Watching Brief – COVID-19 Special Edition

Home Insights Watching Brief – COVID-19 Special Edition

Matter of opinion

The Show Must Go On… But When?

In what seems like the distant past, on 28 January 2020, the Prime Minister announced an election date of 19 September 2020 with the intention that Parliament rises on 6 August 2020 and dissolves on 12 August 2020. Given these rapidly changing times, the election date is now less than a certain thing. 

Hopefully, on account of early action taken in New Zealand, it will be safe to go out to vote by September. However, if the current lockdown is extended, there is an increased likelihood that the date will be moved, in part due to the certainty in advance required for planning. Professor Andrew Geddes estimates that, to allow the Electoral Commission sufficient preparedness, a decision on the election date will need to be made by July 2020.1  

Other jurisdictions have already delayed elections. The United Kingdom and France have delayed municipal elections, Chile has pushed a national referendum to October, and Bolivia put its presidential election on hold. In the US, where the outbreak is much worse than other countries, managing the presidential election will be a daunting and complex problem. By contrast, we have a range of relatively straightforward options, assisted by some prescient recent amendments to the Electoral Act 1993. Here is what you need to know.

If the Government stays with the September date

Amendments to the Electoral Act provide the Electoral Commission with powers to address "an unforeseen or unavoidable disruption" that coincides with the election. An epidemic notice is one of the legislative triggers so these powers could be used if, for example, there was a second wave of community spread and further COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. In particular, the Chief Electoral Officer can:

  • Stop polling at polling stations and adjourn voting for a period of three days at first, and then for successive periods of a week. While this power can be used indefinitely, it is not ideal for an extended period given there is no sitting Parliament to hold the Government to account. Nevertheless, it is an effective mechanism for managing a coinciding lockdown and/or buying time to put alternative voting mechanisms in place (see below).  
  • Make alternative arrangements for voting, for example, extend postal voting currently allowed for overseas voters, to voters in New Zealand. In these circumstances, the ballots would be posted to New Zealanders and can be returned by post or email to the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Act provides a wide discretion as to the alternative voting arrangements to be used. However, we note that electronic voting is currently viewed by our security agencies and IT experts as unsafe for elections.

If the Government wishes to extend the September date

The Government has flexibility within the current legislative framework to defer the September date for up to three months. Under the Constitution Act 1986, Parliament can only remain in session for a period of three years, which means that the last day that Parliament can dissolve is 12 October 2020. Applying the timetable provisions of the Electoral Act, votes would have to be returned by 19 December, suggesting a latest election date of 5 December. The Prime Minister is free to change the current date on this basis at any point up until Parliament dissolves as planned in August 2020. Consultation with the leader of the opposition would be expected.

If the Government considered it necessary to defer the election beyond 5 December 2020, section 17 of the Constitution Act 1986, which prescribes the three-year term, would require amendment. This is an entrenched provision, meaning that 75% of the House would need to vote in favour of the change, so support from the opposition would be required. Technically, the Government could achieve the same result with a simple majority by amending the timetabling requirements in the Electoral Act. However, this is most unlikely to happen, given its effect would be to circumvent a critical constitutional safeguard. We note that extending the electoral term is not unprecedented in New Zealand as it occurred during both World Wars. It is also possible that in order to agree to an extension, the opposition would push for a "Government of National Unity" until such time as an election could be held.  

If we proceed with the September election, what does this mean for the current legislative programme?

Given Parliament is currently adjourned until 28 April 2020, and assuming the September election date is kept, we consider below the likely impact on the current legislative programme. Parliament currently has a packed agenda. There are:

  • 16 Bills awaiting first reading;
  • 30 Bills at select committee;
  • 18 Bills awaiting second reading; and
  • 6 Bills awaiting third reading.

For the current adjournment, Parliament will lose five sitting days, leaving 33 sitting days until it adjourns in August. This should be sufficient time to pass the Bills that are awaiting second or third reading but less so for Bills early in the first reading stage, or with late select committee reporting dates. 

The three weeks immediately following the current Alert Level 4 are all scheduled as sitting weeks. This means that any further extension of Alert Level 4, and adjournment of Parliament, will have a more significant impact on the passage of legislation. In saying that, steps are being taken to mitigate the effects of a lockdown, for example, the House has given the Speaker authority to approve special arrangements for committees to meet remotely. The Environment Committee has already held a full committee meeting using these special arrangements, and other committees are likely to do so in weeks ahead. The Government can also use urgency to pass a Bill in one sitting or extending sitting hours.

