licensing. We don’t know what the transitional provisions of the new legislation will say yet, so it is too early to give specific advice. We are encouraging engineers to continue to pursue chartership as this currently plays an important role in industry.
Should new graduates strive for CPEng even though it might be repealed before they can get it?
Yes, engineers should proceed to work within the current framework until the regulatory system is updated.
When can engineers who currently hold CPEng start the transition process to get licensed?
We don’t know yet exactly what the transition timeline will look like, but it will be some years away – it will be around 18 months before the primary legislation is passed, and regulations will still need to follow. So, we recommend you continue with assessment or reassessment under the CPEng system until the transition is complete.
Could this system inadvertently lower the standard of practice across the industry? Registration seems to be a lower level than the current CPEng and if licensing is only available to high-risk disciplines, then possibly current CPEng engineers will only accept registration?
Registration means all engineers will be subject to a code of ethical conduct, continued professional development (CPD) obligations, and a complaints and disciplinary process. Through a universal commitment to ethics and CPD, as well as stronger measures for managing substandard performance, we expect registration to lift the performance of the profession. This will go some way to reducing risk posed by engineers who are acting unprofessionally or beyond their competence.
Any comments around sub-disciplines such as traffic/transport where a mix of backgrounds practice with/as engineers (eg planners, data scientists)?
At this point only those practising as engineers will be included in the system. Entry is expected to be through qualification. Occupational regulation is not the only means of ensuring public safety and we would expect risk to be managed in other ways where there are multi-disciplinary teams working together.
Will the new registration and licencing regime be supported by local councils, or will they continue to maintain their own list of approved engineers from whom they will accept producer statements?
Councils were consulted on the proposals, and those who submitted supported the proposals. We hope the new system will give councils confidence engineers are appropriately qualified for specific work, mitigating the need for councils to hold their own lists of approved engineers.
Aren't the council lists specifically to ensure local knowledge? i.e., a Geotech engineer in Christchurch needs to demonstrate they understand the specific geological conditions in Tauranga (for example). How would this remove this requirement and therefore approved lists?
We understand the intent of licensing is to assess an engineer’s competence to practice in a high-risk discipline. Assessments are expected to provide certainty that the licensed engineer can identify and manage local risks.
How will MBIE ensure authorities (ie, councils) do not inappropriately require or apply the need for a licensed engineer’s ‘sign off’ for non-critical or high-risk work?
MBIE will be developing an evaluation and monitoring framework to ensure the new regime is working as intended. How councils respond to the new regime can be evaluated as part of this process.
Would engineers who are not CPEng currently and who work in Auckland City Council in the consenting team need to be licensed?
This will be question for Auckland City Council to answer in due course.
How will the sign-off of PS1, PS2 and PS4s work under the new system?
Producer statements are not embedded in legislation or regulation. Currently New Zealand’s consenting system is under review. If producer statements continue to be used in the future, we will work with Councils and government on who will sign these off. It may be that there are licensing classes tailored to the sign-off of engineering design and construction monitoring work.
How will registered and licensed engineers be prevented from operating outside their competence?
The new system will be able to hold to account any engineer operating outside their scope. Engineers may lose their registration or licence if they do not act professionally or competently.
CPEng has been hard to administer under the current fees framework, in part because of a deficit in funding. How will licensing be better if the fees are the same?
Further work on fees will be needed as the new system is established. Fees outlined in the Cabinet paper are indicative only and used to support an understanding of the possible costs of the system.
What will be the CPD requirements in the new regime and will they be tailored by discipline?
We understand all registered engineers will be subject to continuing professional development. The Engineers Registration Board will be responsible for setting CPD requirements through rules, so will work out the detail as part of this process. The Board will consult with relevant professional bodies and the public when developing these rules.
Will these changes be built into other legislation such as the RMA and Building Act?
There may be some consequential amendments needed in other legislation, such as when legislation refers to a CPEng. This will be worked through when drafting the Bill.
Is the 2030 date the point where MBIE takes over from Engineering New Zealand? If not, when will the new Registration Authority begin providing services?
Decisions haven’t been made yet on who the regulatory service provider will be. Details of the transition timeline are also still to be determined.
MBIE anticipates that 2030 will be when the new regime, including licensing, will be fully functional. Parts (such as registration) will be able to function before 2030.
