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Watching Brief - September 2021

Home Insights Watching Brief - September 2021

Matter of opinion

Don’t follow the money – a new Bill confirms wider priorities for corporate New Zealand

A Labour member's Bill drawn from the ballot last week brings a focus on the evolving world of corporate governance, reflecting not so much a change to the legislative framework, but a clarification of current practice and future direction.
Under section 131 of the Companies Act, company directors are required to act in good faith and in the best interests of the company. The Companies (Director Duties) Amendment Bill, introduced on 23 September 2021, amends this section providing that, when determining what is in the best interests of a company, a director may take into account "recognised environmental, social and governance factors". Examples of these factors are then listed as follows:

  • recognising the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi);

  • reducing adverse environmental impacts;

  • upholding high standards of ethical behaviour;

  • following fair and equitable employment practices; and

  • recognising the interests of the wider community.

While on its face this proposed amendment may seem radical, as the Bill states, its purpose is "to avoid doubt". That is, it is intended to clarify the existing legal position where the best interests of the company can include multiple factors. Contrary to the traditionally held view, there is no legal requirement that directors must prioritise immediate shareholder profit above all else. To the extent there is any potential for a court to rule out wider considerations under the best interest test, this is increasingly unlikely as stakeholder's expectations of companies environmental and social performance are inextricably linked to long-term financial sustainability and value creation. 
Given this, the Bill should not substantively change the current legal position for directors or the ability of companies to focus on social good outcomes. As drafted, the director's duty remains to the shareholder (the best interests of the company) rather than to stakeholders. Companies can, and already do, use purposes or stakeholder clauses in constitutions to include social good objectives.
In New Zealand, we already have a number of "B corporations" which are companies that certify against criteria for meeting the interests of shareholders and those of wider society and the environment. In terms of current practice, the NZX Corporate Governance Code introduced content on stakeholders and environmental and social factors in 2017 and is expected to expand this content when reviewed later this year. Companies are also increasingly required to report against social and environmental factors, while sustainable finance is expected to become a growth area.
However, if passed, the Bill may nevertheless lead to, or accelerate, changes in director and company behaviour. To the extent there is an ongoing belief that corporate directors are required to maximise shareholder short-term profits, the proposed amendment makes clear that this is not correct. It is also possible that the amendment would create greater expectations from stakeholders that directors will consider, as a matter of course, the specific factors listed when determining what is best for the company. The clarification could also lead to reconsideration of practices that prioritise short-term share increases, for example, executive compensation tied to annual shareholder returns.
At the very least, the Bill will provide a platform for debate on the appropriate legal framing for modern corporate governance in New Zealand. This is in line with global developments where the shift from shareholder to stakeholder, from short-term to long-term, is being increasingly examined and explicitly clarified in codes, guidance and legislation.
As a Labour's members Bill, the proposed amendment will have caucus support to the Select Committee. It is also expected to have some support from the business community – it followed a joint report from the New Zealand Institute of Directors and MinterEllisonRuddWatts on stakeholder governance that recommended legislative review of director's duties. The Bill will invariably raise questions whether the amendments go far enough, whether specifying factors in legislation supports or undermines effective governance and/or whether a more comprehensive policy review is first required.

In the news

Government implements plans to phase out the electricity low fixed charge tariff regulations

The Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon Dr Megan Woods, has announced the Government's plan to phase out the low fixed charge tariff regulations contained in the Electricity (Low Fixed Charge Tariff Option for Domestic Consumers) Regulations 2004 (LFC Regulations).  
Phasing out the low fixed charge was one of the recommendations made to the Government by the independent 2019 Electricity Price Review (EPR). The LFC Regulations were originally designed to reduce power bills for low-use, low-income households by offering a discounted fixed charge (ie the amount charged to cover things like meter readings and lines company charges) but with a higher rate for the actual amount of electricity used. However, since the implementation of the LFC Regulations in 2004, houses have become a lot more energy efficient, with around 59% of households now on low fixed charge plans, meaning those households on standard-use plans face higher fixed charges (to make up for the under recovery from those on low fixed charge plans).  
Ultimately, the EPR found that the LCF Regulations are poorly targeted and have a number of unintended consequences, including worsening energy hardship, exacerbating inefficient price signals and increasing pricing complexity and confusion for consumers.   
The phase out will begin on 1 April 2022, with the maximum daily low fixed charge increasing each year until 1 April 2027, at which point the LCF Regulations will be removed, and power companies will no longer be required to offer consumers a low fixed charge option (although they may still choose to do so). According to MBIE, as the low fixed daily charges increase during the phase-out, the actual rate charged for electricity used is expected to decrease. The Government plans to conduct a mid-point review of the phase out in late-2023 to study its impacts.
More information on the phase out process can be found on MBIE's website.  