Bills at risk, which the Government was prioritising to pass before the election, include the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (No 2) (awaiting a first reading date) and the Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill. In relation to the latter, the Select Committee report back date has been shifted to 18 September so it would not pass under the current electoral timetable. This is particularly significant given the Bill was intended to enfranchise people who are serving a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than three years and was in response to New Zealand's first-ever declaration that legislation was inconsistent with the minimal guaranteed rights set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. It is also a Bill that might not be taken up if there is a change of Government. If the Overseas Investment Bill is not passed, there is a question as to whether the opposition would continue with the new national interest test.

Full details of Bills in the current legislative programme are set out below here.

In the news

Overview

We have been closely monitoring legislative and policy developments during the Government's response to the COVID-19 public health crisis – both in relation to the controls that the Government has implemented, and the assistance that the Government has provided. Given that significant updates are made on a daily basis, we expect this story to continue.

Although the situation is clearly unprecedented, the legal framework governing the Government's action was established well before COVID-19. In 2005, New Zealand ratified the International Health Regulations, which requires WHO members to be able to detect, plan for, and respond to disease outbreaks. Specifically, countries must:

  • designate a focal point for coordination and communication with WHO;
  • develop and maintain capacities for surveillance, investigation and response;
  • take measures to avoid exporting disease (ie, when cases have been identified in New Zealand – measures may be needed at the border).

To ensure domestic legislation was compliant with its international obligations, Parliament passed the Epidemic Preparedness Act in 2006. However, more specifically, many of the steps we identify below can be traced to New Zealand's Influenza Pandemic Plan – a 193 page document that was published in 2017.

A centralised source of official government information is available at www.covid19.govt.nz.

Infectious Disease

There are many legal powers available to the Government to exercise during a public health crisis, if certain statutory preconditions are met.

The Government published two Orders to expand the scope of "quarantinable infectious disease" and "infectious disease" in the Health Act to include "novel coronavirus capable of causing severe respiratory illness" and "COVID-19" on 30 January 2020 and 11 March 2020 respectively.2 The publication of these Orders enabled the use of specific powers in the Health Act, and other legislation.

Following this designation, the Government has been able to exercise special powers under the Health Act, including the power to:

  • quarantine craft and persons, where there was a suspected case;3 
  • forbid people to congregate in outdoor places of amusement or recreation of any stated kind or description (whether public or private);4 and
  • undertake "contact tracing" to obtain specified information from confirmed cases to ensure that those who have been in contact with that person do not spread the disease further.5

For the purposes of preventing the outbreak or spread of any infectious disease, medical officers of health may (if authorised by the Minister), require persons, places, buildings, ships, vehicles, aircraft, animals, or things to be isolated, quarantined, or disinfected as they think fit.6

Border Closure

As set out in the Immigration Act, every New Zealand citizen has, by virtue of his or her citizenship, the right to enter and be in New Zealand at any time.7 The decision to close the borders, which came into effect at 11.59pm on 19 March 2020, therefore did not apply to New Zealanders. The Prime Minister also exempted New Zealanders' partners, legal guardians or any dependent children travelling with them.

Everybody else arriving in New Zealand requires a valid visa (or a visa waiver). The Minister of Immigration has the power to cancel temporary entry class visas at any time when the holder is outside New Zealand.8 To ensure that this restriction applied to those transiting through New Zealand (who would ordinarily be exempt by reason of a waiver), the Minister of Immigration, Hon Iain Lees-Galloway suspended the waiver otherwise provided in the Immigration (Visa, Entry Permission, and Related Matters) Regulations 2010. The effect of this was that, only Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate family members, were able to transit through New Zealand, provided Australia was their final destination.

Alert Level 2 (Reduce)

On 21 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced the four stage COVID-19 alert system, with escalating restrictions on human contact, travel and business operations. At the same time, the Prime Minister announced that New Zealand was at Alert Level 2. 

Alert Level 2 did not impose any legal restrictions, but encouraged New Zealanders to reduce their contact to the extent possible, without shutting down their workplaces and productivity.  

Alert Level 3 (Restrict) and Alert Level 4 (Eliminate)

On 23 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced that New Zealand was at Alert Level 3, and would move to Alert Level 4 in 48 hours. Alert Level 3 was only to assist with the transition, as the Government made it clear that Alert Level 4 should quickly become status quo. These restrictions were for the purpose of (to the extent possible) preventing community transmission from taking off in New Zealand, for fear that it would inundate the health system.