What will happen to the ‘Electrical Engineer’ licence currently required through Electrical Workers Registration Board for prescribed electrical work? Will the proposed occupational regulation streamline or replace the EWRB licensing process for electrical engineers undertaking prescribed electrical work?
The Act will contain provisions to avoid unnecessary duplication with other regimes.
Why not make membership of Engineering New Zealand compulsory and CPEng tougher to attain, to achieve the same outcome?
As an incorporated society, Engineering New Zealand doesn’t have the delegated authority from government to make membership compulsory. The current CPEng legislation isn’t well-designed to support the desired outcomes of licensing, and the current disciplinary system isn’t modern or fit for purpose. MBIE did consider amending the current legislation, but we support the decision to move to a new system instead.
Is this a return to the Engineering Registration Board system we had 20 years ago? If so, why did we leave that system?
No. The Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act 2002 replaced the Engineers Registration Act 1924. Neither Act required registration for all engineers and neither restricted work in high risk practice fields to those who hold a licence.
Will CPD hours done now count towards the future licenses?
We don’t know all the details of how CPD will be tracked or what the specific requirements will be. In other professions, there is a requirement to complete a certain number of hours every year, so it is unlikely past CPD will be counted towards a future system.
How do you avoid the lengthy process for re-registration for licensing?
The new system will need to be appropriately resourced to meet demand. There will be transitional measures to manage demand, including allowing engineers to continue to offer engineering services while they wait for a decision.
How does the proposed system provide for small practices when large firms can have several licences but the people doing the work might be of same or lesser standard?
Details of licence classes still need to be developed for consultation (this will come after legislation is passed). We will work with small practices on the impact of licenses.
Is there a concern that this will disproportionately hurt smaller organisations which may have been able to operate with a single or small number of CPEng engineers but will struggle to support licensed engineers given that the requirements are intended to be set at a higher level?
Smaller firms will need support to transition to the new system and we will continue to support our members however we can. We are confident that the many highly-skilled engineers working in these firms will be able to operate in the new regulatory environment, with appropriate resource and assistance during the transition.
Does Engineering New Zealand’s position as a regulator make it impossible for them to support their members' interests as central to their function?
We acknowledge there is a perceived conflict of interest between Engineering New Zealand’s membership functions and regulatory functions. To address this in the interim, we have established the CPEng Board to oversee governance of the Registration Authority’s functions.
In the future we support these functions – membership and regulation – being managed separately, with some shared services for efficiency (corporate support and others). Separate accountability for the work of each function is appropriate and necessary.
Our position has always been that the profession must have a central role in managing the new regulatory system going forward. We continue to advocate to government for the profession’s ongoing role in providing regulatory services, whether this is through Engineering New Zealand providing services or a separate entity being established.
How will the new system be better at providing public safety than the current CPEng system?
Under the current system, both membership and chartership are voluntary. Under the new system, registration will be mandatory for all practising engineers, and licences will be mandatory for engineers working in high-risk disciplines that are identified in regulations. Licences will be set at a higher competency standard than the current CPEng, so the two-tier system of registration and licensing should help protect the public better than the current system.
The consequences of an engineer losing their registration or licence to practice will be more serious, and the penalties more severe, than what can be achieved within the current regulatory system. It will become a criminal offence to carry out or supervise restricted engineering services without a licence, or to breach any conditions of the licence. A person convicted of such an offence would be liable to a fine of up to $50,000. It would also be a criminal offence to knowingly engage someone who is not licensed to undertake restricted work. An individual may be fined up to $50,000 or a body corporate may be fined up to $150,000 upon conviction.
It would also be an offence to provide professional engineering services without being registered, or to falsely claim to be registered, fineable up to $10,000 on conviction.
Engineering is a rapidly evolving discipline. Historically, large occupational registration services are slow to move. Does this not mean the roles will not keep up with what is actually required in the real world?
The new system is intended to be flexible, with the framework being set by the Act and the detail to follow in regulations and rules. Licensing, for example, would be established through regulations with the Registration Authority Board setting eligibility criteria through rules. Developing regulations and rules is faster than amending an Act but is still a robust process that allows for public consultation.
In the eastern states of Australia, one of the key aspects of licensing is the insurance requirements, the cost of which can lead to company decisions on how many staff are licensed. Any thoughts on this in a New Zealand context?
MBIE is not proposing to require professional indemnity insurance at this stage.
If this is to protect the public, surely that is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act? If the concern is over bad designs, then Safety in Design requirements can be improved similar to the UKs Construction Design and Management regulations?