New COVID-19 contact tracing requirements introduced

New mandatory contact tracing requirements came into effect at 11:59pm on 7 September 2021. These requirements target busy places and large gatherings, to assist the Government with contact tracing quickly in the event of an outbreak.
Specifically, certain businesses and services must have systems and processes in place to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that every person aged 12 years or older:

  • scans the QR code for the workplace or otherwise makes their own contact record; or
  • provides a contact record that the business collects.

The Government has indicated that this requirement will apply at all Alert Levels. Please see our previous alert for more information on these mandatory contact tracing requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions here.

New regulations for vaping products commence

10 August 2021 marked a significant milestone in the implementation of the new regulatory framework for vaping products, with the announcement of new regulations intended to protect young people and non-smokers from the risks associated with vaping. Amongst other things, the new regulations contain requirements for the display of harm reduction notices in retail stores, packaging and labelling, and product safety.
New requirements for the packaging and labelling of vaping products include:

  • a requirement for vaping substance containers and packaging to display a nicotine warning in English and te reo Māori;

  • a requirement for vaping substance containers to display specific safety messages; and

  • a prohibition on vaping product packaging and packaging inserts having any feature that resembles a food or cosmetic product, or which suggests that the product has health or lifestyle benefits.

The new regulations provide the operational "bones" to support the new product notification regime for vaping substances and devices to be administered by the Vaping Regulatory Authority. This includes requirements for what information manufacturers, importers, and retailers need to submit in the product notification process, as well as technical product safety requirements that vaping substances and devices must satisfy before they can be notified and sold in New Zealand.  
The product safety requirements for vaping substances:

  • limit the strength of free-base nicotine in vaping substances to 20 mg/mL, and the strength of nicotine salt in a vaping substance to 50mg/mL;

  • require vaping substance ingredients to be of pharmaceutical grade quality, and comply with the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.) monograph; and

  • prohibit the presence of certain substances, compounds, and metals in vaping substances that are considered harmful to humans.

Product safety requirements for vaping devices are relatively simple by comparison, and are generally aimed at ensuring that vaping devices comply with electrical safety requirements and operate safely under normal use and conditions. 
10 October 2021 was also the cut-off for retailers to register as a transitional specialist vape retailer. Registration as a transitional specialist vape retailer permits stores to sell the full range of vaping substance flavours until they have successfully applied to the Vaping Regulatory Authority for approval as a specialist vape retailer. 
The transitional period ends on 10 November 2021. If a transitional specialist vape retailer has not made a successful application to the Vaping Regulatory Authority for approval as a specialist vape retailer by that date, it cannot continue selling the full range of flavours from 11 November 2021. 

Government releases plan for opening New Zealand's borders

In mid-August 2021, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Government's framework for re-opening borders, which involves moving to an individualised risk-based model for quarantine-free travel. In the first quarter of 2022, the Government plans to introduce new individual risk-based border settings that will establish low, medium and high risk pathways into the country. The different pathways for travellers will be based on the risk associated with where they are coming from and their vaccination status. Each pathway will have testing and isolation requirements proportionate to that risk:

  • The Low-Risk pathway will permit quarantine free entry for vaccinated travellers who have been in low risk countries. 

  • The Medium-Risk pathway will include a combination of self-isolation and/or reduced MIQ for vaccinated travellers who have been in medium risk countries. 

  • The High-Risk pathway will see the continuation of a full 14 days in MIQ and testing for unvaccinated travellers and any traveller, including vaccinated travellers, who have been in very high risk or high risk countries.

In order to begin the plan for re-opening, the Government has made it clear that vaccination rates must continue to increase. The Prime Minister has also stated that it is key that the Elimination Strategy is maintained. The remainder of 2021 will be used to prepare for the operation of borders under the individual risk-based border system. Preparation also includes a Medium-Risk pathway pilot, being run between October and December 2021 to test it can operate safely. 

Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill progresses swiftly through Parliament

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill is an omnibus bill that will, if enacted, amend the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, the Search and Surveillance Act 2012, and the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act 2019. The Bill passed its second reading on 21 September 2021 and now awaits the committee of the whole House stage.
Broadly, the Bill aims to implement a single policy to better prevent and respond to terrorism and associated activities by ensuring designation, offence, and control order provisions apply effectively to conduct that is, or that creates, an unacceptable risk of terrorism and associated activities. The Bill also, in part, responds to the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.
Specifically, the Bill would create a new offence that criminalises travel to, from or via New Zealand with the intention to carry out a terrorist act, or plan or prepare for a terrorist act. Weapons training or combat training for terrorist purposes would also become an offence. Finally, the Bill would amend, and potentially broaden, the definition of "terrorist act" by altering some of the purpose and intention elements.
The Justice Select Committee reported back on 15 September 2021, recommending by majority that the Bill be passed subject to certain amendments being made. Amongst other things, these amendments included changing one of the mens rea elements from an intention to "induce fear" to an intention to "intimidate", clarifying the scope of the offence of "planning to commit a terrorist act", and clarifying that criminalising the act of providing material support for terrorism does not prohibit individuals from providing legitimate aid and support for humanitarian purposes.
The Bill is expected to pass into law by the end of September 2021.