48 hours of Alert Level 3 was to ensure that businesses had time to prepare, essential workers had time to arrange childcare (given the closure of schools) and New Zealanders located overseas had time to travel domestically to get home.

Alert Level 4 was expected to be in place for four weeks at (and from) the date of the announcement.

Closure of Premises

Special powers in the Health Act allow medical officers of health, on the authorisation of the Minister (or other authorisation referenced below) to broadcast (via newspaper, television, radio station, or other form of communication) an order that requires all premises to be closed – until further order or for a fixed period.9 Such an order cannot apply to private dwellings, parliamentary precincts, courtrooms, or prisons.

A power to close part or all of an educational institution at any time because of epidemic is also in the Education Act.10

Essential Services

The order may also provide for specific exemption for people engaged in necessary work in the premises to which the order relates. Essential services (ie, premises that are not required to close) are listed on the Government's COVID-19 website. It has been constantly updated since the first guidance was issued following the announcement of the passage to Alert Level 3.

The Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is leading the Government's engagement with businesses on what is and is not an essential service. It has refined the guidance based on queries that have arisen through their helpline 0800 22 66 57, or at [email protected]. There is no formal accreditation or certification for essential businesses or their employees, but the Ministry of Primary Industries is running a registration process for businesses that it regulates - specifically those involved in primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing.

Businesses that provide essential services cannot operate "business as usual". Those businesses are only permitted to operate to the extent that those operations are essential (and are expected to carve out and close down those operations that are not). Those businesses are also expected to operate the essential services in a way that minimises the risk of transmission, for example by:

  • working from home as far as possible;
  • limiting physical interaction between staff and customers; and
  • frequently cleaning premises.

Similarly, those businesses that are not considered essential are permitted to continue operating remotely. There is an express exemption for critical support services to ensure that business and workers can continue working from home, which include functions such as IT and payroll.

Police constables are permitted to do anything reasonably necessary (including the use of force) to ensure compliance with the directions to close premises.11 A failure to comply with the order is an offence under the Health Act, which attracts liability on conviction to imprisonment not exceeding six months, a fine not exceeding $4,000, or both.12 All individuals are potentially liable. 

Epidemic Notices

On 24 March 2020, the Government published the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 (Notice), pursuant to the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006. The Notice can only be published if, with the agreement of the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister is satisfied that the effects of an outbreak of a quarantinable disease are likely to significantly disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand.13 The Notice also requires written recommendation from the Director-General of Health.

Along with providing additional authority for the exercise of special powers under the Health Act, the issuance of the Notice:

  • allows certain Judges and Associate Judges to, in particular cases, modify rules of court as they think necessary in the interests of justice to take account of the effects of COVID-19;14
  • is a prerequisite for the making of epidemic management notices that may:15
    • activate dormant provisions in various Acts that are intended to deal with the outbreak of disease (eg, the Immigration Act); and
    • prospective modification orders which may modify requirements or restrictions in legislation that are either required to enable effective management of, or are unworkable in light of the outbreak.16
That same day, the Prime Minister issued an Epidemic Preparedness (Epidemic Management – COVID-19) Notice 2020 (Management Notice). The effect of the Management Notice was to activate certain provisions, including (among other things):
 
  • allowing the granting of emergency benefits to people who would not otherwise be entitled to them (under s 64 of the Social Security Act 2018); and
  • allowing the extension of existing temporary entry class visas in certain circumstances (under s 78 of the Immigration Act 2009).

The purpose of epidemic management notices and immediate modification orders is primarily to facilitate modifications to legislation when it becomes unworkable during an outbreak or pandemic. An immediate modification order was published on 26 March 2020 to modify a requirement in the Social Security Act 2018 to allow temporary support to be granted to an applicant, without that applicant having to complete the application form in writing. We expect that more of these modifications will be made in due course, as and when the need arises.

 
Declaration of Emergency

A Declaration of State of National Emergency was made by the Minister, Hon Peeni Henare, on 26 March 2020.  The state of national emergency came into force immediately, and expires seven days after coming into force, unless extended or terminated at an earlier time. The initial declaration was extended on 31 March 2020. It can be extended as many times as necessary. Each week, the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management provides the Minister with advice on whether it should be extended again.

