EPA disappointed by New Zealand Initiative report

The Environmental Protection Authority’s Chief Executive, Dr Allan Freeth, has drawn attention to “criticism” of his agency in a report that seems to have been scarcely noticed by news media when it was published on April 13.

Dr Freeth issued a press statement (HERE) four weeks later to express his disappointment

” …  at the criticism of the organisation’s performance in a report published by the New Zealand Initiative, an independent public policy think-tank.”

His authority welcomed feedback on its performance and accepted criticism when it was justified, he said.

“But when the EPA is described as a poor performer, without any sound evidence to back up the assertion, that is a different matter.

“The New Zealand Initiative stated that the EPA, along with two other agencies, were very poor performers on the basis of just one survey response in each case.

“Such criticism is completely unfounded. I am disappointed that the statements were made based on one opinion.”

One useful consequence of Dr Freeth’s statement and letter of complaint was to nudge our editor to find out what’s been going on.

Dr Freeth’s concern is with mentions of his authority in a report entitled “Who Guards the Guards? Regulatory Governance in New Zealand.”

This report says many of New Zealand’s most important regulatory agencies are performing poorly:  the Commerce Commission and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand showed poor results in the Initiative’s study but the Financial Markets Authority ranked high for its regulatory behaviour.

The study was conducted by the Initiative’s chair, Roger Partridge, and research assistant, Amy Thomasson.

It derives its findings

” … from an in-depth survey of New Zealand’s top 200 companies”.

Companies had been asked to both rate and rank the regulators they interact with, allowing a nuanced insight into the regulatory cultures across different agencies. In total, the survey tracked 23 key performance indicators for 24 regulatory agencies.

“Our study does not leave any doubt that regulators need internal checks and balances to perform well,” Mr Partridge said when the report was published.

“A clear separation between the executive and the board, which is the gold standard for corporate governance, should also become the norm for regulators.”

You can download the survey results HERE. 

The institute’s press release to announce the study’s publication can be found HERE. 

At the time of its publication, the study was the subject of an article written by Richard Baker, research director of the New Zealand Initiative, which was posted on line by interest.co.nz (HERE). 

A two-page summary of the report is available HERE.

Your editor found no mention of the Environmental Protection Authority in the press release, the two-page summary or Mr Baker’s on-line article.

Mr Partridge advised AgScience the EPA was not a focus of the research.

He said he had explained to Dr Freeth:

  • He is right to point out that our survey obtained only very small sample sizes for some regulators. This is something made explicit in the report, by referring to this fact, and by listing in appendix 1 the number of ratings for each organisation. In the EPA’s case, this was only one rating.
  • For this reason the case studies focussed on just three of the regulators for whom a significant number of ratings had been obtained – the FMA, the Commerce Commission and the RBNZ, “for all of whom we are satisfied we had statistically significant datasets.”
  • We felt nevertheless that we had to do justice to the many businesses who committed time to complete our survey. For this reason the report contained details of the ratings for all the regulatory agencies for whom data were gained.
  • The small sample size issue is clearly identified both in the text of the report and the appendices.

But Dr Freeth says the New Zealand Initiative’s response failed to recognise it was inappropriate to criticise any organisation as having poor performance in this way.

The Environmental Protection Authority undertakes an annual survey of public trust and confidence in its work, conducted by Research New Zealand with sample sizes all above 300 respondents, he said.

And the authority consistently receives feedback which shows well over half of its customers and the New Zealand public have trust and confidence in its work.



Minister makes two appointments to Science Board

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced the appointment of two members to the Science Board – Dr Liz Wedderburn as a new member to the Board and Professor Parry Guilford, who will return for his second term.

Dr Wedderburn, an Assistant Research Director at AgResearch, has a PhD in ecology and more than 30 years research and management experience in sustainable agriculture in pastoral-based livestock systems.

Professor Guilford is a research Professor and Principal Investigator in the Cancer Genetics Laboratory in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago. He is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Pacific Edge Biotechnology Ltd as well as Deputy Director of the National Science Challenge ‘Healthier Lives’.

The Science Board is responsible for investing Government funds in research, science and technology.

Board members must have considerable experience in research methodologies, processes and risks, and a great understanding of New Zealand’s research and technology sectors, Dr Woods said.

She was confident the appointees’ strong research experience and achievements in the New Zealand Science Sector made them well suited for the role.

Dr Wedderburn and Professor Guilford will serve terms of three years.

Source: Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology

The role of the Treaty in science and consultation with Maori: columnist sparks heated debate

The latest shots in a debate triggered by science writer Bob Brockie have been fired today by Dame Anne Salmond, Distinguished Professor of Māori Studies and Social Anthropology at the University of Auckland and Vice-President (Humanities and Social Sciences), Royal Society Te Apārangi,

One of Dr Brockie’s targets was the work of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the establishment of Te Whāinga Aronui o Te Apārangi.

This body is chaired by Dame Anne as Vice-President (Social Sciences and Humanities), who serves on the Royal Society Te Apārangi Council.

The forum provides advice to the society on matters of concern to the humanities and social sciences community and responds, on request, with advice on humanities and social sciences issues.