Electricity Authority conducts review under the Electricity Industry Act 2010

The Electricity Authority (EA) ordered a review of the 9 August 2021 electricity cuts that left approximately 34,000 customers without power.
The review has two phases:

  • Phase one sought immediate assurance that any systemic and process issues were urgently corrected.

  • Phase two will be wider than Transpower's (System Operator) role, and the scope will be informed by the findings of phase one.

Phase one of the review has been completed, which found shortcomings in the System Operator's processes. The key areas for concern were in relation to communication processes and miscalculations in the demand response allocation tool, with the review finding that these had not been adequately tested for a national grid emergency. The EA recommended that the System Operator improve the electricity sector readiness to respond to critical demand management incidents. This will include an annual pan-industry exercise to test processes, actions and communications and to clarify responsibilities ahead of responding to a real emergency.
The EA will now progress phase two, the scope of which is broader than the System Operator’s response to the event and will look at all aspects of the industry response.

National health targets replaced with Health System Indicators framework

To complement the health system reforms currently underway, the Ministry of Health and the Health Quality & Safety Commission have jointly developed a new Health System Indicators framework. This framework replaces national health targets, the previous national performance measures for the health system.
The new framework creates 12 indicators that align with six Government priority areas, particularly, improving equity and progressing health and mental wellbeing. The indicators will be used to develop local plans and solutions that respond to the health needs of New Zealanders in different parts of the country. 
The high-level Health System Indicators and corresponding Government priorities are as follows:

Government priority

High-level indicator

Improving child wellbeing

Immunisation rates for children at 24 months

Ambulatory sensitive hospitalisations for children (age range 0–4)

Improving mental wellbeing

Under 25s able to access specialist mental health services within three weeks of referral

Access to primary mental health and addiction services

Improving wellbeing through prevention

Ambulatory sensitive hospitalisations for adults (age range 45-64)

Participation in the bowel screening programme

Strong and equitable public health system

Acute hospital bed day rate

Access to planned care

Better primary health care

People report they can get primary care when they need it

People report being involved in the decisions about their care and treatment

Financially sustainable health system

Annual surplus/deficit at financial year end

Variance between planned budget and year end actuals

Results for the Health System Indicators will be displayed and updated quarterly on an online dashboard, here. The Ministry of Health and the Commission will collaborate with the Health and Disability Review Transition Unit and sector stakeholders during 2021/22 to further develop the framework in order to ensure that going forward it complements monitoring and accountability arrangements for the health and disability system.

Timeline confirmed for Emissions Reduction Plan consultation

The Minister of Climate Change, Hon James Shaw, announced that Cabinet has agreed to begin consulting on the Government's Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) in early October 2021 and will now release the final plan by the end of May 2022, in line with the 2022 Budget. The end of May 2022 deadline for the final ERP (instead of the initial 31 December 2021 deadline) will require a legislative change to the Climate Change Response Act 2002.
In June 2021, the Climate Change Commission released its final advice to the Government on the first three emissions budgets and policy direction for the Government's first ERP. 
The final ERP will respond to the Commission's advice by setting out the policies and strategies that New Zealand will implement to meet its first emissions budget and will also set the direction for how future budgets will be met. It will include:

  • policies and strategies for specific sectors (eg, transport, waste, building and construction, agriculture, and forestry);

  • a multi-sector strategy to meet emissions budgets and improve the ability of those sectors to adapt to the effects of climate change;

  • ways to mitigate the impacts that reducing emissions and increasing removals will have on employees and employers, regions, iwi and Māori, and wider communities including the funding for any mitigation action; and

  • any other policies or strategies that the Minister for Climate Change considers necessary.

There will be a six-week consultation period where submitters have the opportunity to provide feedback on the role different sectors can play in meeting emissions budgets, as well as the support required from the Government.

Amendments to Fair Trading Act come into force

On 16 August 2021 the Fair Trading Amendment Bill (Bill) received the Royal Assent. The Bill introduced significant changes to the Fair Trading Act 1986 that will impact both consumer-to-business and business-to-business transactions. 
Of the several new provisions in the Fair Trading Act, the following are now in force:

  • Businesses who agree extended warranty agreements with customers over the telephone must provide a copy of the agreement to the customer within five working days of the date it is agreed. Customers can cancel an extended warranty agreement within five working days of receiving the agreement.

  • The Commerce Commission:

    • can accept enforceable undertakings that a business provides compensation for, or takes other steps to avoid or mitigate the effects of Fair Trading Act breaches;

    • has an express power to state a case for the opinion of the High Court on Fair Trading Act issues. This will allow the Commission to clarify certain issues without naming a defendant; and

    • can prohibit the disclosure of information, documents and evidence by businesses (for example, to others under investigation) that are subject to Fair Trading Act investigations or inquiries by it.