In a press statement, the Prime Minister noted that this was only the second state of emergency declared in New Zealand, and was required to ensure that the Government had "all the tools at our disposal to ensure everyone reduces down contact with one another across the board".

While in force, the state of emergency provides powers to:

  • require information;17
  • assist people to survive the emergency (such as clearing roads, setting up first aid, providing relief and disseminating information/advice);18
  • control an emergency (such as evacuating or entering premises, closing roads, requisitioning and examining property);19 and
  • the Director to coordinate personnel, enter into arrangements, carry out research and investigations, issue warnings of hazards, disseminate information, carry out training, and advise/assist in planning and coordination.20

That completes the toolkit to ensure that the Government has what legal powers it may need to respond adequately to COVID-19. The Prime Minister has stated that:

We do not expect to use the full extent of these measures but, as with everything we have done in response to Covid-19, we plan, we prepare, we have in place everything we need to get through.

For now, I ask that New Zealanders do their part.  Stay home, break the chain, save lives.

Commercial Cooperation

The Government recognised that COVID-19 required certain businesses to work together to ensure that essential services remained in adequate supply. This was the reason the Minister of Commerce, Hon Kris Faafoi, issued a direction to the Commerce Commission, requesting it to be more flexible than it might be in normal times around allowing business to work together and share resources.

The Commerce Commission welcomed the Government's policy statement, and sought to offer reassurance to businesses providing essential goods and services that it would follow this approach. However, it warned that it would not tolerate "unscrupulous businesses using COVID-19 as an excuse for non-essential collusion or anti-competitive behaviour".

The agreement in approach between the Government and the Commerce Commission did not result in a law change, but simply altered the approach to enforcement.

Further detail can be found at our previous alert here.

Economic Package

We provided information on the Government's COVID-19 economic stimulus package on 17 March 2020, which can be accessed here. The Government has made further announcements which, along with their resulting changes, are summarised below.

Removal of the $150,000 support cap under the wage subsidy scheme

The government had previously capped the total amount of support that businesses were eligible to receive under the wage subsidy scheme to $150,000. This support cap has now been removed, signalling a clear intention that large employers are able to access the wage subsidy, provided of course that those businesses satisfy the other eligibility criteria specified in their declaration.

GST treatment of wage subsidy and leave payments clarified

The Governor-General has passed the Goods and Services Tax (Grants and Subsidies) Amendment Order 2020, which clarifies the GST treatment of payments made by the Ministry of Social Development to businesses under the wage subsidy scheme, and the discontinued leave payment scheme. Specifically, the Order declares these types of payments to be non-taxable grants and subsidies for the purposes of the Goods and Services Tax Act 1985, meaning that businesses are not required to return GST on the payments they have received.

Wage subsidy scheme declaration changes

The government has introduced changes to the wage subsidy declaration that businesses are required to submit together with their application for relief. The updated declaration builds on the requirement to make best endeavours to pay staff a minimum of 80% of their normal income, and now obliges businesses to:

  • retain the employees named in their application as employees for the period they receive the subsidy in respect of those employees;
  • use the full amount of the subsidy to pay each of the employees named in their application in fulfilment of, or towards the fulfilment of, the wages or salary obligations contained in each of their employment agreements for the period they receive the subsidy;
  • not unlawfully compel or require any of the employees named in their application to use their leave entitlements for the period they receive the subsidy in respect of those employees.

In addition, the updated declaration clarifies that, where the wages or salary of an employee named in an application is lawfully below the amount of the subsidy, a business shall pay the employee the full amount of the subsidy instead of the wages or salary that would otherwise be payable.

The full announcement on the changes to the wage subsidy scheme can be accessed here.

Removal of the leave and self-isolation payment scheme

Businesses are no longer able to access a separate leave and self-isolation payment scheme to provide relief to employees that were required to self-isolate, and were doing so in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines. However, applications already submitted before the scheme's removal will continue to be processed and paid.

The scheme was removed due to concerns businesses were "double dipping" to receive support under the wage subsidy scheme in respect of the same employees, and because the scheme is no longer fit for purpose given that such a large portion of the workforce is currently in self-isolation.  

In lieu of this scheme, the Minister of Finance has indicated that the government is developing new, targeted arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19. 