The Presidents (or their nominees) of the several constituent organisations contribute to the forum. These organisations are listed HERE.

They include the Australian and New Zealand Communications Association; Institute of Registered Music Teachers of New Zealand; Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia; Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa/New Zealand; and Sociological Association of Aotearoa NZ. 

Dr Brockie contends some from “the art world” believe there are no such things as facts; rather, there are

… just different opinions about facts, ambiguity is OK, everybody’s opinions are of equal value, whether of a quantum physicist or a Stone Age nobody, and that other people’s beliefs and opinions must never be questioned (thereby committing the sin of “decontextualisation” aka political incorrectness).

Some humanities grandees badmouth the intellectual gains of the Enlightenment and would knock science off its perch.

Te Whāinga has called for the Royal Society “to place the Treaty of Waitangi centrally, and bring alongside that inequity and diversity issues in a holistic manner“. Dr Brockie argues the Treaty has no place in scientific endeavour.

His second target is the Otago University requirement that Ngāi Tahu must be consulted about “all areas of research” before scholars undertake their work. All proposals must be submitted to the Office of Māori Development.

Continue reading

Former Labour Minister appointed chair of Callaghan Innovation

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods  has announced the appointment of Pete Hodgson as the new Chair of the Callaghan Innovation Board.

Callahan Innovation is the Government’s business innovation agency and offers several  services aimed at accelerating the commercialisation of research.

Mr Hodgson is a former Minister of Research, Science and Technology and Chief Executive of Otago Innovation.

The Minister said she was delighted he has agreed to use his experience in science and technology-based innovation to lead the Board and provide strategic direction to Callaghan Innovation.

She thanked outgoing Chair Sue Suckling for her work over the past five years in leading the establishment and growth of the agency.

Mr Hodgson will begin his new role on April 1 for a period of three years.

It’s not the first job he has landed since the change of government.

Last month Health Minister David Clark sacked the Dunedin Hospital rebuild chairman, Hawke’s Bay consultant Andrew Blair, and appointed Mr Hodgson to lead the project.

Dr Clark told the Otago Daily Times the rebuild needed to be led by a local person.

Mr Hodgson was Dr Clark’s predecessor as MP in Dunedin North, serving from 1990 to 2011.


Two new appointments to Callaghan Innovation Board

Two new appointments to the Board of Callaghan Innovation have been announced.

Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith said the appointments of Stefan Korn and George Gong bring a strong combination of strategic thinking skills and perspective from an investor community.

Stefan Korn is an entrepreneur, business strategist and investor with more than 10 years of experience in managing high-growth ventures, early-stage investment and software development. He was a member of the Callaghan Innovation Stakeholder Advisory Group, is a founding investor in Lightning Lab, and has a PhD in Neural Networks/Artificial Intelligence and an MBA in International Business.

George Gong is an entrepreneur and Angel Investor with international business experiences in the Information Technology industry for more than 20 years. In 2016 he started Zino Ventures, the first Chinese angel fund in New Zealand.

Both appointments are for a term of one year.

Callaghan Innovation welcomes two new board members

Callaghan Innovation chair Sue Suckling has welcomed incoming members George Gong and Stefan Korn to the board, to succeed outgoing board members Alison Barrass and Richard Janes.

George Gong is an entrepreneur and angel investor with more than 20 years’ business experience in the information technology industry. In 2016, he started Zino Ventures, the first Chinese angel fund in New Zealand. Mr Gong has strong connections to China, where he began his career and  co-founded Beyondsoft.

Stefan Korn has been a member of the Callaghan Innovation Stakeholder Advisory Group and  runs CreativeHQ, a leading business incubator that works with more than 190 start-up ventures and was a founding investor in Lightning Lab.

Callaghan Innovation is the Government’s business innovation agency, connecting businesses to the networks, capability and funding they need to translate their ideas into products. It boosts business R&D through more than $140 million a year in grants.

Nominations for Marsden Fund Council chair and members are invited

The Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment is inviting nominations for the roles of chair of the Marsden Fund Council and for up to six council members.

The Marsden Fund invests in investigator-led research aimed at generating new knowledge, with long-term benefit to New Zealand. It supports projects that advance and expand the knowledge base and contributes to the development of people with advanced skills in New Zealand.

The fund is overseen by the council of researchers who are appointed by the Minister of Science and Innovation.

The council, responsible for the strategic direction of the fund, is supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand which provides executive support and secretariat services.

The new chairman will lead the council, encourage continual improvement and ensure best practice in the design of fund settings.

The term is for up to three years. The chair needs to be available from December 2017.

The chair’s fees are set at $20,000 a year.

The successful candidates for council positions are expected to ensure there is an appropriate range of research and governance skills and experience of international funding bodies on the council.

The term for members is for up to three years. Members need to be available from March 1 2018.

Fees are set at $10,000 a year.

Individuals may nominate themselves for the jobs of chair or council members.

Expressions of interest and nominations should be submitted by 5pm September 22.

Candidates for the role of chair will also be considered for appointment to the council as members.

More information HERE and HERE.