New provisions that would extend the existing unfair contract terms (UCT) regime in the Fair Trading Act to business-to-business contracts, introduce a new prohibition on "unconscionable conduct", and empower consumers and businesses to demand uninvited sellers to leave their property, do not come into force until 16 August 2022 (being one year after the Bill received the Royal Assent).  
You can read our analysis on extension of the UCT regime to small trade contracts here, and a broad overview of the new changes introduced by the Bill here.

New fuel regulations come into force

On 11 August 2021, the Minister of Energy and Resources, Hon Dr Megan Woods, announced that the new Fuel Industry Regulations 2021 had come into force. 
The regulations support the Fuel Industry Act 2020, which was introduced after a Government-ordered fuel market study conducted by the Commerce Commission concluded that fuel companies had been making higher profits than expected in a workable competitive fuel market. Megan Woods has said that margins on regular and premium petrol have reduced since the market study was announced and that the introduction of the new regulations would make the market more competitive. 
It is intended that the regulations will benefit motorists and smaller fuel companies. They include a terminal gate pricing regime which is intended to improve competition in the wholesale fuel market by making it easier for fuel companies to access fuel more cheaply and in more locations. A dispute resolution scheme and rules to ensure that contracts between wholesale fuel suppliers and their wholesale customers are fair, have also taken effect. 
Further measures will also be introduced. On 11 February 2021, a requirement for retail fuel sites to display premium fuel prices on forecourt price boards will come into effect. Regulations requiring fuel companies to collect and disclose certain information are also being developed to further assist with monitoring of the fuel market.

Resurgence Support Payment available for businesses

Following the Alert Level increase on 17 August 2021, the Government is offering New Zealand businesses its Resurgence Support Payment (RSP). The RSP initiative was first introduced in February 2021 to assist businesses facing economic hardship due to a resurgence of COVID-19, providing an additional payment separate from the Wage Subsidy Scheme to help businesses meet their fixed costs, such as rent. Its availability is triggered when any part of New Zealand shifts to Alert Level 2 or higher for seven days or more. Once activated, the payment is available nationwide, regardless of whether the entire country is facing the increased Alert Level.
To be eligible a business or organisation must show that over a seven-day period, as a result of the increased Alert Level, they have experienced:

  • a drop in revenue of at least 30%; or

  • a decline in capital-raising ability of at least 30%.

Those who meet the criteria can receive a non-taxable and non-deductible payment, consisting of the lesser of:

  • $1,500 plus $400 per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, up to a maximum of 50 FTEs; or

  • four times the actual revenue decline experienced by the applicant.

Amidst the latest resurgence, the Government has announced two key changes to the RSP scheme. These changes were intended to better support businesses, given the multiple extensions to Auckland's current lockdown. These updates include:

  • The provision of further payments: While the RSP was originally intended as a one-off payment, the Government has since acknowledged that this would not go far enough to mitigate the effects of Auckland's extensive lockdown period. Accordingly, it is now enabling businesses to apply for further RSPs. The Ministers have agreed that there will be two further payments, scheduled three weeks apart, if the conditions triggering the RSP still apply.

  • Relaxing eligibility criteria: Previously, only businesses that had been operating for at least six months could apply for the RSP. This has now been reduced to one month to better support newly established businesses that meet the other eligibility criteria.

Applications for the first and second payments are now open. Further information is available here.

In the House

What’s coming up in the House

Parliament resumed sitting on 21 September 2021. While Wellington is at Alert Level 2, the House will continue to meet with a small number of MPs present.
A Government motion to confirm orders made under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 will be debated on Tuesday. The following orders were scrutinised by the Regulations Review Committee:

  • COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order (No 2) 2021;

  • COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Amendment Order (No 3) 2021; and

  • COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order (No 2) Amendment Order (No 10) 2021.

Other legislation to be considered will include:

  • the third reading of the Water Services Bill;

  • the committee of the whole House stage for the Counter Terrorism Legislation Bill; and

  • the first reading of the Civil Aviation Bill.

Select committees are fully operational at Alert Level 2. However, there have been changes to how meetings are held:

  • social distancing is practised when committees meet in person;

  • some select committees are meeting remotely using video-conferencing or teleconferencing; and

  • the public is not permitted to observe select committee hearings in person but can watch public committee hearings online.


Progress of legislation

Bills introduced

Animal Welfare Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Damien O'Connor
This Bill would amend the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to ban the export of livestock (cattle, deer, sheep, and goats) by sea. The Bill follows a Cabinet announcement from April 2021 advising of its decision to ban the export of livestock by sea, with a transition period of up to 24 months, and a subsequent report from the Ministry for Primary Industries with advice on implementation. The Bill would enact this decision by preventing the exporter from applying for, or the Director-General issuing, the necessary certificate to export livestock. Cabinet has advised that the transition period of two years to a complete ban is intended to allow the export industry time to plan and adjust their business models to account for the removal of the trade.