Tenancy protections

Through the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act, Parliamenthas implemented measures to support self-isolation efforts by ensuring that tenants can remain in their rental properties. These measures comprise a freeze of rent increases, as well as an extension of no-cause terminations. Under this new legislation, landlords will be unable to terminate existing tenancies during the period of the lock-down, except where the tenant:

  • substantially damages the premises; or
  • assaults or threatens to assault the landlord, their family, or the neighbours; or
  • abandons the property; or
  • engages in "significant antisocial behaviour"; or
  • is 60 days behind in rent, which is increased from 21 days (and the Tribunal will need to take into account fairness and whether the tenant is making reasonable efforts to pay the rent)

In support of these new termination protections, the new legislation also deems every fixed-term tenancy that would otherwise expire during the lockdown period to convert to, and continue as, a periodic tenancy, unless the parties agree otherwise or the tenant gives notice.

The rent freeze and protections against terminations will apply for an initial period of six and three months, respectively. At the end of these initial periods, the Government is set to evaluate the need for further extension. 

Mortgage deferral and business finance support schemes

The Government and New Zealand's retail banks have agreed on the detail of a mortgage deferral scheme to support mortgage holders and small business customers whose incomes have been affected as a result of COVID-19. Under this scheme, eligible customers will receive a six-month deferral on making principal and interest payments on their mortgage. Banks will assess the eligibility of each customer requesting a deferral.

To complement the range of tax measures designed to stimulate business cash flow, the government has also announced a business finance guarantee scheme. The scheme is designed to relieve financial pressure on solvent small and medium-sized firms with annual revenues between $250,000 and $80 million by assisting banks to extend short-term credit for a period of up to three years. To help support credit availability under the scheme, the Crown has reduced banks' core funding ratios from 75 percent to 50 percent.

Eligible businesses stand to receive loans of up to $500,000 from their bank, of which 80 percent of the associated credit risk is carried by the Crown, and the remaining 20 percent by the bank. Further specifics of the scheme, including detail as to when the support will be made available to businesses, are expected to be made public in the coming days.

The full announcement by the Minister of Finance on the mortgage deferral and business finance support schemes can be accessed here.

Aviation sector relief

   a. Aviation sector support package​​

Of the Government's $600 million aviation support package, $330 million is set aside to ensure airfreight capacity is available on key routes for at least the next six months, and to be able to respond quickly to capability risks and opportunities as they arise in the sector. 

The Government is inviting airlines and other airfreight businesses to submit proposals for first round funding allocation under this support package. In addition to the delivery and pricing of freight capacity on key routes, proposals must include detail on how critical imports and high-value exports will be prioritised. For those wishing to submit a proposal, deadline for submission is midday 3 April 2020 and the relevant documentation can be accessed on the Ministry of Transport's website here.

The remaining $270 million of the support package aims to secure the operators of New Zealand’s aviation security system by providing:

  • financial support to airlines to pay passenger-based government charges for the next six months and to cover Airways' related fees for the next six months;
  • a 12-month freeze on any fee rises or pricing reviews from agencies that charge fees at the border, including the Ministry for Primary Industries, Civil Aviation Authority, Aviation Security Service, New Zealand Customs Service, and Airways; and
  • financial support for Airways in the face of declining revenue.

   b. Air New Zealand support package

The Government and Air New Zealand have agreed a debt funding agreement, under which the Government has agreed to extend commercial 24-month loan facilities of up to $900 million while allowing for the conversion of the loan to equity at the request of the Crown. 

The full announcement detailing the funding agreement can be accessed here.

   c. Civil Aviation Authority regulatory relief package

The Civil Aviation Authority has provided for the relaxation of certain compliance obligations for the aviation sector. Under this regulatory relief package:

  • for those persons with organisational certificates nearing expiry, the Authority will initiate processes to renew those certificates for a period of six months, provided that there are no significant safety concerns in doing so;
  • persons with a scheduled Safety Management System implementation date, and have not been certificated, will be issued an exemption from the need to have a Safety Management System until an implementation date determined by Authority;
  • medical certificates nearing expiry will be extended automatically by a period of 90 days; and
  • persons with upcoming currency requirements, flight reviews, proficiency checks, or training and checking requirements will be issued a three-month extension for the period within which these checks and reviews must be completed.

The Authority has confirmed that other potential areas of regulatory relief are also being considered with respect to aircraft inspection and maintenance requirements. The Authority's full press release detailing the recent regulatory changes can be accessed here.

