Monday, May 13, 2019


Why is MBIE so supportive of the oil industry, why do they come up with outrageous estimates of the value of the oil industry to New Zealand, and why do they see environmentalists as a threat to be suppressed by the likes of Thompson and Clark? Because they're staffed by former oil industry employees:

More than half the employees working in the government division tasked with regulating the petroleum industry have registered conflicts of interest.

Information released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act raises concerns about a “revolving door” between the oil and gas sector and the part of the Government tasked to regulate it.


Of the nine staff in the petroleum division at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), five registered real or perceived conflicts of interest. The information does not record which companies or relationships caused those conflicts of interest, but conceded that it did employ people who had worked in the sector.

As the article points out, industry experience is sometimes useful for MBIE in assessing compliance. But it comes with a mindset, and insofar as staff have "moved between industry and regulator depending on market forces", creates a real conflict of interest, in that staff may be unwilling to regulate either a past employer with whom they have good relations, or a future one from whom they hope to one day gain a job (see also: US banking and finance regulation). And both are toxic to our public service and our democracy.

As for what to do about it, end the revolving door: stop hiring from the oil industry, and ban public servants from working in the industry they have been regulating for a year or two post-employment. These are common policies used to prevent this sort of corruption and capture, and I am surprised we do not defend ourselves with them.