Civil Aviation Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Michael Wood
This Bill would repeal and replace the Civil Aviation Act 1990 and the Airport Authorities Act 1966 with a single statute that would cover safety, security, and economic regulation of civil aviation. The Bill has been developed over a five-year period, and has been subject to a number of consultation processes including an exposure draft in 2019. The Bill proposes a range of substantive policy changes, including:

  • Incorporating amendments that account for new and emerging technologies such as remotely piloted or autonomous aircraft.

  • Empowering the Minister of Transport to consider national security within the aviation system and make rules about when national security considerations apply.

  • Provisions relating to the management of the risk of drug and alcohol impairment in the commercial aviation sector, following the Carterton balloon incident in 2012.

  • Expansion and clarification of the aviation security regime, and the tools aviation officers have at security designated aerodromes and who can provide aviation security services.

  • Provisions which focus on enabling New Zealand to meet its obligations under the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation.

  • Provisions relating to airline alliances to facilitate a competitive aviation sector.

  • Provisions relating to airport regulation, including the introduction of a new registration regime for airports which includes requirements to consult government agencies on spatial plans.

Companies (Directors Duties) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Dr Duncan Webb
This Bill would amend the Companies Act 1993 to clarify that a director of a company may take into account recognised environmental, social, and governance factors in determining the best interests of a company. Such considerations reflect modern corporate governance theory that recognises that corporations are connected with communities, wider society, and the environment. Matters to consider may include the principles of Te Tiriti, environmental impacts, good corporate ethics, being a good employer, and the interests of the wider community.

Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Kris Faafoi
This Bill is an omnibus Bill to prohibit conversion practices that seek to change or supress a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Bill would create two new criminal offences where there is a heightened risk of harm (as in the case of children or people with impaired decision-making capacity), or where serious harm is caused as a result of a conversion practice (which the Bill defines). The Bill would also utilise the Human Rights Commission's existing functions and complains system to provide a civil redress scheme for conversion practices.

COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2)

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Chris Hipkins
The Bill seeks to amend the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 (Act). The Act was enacted in May 2020 and established the framework for managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bill extends the term of the Act from May 2022 to May 2023 and proposes to broaden the powers of the COVID-19 orders, increases the maximum fines and fees, and seeks to clarify a number of aspects around the responsibility for and powers of MIQ.
Changes proposed in the Bill include:

  • increasing the maximum fine for intentionally failing to comply with an order from $4,000 to $12,000 for an individual and to $15,000 for a body corporate;

  • broadening the powers of COVID-19 orders, including relating to laboratory COVID-19 testing and allowing COVID-19 orders to apply within any geographical or other practical boundaries; and

  • shifting the provisions regarding the allocation and prioritisation of spaces in MIQ from COVID-19 orders to primary legislation. 

The Bill does not propose any changes to the existing safeguards in the Act, including the requirement for the House to pass resolutions to continue the Act on a periodic basis, the prerequisites for COVID-19 orders, or the requirements that all COVID-19 orders be consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Crimes (Child Exploitation Offences) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Ginny Andersen
This Bill would amend the Crimes Act 1961 to provide for new offences relating to people eighteen years old or above from using electronic communications such as social media platforms to harm people under sixteen. The Bill would also increase penalties for offences relating to the sexual grooming of children online. The Bill is modelled on recent legislation passed in Australia, and is introduced following the publication of New Zealand data collected by Netsafe and the Ministry for Women regarding experiences of teenagers with online risk and harm.

Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) (Definition of Significant Criminal Activity) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Nicole McKee
This Bill aims to increase the power of police to seize assets connected with significant criminal activity. The current regime means that police are only able to seize assets if a series of conditions have been reached, including proof that illegally obtained funds over $30,000 have been discovered, and other factors such as proof that illegal activity has been undertaken on the premises. This does not cover situations where there are illegal firearms used by gang members involved in criminal activity.
The Bill would amend the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 to expand the definition of 'significant criminal activity' to include activity engaged in by a person that would be proceeded against a criminal offence, regardless of any maximum term of imprisonment for that offence, that occurs at a place where there are prohibited firearms or firearms that are possessed unlawfully and a person who is a member of a gang or an organised criminal group.

Education and Training (Teaching Council Fees and Costs) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Chris Hipkins
This Bill would amend the Education and Training Act 2020 to enable the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand to fix fees so that it can recover costs for all its functions and powers. It would address the anomaly, founded by the High Court, that the Act does not authorise the Council to fix fees for all of its functions.
This Bill would retrospectively validate the receipt of payments by the Teaching Council since 1 February 2021 under an annual fees notice that was quashed by the High Court after judicial review. However, this Bill would not validate invalid fees. Payments received for invalid fees would be credited to the teacher concerned for future fee payments.