Support for Maori communities and businesses 

The Government has also developed a COVID-19 support package worth $56 million for Māori communities and businesses. The package is comprised of various health, social and economic measures tailored to meet the specific needs of Māori, including:

  • a Whānau Māori Community and Mārae package reprioritising $10 million from the Māori Development vote to support community outreach, including to support Māori health providers to provide clinical expertise to whānau Māori and communities;
  • Māori Health and Whānau Ora response with $30 million targeted directly to Māori Health services and an extra $15 million to Whānau Ora commissioning agencies; and
  • $1 million worth of funding to enable a needs assessment for Māori businesses, and $470,000 to Te Arawhiti to engage and work with iwi on their COVID-19 pandemic response plans.

The Associate Health and Whānau Ora Minister, Peeni Henare's full press release detailing the support package for Māori communities and businesses can be accessed here.

International Trade

The Government has also implemented several measures to facilitate international trade, particularly with respect to essential goods and medical supplies needed for the country's COVID-19 response, as summarised below.

Tariff concessions for essential goods

The Government has temporarily removed tariffs on particular medical and hygiene imports, including soap, diagnostic reagents and testing kits suitable for use in the COVID-19 response. In addition, the Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Hon David Parker, has indicated that government officials are identifying other medical and hygiene products that may qualify for further tariff concessions. 

The Minister's announcement on the new tariff concessions can be accessed here, and the tariff concession can be accessed here.

International commitment to keeping trade links open

Canada, Australia, Chile, Brunei and Myanmar have joined a collective response by New Zealand and Singapore to ensure that trade continues to flow unimpeded, and that critical infrastructure such as our air and seaports remain open to support the viability and integrity of supply chains globally. By joining the response, parties have affirmed the importance of refraining from the imposition of export controls or tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and have committed to remove any existing trade restrictive measures on essential goods and medical supplies.

The Minister's full announcement on the joint international response can be accessed here.

 

In Consultation

Select Committee and Government Agency Consultation

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parliament has adjourned until 28 April and extended select committee deadlines. Information on how you can still have your say on issues before select committees can be found here. Various government agencies have also extended consultation deadlines. The below table details consultation deadlines that have been extended due to COVID-19.

Select Committee Consultation

Who

What

By when 

Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee

Fair Trading Amendment Bill

26 April 2020

Education and Workforce Committee

Screen Industry Workers Bill

4 May 2020

Finance and Expenditure Committee

Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill

30 April 2020

Financial Market Infrastructures Bill

30 April 2020

Health Committee

Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill

1 April 2020

New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill

2 April 2020

Justice Committee

Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill

24 April 2020

Māori Affairs Committee

Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Bill

17 April 2020

Ahuriri Hapū Claims Settlement Bill

1 May 2020

Primary Production Committee

Organic Products Bill

29 April 2020

Regulations Review Committee

Inquiry into parliamentary scrutiny of confirmable instruments

3 April 2020

 

Government agency consultation

Who

What

By when 

IRD

GST policy issues

8 May 2020

MBIE

Building Code update consultation June 2020

17 April 2020

MFAT

Framework for protection of geographical indications (GIs) proposed by the European Union (EU) as part of our negotiations for a free trade agreement

24 April 2020

MoH

Death, Funerals, Burial and Cremation: a Review of the Burial and Cremation Act 1964 and Related Legislation

10 Apr 2020

MPI

The regulation of inhibitors used in agriculture

5 April 2020

Treasury

Public Consultation - third round (Reserve Bank Act Review)

23 October 2020

Progress of legislation

Bills relating to COVID-19 introduced

All three of the following Bills were introduced and passed on Wednesday 25 March:
 

Imprest Supply (Third for 2019/20) Act 2020

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Grant Robertson

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, the Government announced a major Economic Response Package. The degree of spending necessary to finance the package was not provided for in the Appropriation (2019/20 Estimates) Act 2019 or the Imprest Supply (Second for 2019/20) Act 2019. This Act provides financial authority additional to (and not in substitution for) that provided in the Imprest Supply (Second for 2019/20) Act 2019, and is required to ensure that the Government has sufficient supply to implement the Economic Response Package, including an additional:

  • $40,000 million in expenses;
  • $10,000 million in capital expenditure; and
  • $2,000 million in capital injections.

This Act is repealed at the end of the 2019/20 financial year on 30 June 2020.

The full Act can be found here. The explanatory note to the Bill can be found here.
 

