New Zealand: NZ Legislation Update

Harmful Digital Communications Act

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill has been passed into an Act of Parliament.

The Bill was a response to public concerns regarding cyber-bullying and harassment. As previously reported by Duncan Cotterill, the Bill creates a new criminal offence for intentionally posting digital communications which have caused harm.

During the Select Committee process, concerns were raised that the Bill could stifle free expression online and that existing criminal laws were sufficient to address the problem. In response, the Bill was amended to include the ability for a Court to impose a fine (previously, the only penalty available in the Bill was imprisonment).

Other changes over that Act include the ability for an "affected individual" to apply for a Court order, where there is a serious threat that the individual will suffer harm as a result of a digital communication. Defences available to online content hosts were also clarified. Finally, Courts were given the power to seek the expertise of a designated Government agency, in assessing whether the threshold for proceedings to be brought under the Act are met.

Environmental Reporting Bill

The Environmental Reporting Bill was also passed by the House. This Act is intended to clarify which parties and organisations are responsible for environmental reporting (the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician), as well as to set the broad framework for the scope and timing of reporting.

In the new Act, the "environment" has been divided into five environmental domains: air, atmosphere and climate, land, fresh water and marine. Information on biodiversity and ecosystems will feature in the land, fresh water and marine domains reports. The Bill provides for one environmental domain to be reported on every six months. In addition, a comprehensive synthesis report covering all environmental domains will be released every three years.

Evidence Amendment Bill

This Bill makes a number of minor and technical amendments recommended by the Law Commission, following its 2013 review of the Evidence Act 2006. The Bill has been referred to the Select Committee and is open for submissions, which are due on 13 August 2015.

Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill

Introduced as a private members' Bill by Fletcher Tabuteau of New Zealand First, this Bill was recently drawn from the ballot and is intended by its drafters to repeal the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement's (TPPA) investor-state dispute settlements provisions. The Bill is yet to have its First Reading.

Radio New Zealand Amendment Bill

This Bill amends the Radio New Zealand Act 1995 by introducing a revised Radio New Zealand (RNZ) Charter. The intention behind the revised Charter is to clarify the statutory functions of RNZ, its role as a public broadcaster and to make the wording of the Charter to be more accessible to the general public.

Social Housing Reform (Transaction Mandate) Bill

This new Bill amends the Housing Corporation Act 1974 and provides Ministers with the power to sell Housing New Zealand Corporation (Housing NZ) properties to social housing providers, without the approval of Housing NZ's board. The Bill also provides that land acquired by Housing NZ under the Public Works Act does not need to be offered back to its original owners.

New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill

The Select Committee considering the process for the referendum on the flag has reported back on the Bill with few amendments. The Bill is now back in the House to be debated a second time.

Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill

The Local Government and Environment Select Committee has released an interim report on its progress in considering the Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill. The Committee is seeking written submissions from previous submitters on a range of substantial new changes to the Bill. Particular areas include: a proposal to prioritise buildings in areas of "medium" and "high" seismic risk, reducing the scope of buildings to be covered by the Bill (e.g. by excluding retaining walls and storage tanks), tiered timeframes for the identification and remediation of earthquake-prone buildings (based on seismic risk) and a new requirement to perform remedial work on earthquake-prone buildings, where significant upgrades to those buildings are proposed or underway. The deadline for submissions on the proposed changes is 16 July 2015.

Inquiry: Legislative Response to Future National Emergencies

The Regulations Review Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into recent legislative responses to major national emergencies. Public submissions are currently being invited and are due by 1 August 2015.

Government consultations

  • The Electricity Authority is seeking submissions on variations to Transmission Pricing Methodology in respect of the HVDC component (closing on 14 July 2015) and on its Hedge Market Development project (closing on 21 July 2015).
  • The Ministry for the Environment is consulting on a Proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry under the Resource Management Act 1991 (closing on 11 August 2015).
  • The Productivity Commission is seeking submissions on its draft report regarding housing land use (closing on 22 December 2015).
  • Feedback is being sought on an Issues Paper released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on a broad review of the Financial Advisers Act and the Financial Service Providers. The deadline for submissions is 22 July 2015.
  • MBIE is also seeking submissions on proposed amendments to the Building Act, which are intended to provide an orderly transition in relation to unsafe buildings after a state of emergency has been declared. Submissions are due by 24 July 2015.
  • MBIE has released a document entitled "Land Access for Telecommunications discussion document 2015". The document focuses on ways in which the installation of Ultra-Fast Broadband can be streamlined. Submissions are due by 24 July 2015.
  • The Commerce Commission is consulting on proposed prices that Chorus can charge for using its copper lines and broadband service. Submissions on its draft decisions are due by 13 August 2015.
  • The Earthquake Commission Act 1993 is under review. See our separate article (link).
  • The Government is consulting on proposals for new legislation to replace the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 and a draft Transition Plan for Christchurch. See our separate article (link).

Other News

Establishment of Legislation Design and Advisory Committee

Following on from the Productivity Commission's recent report on regulatory institutions and practices, the Government has announced a new Legislation Design and Advisory Committee, which will supersede the existing Legislation Advisory Committee. It is intended that the new Committee will have input into the design and content of Bills earlier in their development.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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