Electricity Industry Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Dr Megan Woods
This Bill would implement a range of new measures designed to protect (small) consumer interests and to ensure that the regulatory framework for the electricity industry remains fit for purpose as technologies and business models evolve. Key changes include:

  • establishing a small consumer advocacy agency;

  • clarifying that the Electricity Authority (Authority) can use the Electricity Industry Participation Code (Code) to protect domestic and small business consumers;

  • providing greater regulatory flexibility to restrict the involvement of lines companies in new competitive markets;

  • enabling the Authority to regulate all aspects of distribution use of system agreements; and

  • giving the Minister new powers to amend the Code.

You can read more about the Bill in our Insights summary here.

Freedom Camping (Infringement Offences and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Maureen Pugh
This Bill would update existing freedom camping legislation to make restrictions on freedom camping around New Zealand more consistent, and make it easier to punish breaches of the rules. The Bill proposes additional government organisations that will have powers to restrict freedom camping on land that they control or manage. The Bill also proposes stronger enforcement of fines for those breaking the rules.

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Hazardous Substances Assessments) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon David Parker
This Bill would amend the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 to improve the assessment and reassessment of hazardous substances by changing the required processes that the regulator, the Environmental Protection Authority (the EPA), must follow.
Currently, the assessment and reassessment of hazardous substances in New Zealand can be lengthy and costly. This can result in beneficial chemicals, including safer alternatives to existing chemicals, taking longer to come into use. Delayed reassessments can also mean chemicals continue to be used despite controls (conditions on how substances can be used) not being fit for purpose.
The Bill would make changes to the Act in the following 3 main categories:

  • enabling the EPA to make better use of information from international regulators;

  • making other improvements to the reassessment process; and

  • making technical amendments.

Improving Arrangements for Surrogacy Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Tāmati Coffey
The Improving Arrangements for Surrogacy Bill seeks to simplify surrogacy arrangements, ensure completeness of birth certificate information, and provide a mechanism for enforcing surrogacy arrangements.
New Zealand law does not currently afford any automatic rights to the intending parents of a child born via surrogacy. At the time of birth, the child's legal parents are the surrogate mother and partner, and a formal adoption process is required to complete the arrangement.
This Bill would affirm the intending parents' automatic legal status at the point that custody of the child is transferred. It also enforces the legal obligations of the intending parents if they refuse to take custody by making them liable for child support, even if they do not have custody of the child.
This Bill would also require the Registrar to register information about the identity of the surrogate and any person who donated an embryo or cells for the pregnancy, in recognition of the rights of children to know their genetic origins, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Land Transport (Clean Vehicles) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon Michael Wood
This Bill seeks to rapidly reduce carbon dioxide emissions from light vehicles imported into New Zealand by increasing the supply and variety of, and demand for, zero and low emissions vehicles, and informing New Zealanders about vehicle emissions levels and rebates receivable or charges payable in relation to light vehicles. These goals would be implemented through the introduction of a clean vehicle standard, and a separate clean vehicle discount initiative. You can read Russell McVeagh's Insight on the Bill here.

New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Restriction on Crown Funding Agreements and Unfunded Cancer Medicines) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Dr Shane Reti
This Bill aims to improve access to public medical care for cancer patients who purchase unfunded cancer medicines that also require medical administration, as currently many cancer medicines that are not funded by PHARMAC cannot be administered in the public system under the existing legislative framework. The key aim of the Bill is to prevent Crown Funding Agreements from being used to prohibit District Health Boards from making their facilities available to patients who require administration of cancer medicines that are not funded by PHARMC.

Overseas Investment (Exempt Investment from OECD Countries) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Damien Smith
This Bill would exempt investors from countries within the OECD from the need to receive Overseas Investment Office approval to invest in New Zealand, except in respect of investments in residential land. The Bill would still ensure that these investments are subject to the call-in regime where national security interests are at stake. 

Plain Language Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Rachel Boyack
This Bill would seek to promote the use of plain English in official documents and websites. The Bill seeks to follow the US Plain Writing Act 2010 which requires the US Federal Government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organised" manner that follows best practices of plain language writing.  The purpose of the Bill would be to improve the effectiveness and accountability of the public service by requiring its communications to be clear and accessible to the public. The Bill would allow the Public Service Commissioner to issue guidance to reporting agencies on how they may comply with the plain language requirements set out in the Bill.

Protection of Journalists’ Sources Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Louisa Wall
This Bill proposes to amend the definition of journalist in the Evidence Act 2006 so that it explicitly includes investigative journalists. The Bill seeks to include investigative journalists based on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) position that investigative journalism contributes to freedom of expression and media development. It also would amend the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 to ensure that journalists' sources are clearly protected in relation to protection orders and Police searches. The Bill also includes a general duty to protect journalists' rights when exercising search powers.