COVID-19 Response (Taxation and Social Assistance Urgent Measures) Act 2020

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Stuart Nash

The policy proposals in this omnibus Act are all designed to assist the Government’s response to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, including targeted measures aimed at providing relief to those that have been economically affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The following is a brief summary of the policy measures contained in the Act:

  • reintroduce depreciation deductions for non-residential buildings;
  • increase provisional tax threshold from $2,500 to $5,000;
  • temporarily increase the $500 low value asset threshold to $5,000 for assets purchased in the 12 months from 17 March 2020, and permanently increase the threshold to $1,000 for assets purchased from 17 March 2021;
  • bring the application date of broader refundability for the R&D tax credit forward by one year, to the 2019–20 income year;
  • allow Inland Revenue to remit interest on a late tax payment if the taxpayer’s ability to make the tax payment on time was significantly adversely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • allow Inland Revenue to share information with other government departments to assist those agencies in their response to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • remove the work hours eligibility requirement from the in-work tax credit;
  • allow people on a temporary visa, who would not otherwise meet the Working for Families residence criteria, to qualify for WFF if they receive an emergency benefit from the Ministry of Social Development;
  • GST not apply to payments of the COVID-19 wage subsidy and leave payments from 17 March 2020 until the date the 2020 amendment Order came into force; and
  • restore the Winter Energy Payment rates from 2021 onwards to their current rates of $450 per year for single people with no dependent children and $700 per year for couples and people with dependent children (WEP rates were doubled by Order in Council as a temporary measure).

A fuller explanation of the policy items is provided in a commentary on the Act that is available here.

The full Act can be found here. The explanatory note to the Bill can be found here.
 

COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Chris Hipkins

The single broad policy objective of this omnibus Act is to put in place some necessary arrangements in order to implement COVID-19 Alert Level 4, or where arrangements are essential to respond effectively to COVID-19. The Act brings in temporary changes to the Local Government Act 2002 and Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 that help Councils to function remotely. While the COVID-19 Epidemic Notice is in force, Council or committee meetings can be attended by audio or audio-visual link. Similarly, where Councils would normally be required to make copies of agendas, reports and meeting minutes available at their offices or public libraries, it is sufficient for this to be provided through the Council's website. However, a member of the public can still request copies be provided by post. 

Changes have also been made to the Education Act, the Epidemic Preparedness Act and the Residential Tenancies Act that are aimed at helping the Court system and education facilities to respond to COVID-19, as well as lessening the impacts of COVID-19 on residential tenants.

The full Act can be found here.  The explanatory note to the Bill can be found here.

Other Bills introduced

Appropriation (2018/19 Confirmation and Validation) Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Grant Robertson

 

Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill (No 2)

Type of Bill: Member's

Member in Charge: Brett Hudson

 

Child Support Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Stuart Nash

 

Gas (Information Disclosure and Penalties) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Dr Megan Woods

 

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Dr Megan Woods

 

Moriori Claims Settlement Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Andrew Little

 

New Zealand Bill of Rights (Declarations of Inconsistency) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Andrew Little

 

New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Jenny Salesa

 

Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's

Member in Charge: Jenny Marcroft

 

Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Phil Twyford

 

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Kris Faafoi

 

Screen Industry Workers Bill

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Iain Lees-Galloway

 

Veterans' Support Amendment Bill (No 2)

Type of Bill: Government

Member in Charge: Hon Ron Mark

Bills awaiting first reading
  • Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill (No 2)
  • Autonomous Sanctions Bill
  • Child Support Amendment Bill
  • Crimes (Coward Punch Causing Death) Amendment Bill
  • Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill
  • Gas (Information Disclosure and Penalties) Amendment Bill
  • High-power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill
  • Insurance (Prompt Settlement of Claims for Uninhabitable Residential Property) Bill
  • Moriori Claims Settlement Bill
  • New Zealand Bill of Rights (Declarations of Inconsistency) Amendment Bill
  • New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income (Fair Residency) Amendment Bill
  • Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill
  • Overseas Investment Amendment Bill (No 2)
  • Rights for Victims of Insane Offenders Bill
  • Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill
  • Veterans' Support Amendment Bill (No 2)
Bills defeated
  • Broadcasting (New Zealand on Air and Te Māngai Pāho Reporting Requirements) Amendment Bill
Bills withdrawn