The objective of occupational regulation is broader than just public safety. There are also economic and environmental considerations to take into account. Submitters gave us examples of clients having high remediation costs from failed machinery and structures. The Health and Safety at Work Act does not cover these aspects. It also does not set out minimum standards for professionalism, such as a code of ethical conduct and CPD requirement, and sanctions for unprofessional behaviour.
Policy and Legislation
Will Engineering New Zealand have a hand in the drafting of the new regulation before the Select Committee phase?
The Parliamentary Counsel Office will draft the legislation and we will not be directly involved in this process. However, we will maintain our close relationship with MBIE during this time and be available to assist with any questions that come up.
Does this have cross-party support?
We understand the proposals have cross-party support. We have discussed the proposals with members of both major parties.
What is the plan for the Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Act 2002?
We understand the Act will be repealed.
If the Engineers Registration Board is appointed by the Ministry, would it not make the appointment political rather than based on engineering related/focus merit?
The Act will set out criteria for appointments, such as the need for the Board to hold the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience, and to represent the interests of regulated people and the public. Nominations will be publicly sought and confirmed by Cabinet. The Engineers Registration Board will follow the same process for appointments as other statutory boards and Crown entities.
How is Earthquake-prone Building Legislation gets impacted, whereby territorial local authorities only accepts seismic assessments from CPEng? Would there be change to legislation there during the transition period to allow DSAs from Registered/Licensed engineers?
We are anticipating some consequential amendments to other legislation. These amendments will be identified when developing the Bill.
What historical complaints can be assessed under the proposed Act or the historical Act?
Our understanding is that provision will be made for complaints against a Chartered Professional Engineer to be assessed under the current Act, even after the CPEng legislation is phased out.
Was there consultation outside of those who were already Engineering New Zealand members?
MBIE ran a six-week public consultation process from 12 May to 25 June 2021. MBIE received 250 submissions, including a number from engineers who are not Engineering New Zealand members or registered as CPEng.
Is it possible the results from consultation are not representative as this consultation was not widely known about outside of the current professional engineering body? In fact, the proposal may be so broad that people are now considered a professional engineer when they did not consider they may be covered by this proposal?
MBIE made best endeavours to reach as many people as possible. MBIE released a media statement, ran a social media campaign, and Engineering New Zealand reached out to their members. The discussion document was downloaded over 3000 times, reflecting a good level of interest in its contents. There will be another opportunity to share views on the new regime through the select committee process when the Bill is introduced.
MBIE asked submitters to indicate their discipline. Similar numbers of submissions were received from mechanical, electrical, structural and civil engineering, with a smaller group dominated by geotechnical, fire, aeronautical and chemical engineers.
Find out more about MBIE’s consultation.
Will the registration costs need to be paid every year?
It is likely there will be an initial registration fee, then an annual fee. This annual fee is expected to be less than the initial registration fee.
If the public are the beneficiaries of increased assessment and regulation, why are the engineers paying the increased financial cost for this?
We expect many practising engineers will recoup the costs from clients. Engineers will also benefit from the increased professionalism and improved public confidence in engineers and their work.
Has an assessment been done on the cost to the industry of this added regulation? Has any cost benefit analysis been done?
MBIE undertook a cost benefit analysis of the proposals. These can be found with the Cabinet papers. More detailed analysis will be done as the design of the new system progresses. However, the initial analysis indicates that the benefits will outweigh the cost at a ratio of 1.21.
Have you identified the current level of unacceptable engineering activities by CPEng holders – eg., 1 work hour per 1 million or $1 per $10,000 spent? I imagine it will be miniscule.
There is a high level of uncertainty and lack of data about the frequency and cost of ‘unacceptable engineering activities’. Unless there is a catastrophic failure, many defects are not made public and are resolved privately.
Who is expected to bear the cost of the continuous development process?
Engineers are responsible for their own CPD. As under the current system, we expect many employers will provide opportunities to keep their staff up to date with CPD, but it is up to each engineer to ensure they’ve met the requirements under the new system.
Engineers also benefit from CPD as their skills are kept current and they can remain competitive with other engineers.
What is the impact on the definition of competency in the 2016 Major Hazard Facilities Regulations? Will this new scheme require Process Safety qualifications similar to TUV for MHF facility work?
This is a level of detail that will need to be worked through as appropriate. MBIE will be working with Worksafe (and others) when identifying what practice fields should be prioritised for licensing.