Public Finance (Prohibition on Providing Public Funds to Gangs) Amendment Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Simeon Brown
The Public Finance (Prohibition on Providing Public Funds to Gangs) Amendment Bill would prohibit the Crown and its agencies from providing funds directly and indirectly to organisations that are run, administered or associated to gangs. This Bill would amend the Public Finance Act 1989 by inserting a new section that would, unless expressly authorised by any Act, prevent the Crown from paying money, directly or indirectly, to a gang and would impose an obligation on the Crown to take all reasonable precautions, and exercise due diligence, to avoid doing so. The policy intent of the Bill would be to ensure the flow of public funds does not end up in the hands of gangs. 

Taxation (Annual Rates for 2021-22, GST, and Remedial Matters) Bill

Type of Bill: Government
Member in charge: Hon David Parker
This omnibus Bill contains a series of taxation amendments, which fall broadly into three categories. The first category sets the annual rates of income tax for the 2021-2022 tax year.The second contains proposals relating to the current settings within a broad-base, low rate framework. The third category relates to proposals for the settings of tax administration, GST, KiwiSaver, and social policy rules administered by Inland Revenue. Notable is the proposal that cryptocurrency assets (which is being proposed under a new tax definition) will largely be removed from being subject to GST. There are a wide range of legislative changes proposed in this Bill, with over one hundred policy and remedial amendments.

Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill

Type of Bill: Member's
Member in charge: Joseph Mooney
This Bill would repeal and replace the current law relating to Māori land, with the aim to allow landowners, their whānau and hapū to improve the performance and productivity of their land.  The Bill aims to strengthen the right of Māori landowners to retain, control, occupy, and develop their land themselves as a taonga tuku iho (treasure handed down) for the benefit of present and future generations. A key goal of the Bill is to allow owners to set rules making it harder to dispose of Māori land, and would be able to design their own governance arrangements. The Bill aims to centre tikanga Māori as central to matters involving Māori land, and ensure that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is central to the application of laws affecting Māori land. 

Bills awaiting first reading
Bills defeated


Bills before Select Committee

Submissions open


Select Committee

Closing date for Submissions

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Hazardous Substances Assessments) Amendment Bill

Environment Committee

3 Oct 2021

Land Transport (Clean Vehicles) Amendment Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

4 Nov 2021

Local Government (Pecuniary Interests Register) Amendment Bill

Governance and Administration Committee

23 Nov 2021

Submissions closed


Select Committee

Report Due

Lawyers and Conveyancers (Employed Lawyers Providing Free Legal Services) Amendment Bill

Justice Committee

24 Sept 2021

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

Privileges Committee

30 Sept 2021

Incorporated Societies Bill Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee 6 October 2021

Sunscreen (Product Safety Standard) Bill

Health Committee

7 Oct 2021

Drug and Substance Checking Legislation Bill (No 2)

Health Committee

29 October 2021

Construction Contracts (Retention Money) Amendment Bill

Transport and Infrastructure Committee

11 Nov 2021

Crown Minerals (Decommissioning and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee

11 Nov 2021

Maritime Powers Bill

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee

11 Nov 2021

Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill

Health Committee

19 Nov 2021

Plant Variety Rights Bill

Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee

19 Nov 2021

Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

Finance and Expenditure Committee

22 Nov 2021

Subordinate Legislation Confirmation Bill

Regulations Review Committee

6 Dec 2021

Ngāti Rangitihi Claims Settlement Bill

Māori Affairs Committee

22 Dec 2021

Biosecurity (Information for Incoming Passengers) Amendment Bill

Primary Production Committee

30 Dec 2021

Holidays (Parent-Teacher Interview Leave) Amendment Bill

Education and Workforce Committee

30 Dec 2021

Ngāti Maru (Taranaki) Claims Settlement Bill

Māori Affairs Committee

6 Jan 2022

Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

Justice Committee

5 Feb 2022

Girl Guides Association (New Zealand Branch) Incorporation Amendment Bill

Social Services and Community Care

10 Mar 2022

Human Rights (Disability Assist Dogs Non-Discrimination) Amendment Bill

Social Services and Community Care

22 Mar 2022

Taxation (Annual Rates for 2021-22, GST, and Remedial Matters) Bill

Finance and Expenditure Committee

23 Mar 2022


Bills awaiting second reading


Committee of the whole House



Bills awaiting third reading


Acts assented


Annual Reporting and Audit Time Frames Extensions Legislation Act
This omnibus Act inserts new sections into the Crown Entities Act 2004 and the Local Government Act 2002 in response to an auditor shortage in New Zealand. These amendments extend the annual reporting and audit timeframes for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years in relation to audits of Crown Entities, local council authorities and council-controlled organisations.

Appropriation (2021/22 Estimates) Act
This Act gives parliamentary authorisation of the individual appropriations contained in the Estimates of Appropriations for the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ending 20 June 2022 as presented to the House of Representatives as part of the 2021 Budget documentation. Appropriation is the statutory mechanism by which Parliament authorises the Government to incur expenses and capital expenditure.  