N/A

Bills before Select Committee

Submissions Open

Bill

Select Committee

Closing date for Submissions

Ahuriri Hapū Claims Settlement Bill

Māori Affairs Committee

01 May 2020

Electoral (Registration of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill

Justice Committee

24 Apr 2020

Fair Trading Amendment Bill

Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee

26 April 2020

Financial Market Infrastructures Bill

Finance and Expenditure Committee

30 April 2020

Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill

Finance and Expenditure Committee

30 April 2020

Local Government (Rating of Whenua Māori) Amendment Bill

Māori Affairs Committee

17 April 2020

New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill

Health Committee

02 April 2020

Organic Products Bill

Primary Production Committee

29 April 2020

Screen Industry Workers Bill

Education and Workforce Committee

04 May 2020

Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill

Health Committee

01 April 2020

 

Submissions Closed

Bill

Select Committee

Report due 

Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill

Environment Committee

02 April 2020

Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill

Health Committee

04 June 2020

Education and Training Bill

Education and Workforce Committee

04 May 2020

Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Commercial Video on-Demand) Amendment Bill

Governance and Administration Committee

28 April 2020

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Amendment Bill

Governance and Administration Committee

02 June 2020

Holidays (Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage) Amendment Bill (No 2)

Education and Workforce Committee

10 June 2020

Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

17 June 2020

International Crimes and International Criminal Court Amendment Bill

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee

03 June 2020

Land Transport (NZTA) Legislation Amendment Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

24 April 2020

Land Transport (Rail) Legislation Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

24 April 2020

Protection for First Responders and Prison Officers Bill

Justice Committee

10 June 2020

Public Service Legislation Bill

Governance and Administration Committee

28 April 2020

Racing Industry Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

17 April 2020

Regulatory Systems (Transport) Amendment Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

19 September 2020

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill

Social Services and Community Committee

22 June 2020

Secondary Legislation Bill

Regulations Review Committee

17 June 2020

Sexual Violence Legislation Bill

Justice Committee

14 May 2020

Taumata Arowai—the Water Services Regulator Bill

Health Committee

17 June 2020

Te Ture Whenua Maori (Succession, Dispute Resolution, and Related Matters) Amendment Bill

Māori Affairs Committee

15 April 2020

Urban Development Bill

Environment Committee

10 June 2020

Bills awaiting second reading
Bills awaiting third reading
  • Appropriation (2018/19 Confirmation and Validation) Bill
  • Arms Legislation Bill
  • Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Amendment Bill
  • New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Vesting Bill
  • Privacy Bill
  • Smoke-free Environments (Prohibiting Smoking in Motor Vehicles Carrying Children) Amendment Bill
Acts assented

In the House

What’s coming up in the House

Following the passage of legislation on Wednesday 25 March, the House is adjourned until 28 April, while New Zealand is under Alert Level 4. The Business Committee has been given authority to adjust sitting dates if, for example, Alert Level 4 is extended.

To make sure parliamentary oversight and representation can continue in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, members have agreed to allow special epidemic procedures to be used during the lockdown period. The House has given the Speaker authority to approve special arrangements for Select Committees (including that they may meet remotely).

As the House is not sitting, Parliament's regular legislative programme has been paused. Only the House can pass legislation, although select committees can continue to work on bills in the meantime using the special meeting arrangements.

Once established, the special Epidemic Response Committee is expected to meet frequently (remotely) to scrutinise the Government's management of the epidemic. The Committee will be chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, and will consist of 11 members, 6 of whom will be opposition.

 

 

1 thespinoff.co.nz/politics/18-03-2020/the-nz-election-is-a-big-event-could-it-be-delayed-in-a-covid-19-world/ 

Infectious and Notifiable Diseases Order 2020, cl 3; Infectious and Notifiable Diseases Order (No 2) 2020, cl 3(1).

Health Act 1956, s 97.

Health Act 1956, s 70(m).

Health Act 1956, s 92ZZF; Health (Infectious and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations 2016, r 14.

Health Act 1956, s 70(1)(f).

Immigration Act 2009, s 13.

Immigration Act 2009, s 66.

Health Act 1956, s 70(m).

10 Education Act 1989, s 65E.

11 Health Act 1956, s 71A.

12 Health Act 1956, s 72.

13 Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, s 5.

14 Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, s 24.

15 Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, s 8.

16 Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, ss 11 and 12.

17 Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, s 76

18 Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, s 85.

19 Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, ss 86-92.

20 Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, s 9.

 

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