New Zealand: Government reviews in progress

After the high activity of the government's 1st 100 days programme, it is tempting to think that we are now in something of a hiatus. But there is a lot of work going on among officials, through government appointed taskforces and working groups and through the legislative process which has the potential collectively to rewrite the regulatory context within which the economy functions.

We identify those work streams which are most significant for business.

REVIEW

CONTENT

TIMELINE

Tax
Ministers – Grant Robertson (Finance), Stuart Nash (Revenue)
The Terms of Reference (TOR) are to look at the future of tax and whether we are taxing the right things in the right proportions. Submissions close 30 April. Recommendations to Ministers by February 2019. No changes to come into force until 2021 tax year (after the next elections).
RBNZ Review Phase 2
Minister – Grant Robertson
To focus on the RBNZ's financial stability role and broader governance reform. TOR to be announced by mid-year, policy work to begin second half of this year.
Overseas investment regime
Minister – David Parker (Associate Finance)

Restrictions on the purchase of residential and lifestyle land by overseas investors and changes to the forestry rights screening regime are being legislated for in advance of the coming into force of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

A broader review has been promised further down the track.

The amendment Bill is now before the select committee. No timetable has been announced for the wider review.

Chapman Tripp commentary

Urban Development Authority
Minister – David Parker (Environment)
A National Urban Development Authority (UDA) will be given special powers in relation to large projects to ensure that the right infrastructure, facilities and amenities are delivered to promote thriving communities.

A Bill to create the UDA is scheduled for introduction this year.

Parker speech

Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms
Minister – David Parker (Environment)
Work is underway to achieve "legislative coherence" across the RMA, Local Government Act, Land Transport Management Act, Reserves Act, and the Government's Urban Growth Agenda objectives. This will incorporate a review of the whole resource management system.

No timeline has been announced for the full system review.

The government is considering an interim Bill in the "near term" to reverse the "worst" of the National government's 2017 changes to the RMA.

Parker speech

NPS on Freshwater Management
Minister – David Parker (Environment)
The aim is to stop further degradation, achieve a material improvement in water quality within 5 years and have past damage reversed within a generation. The new NPS will cover sedimentation, nutrient allocation and land use intensification.

Work is underway now. No timeline has been announced.

Parker speech

Climate change
Minister – James Shaw (Climate Change)
A Zero Carbon Act, which will establish an independent Climate Change Commission. Consultation on the scope of the Act will commence around the middle of this year. The Commission is likely to be established in mid-2019. An interim Climate Change Committee is expected to be set up in May this year.
Transport GPS
Minister – Phil Twyford (Transport)
Priorities for land transport (all modes) spending from 2018 to 2028. Consultation on the draft GPS closes on 2 May.
Retail power price
Minister – Megan Woods (Energy and Resources)
The TOR cover the electricity market from generation through transmission and distribution to retail, including whether prices are "efficient, fair and equitable" and how the regulatory framework is placed to adapt to emerging technologies and a low emissions future. Final report due April 2019.
R&D
Minister – Megan Woods (Research, Science and Innovation)
Officials are exploring options to raise the R&D spend to 2% of GDP within 10 years, including through the use of tax credits. No timeline announced.
Competition
Minister – Kris Faafoi (Commerce)
The Commerce Commission will be given the right to initiate market studies, rather than have the discretion wholly in the hands of the Minister. Still under review is the section 36 provision relating to the misuse of market power.

A Bill to extend the Commission's market study function is now going through Parliament for passage this year. No timeline has been set for the section 36 work.

Separate legislation to make cartel conduct a criminal offence is now before the select committee

Consumer finance regulation
Minister – Kris Faafoi

The government has instructed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to review the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to assess whether it needs strengthening in relation to:

  • better informing consumers
  • predatory and irresponsible lending, and
  • improving compliance.
A discussion paper will be released for public consultation mid-2018. Recommendations are due with Cabinet by the third quarter of this year. Faafoi has already signalled that interest rate caps will be on the table.
Insurance contract law
Minister – Kris Faafoi (Commerce)
The review takes in all types of insurance and Terms of Reference indicate a significant focus on improving consumer outcomes.

An issues paper is due mid-year followed by an options paper. Policy decisions by Cabinet are due in mid-2019.

Chapman Tripp commentary

Privacy law
Minister – Andrew Little (Justice)
Bringing New Zealand into line with overseas data protection standards, strengthening privacy protections, making reporting of breaches mandatory.

The Bill is now before the select committee. It is currently very modest in scope compared to other jurisdictions but Little has signalled a willingness to make it tougher.

Chapman Tripp commentary

Tomorrow's Schools
Minister – Chris Hipkins (Education)
The compulsory education sector – primary and secondary. The Taskforce will report back in November 2018 and the recommendations opened for public consultation in 2019.
NCEA
Minister – Chris Hipkins (Education)
Whether over-assessment is an issue, the importance of teaching life skills, the structure and relevance of NCEA Level 1. Public consultation to commence this month.
Protection for whistle blowers
Minister – Chris Hipkins (State Services)
Review of the Protected Disclosures Act 2000. No timetable specified.
Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy
Ministers – Shane Jones (Regional Economic Development)
The agreement with New Zealand First to commission a feasibility study for moving Ports of Auckland, with Northport in serious contention, has morphed into a proposed Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy, including priorities for investment in rail, roads and supporting infrastructure.

The work programme has been approved by the Cabinet and an independent group of experts is to be appointed. They will report to Jones and to Robertson (Finance) and Twyford (Transport).

No timeline has been announced.

Workplace law
Minister – Iain Lees-Galloway
A more open pay equity claims process and the repeal of the "Hobbit law" are on the government's agenda for this year. The government is now considering recommendations from the

The government is now considering the recommendations of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles and expects to have a Bill in the House by mid-year.

The Film Industry Working Group on a replacement for the "Hobbit law" mid-year.

EQC's handling of Canterbury claims
Minister - Megan Woods (Earthquake Commission)
An independent Ministerial advisor will advise the Minister on how to speed up the resolution of outstanding claims Advice was due 12 April 2018 (last week).
Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA)
Minister – Damien O'Connor (Agriculture)
The dairy industry's environmental impact, land use, Fonterra's obligation to collect milk and how to achieve the best outcomes for farmers, consumers and the New Zealand economy. TOR to be made public before 30 June 2018.

The information in this article is for informative purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Please contact Chapman Tripp for advice tailored to your situation.

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