Education and Training (Grants—Budget Measures) Amendment Act
This Amendment Act amends the Education and Training Act 2020. Section 548 of the Amendment Act empowers the Minister of Education to attach conditions and purposes to funds granted to early childhood services and certified playgroups to achieve certain aims. This Amendment Act explicitly authorises the Minister to attach conditions or purposes specifically related to employment matters, such as remuneration, to help achieve employment relations aims. While the Act allowed this prior to the amendment, the new drafting is intended to remove any doubt.

Fair Trading Amendment Act
The Fair Trading Amendment Act (Amendment Act) received the Royal Assent on 16 August 2021. The Amendment Act introduces significant changes to the Fair Trading Act 1986 (Act) to better protect New Zealand consumers and businesses against unfair commercial practices.
The Amendment Act amends the Act by:

  • prohibiting unconscionable conduct in trade;

  • extending unfair contract term protections to include small trade contracts worth $250,000 a year or less; and

  • legally empowering consumers and businesses to demand uninvited sellers, such as door-to-door salespeople, to leave their property, including through the use of "do not knock" stickers.

Businesses that are found to act unconscionably will face fines of up to $600,000, and those breaching the rules around uninvited direct sales could face penalties of up to $30,000.

Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Act
This omnibus Act amends both the Care of Children Act 2004 and the Family Dispute Resolution Act 2013. It aims to enhance child wellbeing in care-of-children proceedings, both directly and by assisting parents to resolve parenting disputes. It responds to recommendations made by the independent panel established by the Minister of Justice that evaluated previous reforms to the family justice system. In particular, it increases the importance of listening to children and taking their views into consideration when decisions are being made about their care or contact.

Gas (Information Disclosure and Penalties) Amendment Act
The Gas (Information Disclosure and Penalties) Amendment Bill (Amendment Act) amended the Gas Act 1992, which sets out the co-regulatory model that the Government has entered with the natural gas industry. The Amendment Act received the Royal Assent on 12 July 2021.
The Amendment Act provides for enhanced information disclosure about the gas market and to ensure that settings around enforcement and penalties are suitably robust. The amended section 43F of the Act, which sets out the scope of regulation-making powers, enables gas governance arrangements to be made that provide for a broad regime for the disclosure of information about matters that may have a significant downstream impact or may contribute to the risk of critical gas shortages. The Amendment Act also clarifies the existing policy intent that regulations made under section 43F for arrangements relating to outages and other security of supply contingencies may apply across all industry participants and consumers (excluding domestic consumers).

The Amendment Act increases the maximum pecuniary penalty able to be imposed by the Gas Ruling Panel (the Panel) from $20,000 to $200,000. This amendment was made to address concerns about the low level of civil pecuniary penalty able to be issued by the Panel, particularly for situations where a wide range of consumers may be affected by a potential breach. The Amendment Act brings the penalty limits into alignment with the equivalent penalty under the Electricity Industry Act 2010.

Imprest Supply (Second for 2021/22) Act
Imprest supply is the statutory mechanism which allows Parliament to provide the Government with the authority to incur expenses and capital expenditure in advance of appropriation and make capital injections in advance of authorisation under an Appropriation Act. This Act aims for the Government to have sufficient supply to implement Cabinet decisions which are made or otherwise finalised after the contents of the 20211/22 Estimates were closed off, and to meet contingencies and make capital injections in excess of the amounts provided in the Appropriation (2021/22 Estimates) Act. This Act provides financial authority additional to that in the Appropriation (2021/22 Estimates) Act, and is intended to result in sufficient amounts to provide supply until 30 June 2022 (at which time the Act will be repealed).

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act received the Royal Assent on 16 August 2021. The Act provides for the objectives and functions of the Reserve Bank and its governance, accountability, transparency, and funding arrangements. The Act also increases coordination between public agencies responsible for the financial system and creates a new framework to better manage the use of New Zealand's foreign exchange reserves.

Key changes include:

  • Establishing a new governance board responsible for all decision-making (except decisions made by the Monetary Policy Committee).

  • Reframing the financial stability objective to "[protect and promote] the stability of New Zealand's financial system".

  • Ensuring operational independence is balanced with appropriate accountability – with the changes to the Reserve Bank's accountability and reporting frameworks, including aligning with the Crown entity framework requirements for statements of intent and annual reports.

  • Providing for a Financial Policy Remit to be issued by the Minister, setting out matters to which the Reserve Bank's board must have regard.

  • Changes to the funding model to promote transparency and allow for appropriate recovery of costs, through industry levies and fees.

  • Providing the Minister with the ability of direct the Bank to maintain a minimum level of capital.

  • Providing the Council of Financial Regulators with a statutory mandate to support effective and responsive regulation of the financial system, by facilitating cooperation and coordination between its members.


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