Public Health Response Act belatedly referred to select committee for review

The Government has belatedly decided to allow a select committee in Parliament to scrutinise the controversial Public Health Response Act

One of the controversial things about the Bill/Actt  that was rushed through Parliament under urgency this week was that it affected civil liberties, giving police greater powers to enter homes, and that it hadn’t been subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament.

NZ Herald: Human Rights Commission ‘deeply concerned’ about Public Health Response Bill

The Human Rights Commission says it’s “deeply concerned” about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process for the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill.

The bill, which set up the legal framework for future alert levels, was rushed through most of its legislative stages under urgency, with the support of Labour, NZ First, the Greens and Act.

But the Human Rights Commission says that despite the Government knowing for weeks that New Zealand will be moving to alert level 2, it has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of the alert level 2 legislation.

“There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders, which is deeply regrettable,” said chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt.

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.”

The Human Rights Commission is “strongly of the view” that the legislation must include a provision to ensure those making decisions, and exercising powers, under the new law, will do so in accordance with national and international human rights commitments and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“Given our concerns expressed to the Attorney General yesterday about the two-year sunset clause in the bill, we are pleased to see that Parliament will be changing this to 90 days,” Hunt said.

“However, given that the legislation encroaches on the civil liberties of New Zealanders we have serious concerns about whether the powers are proportionate.”

The Government has reacted to criticism and pressure and decided to allow a select committee to review the Act (albeit after it has been in force).

Legal framework for COVID-19 Alert Level referred to select committee

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, which set a sound legal framework ahead of the move to Alert level 2, has been referred to a parliamentary select committee for review.

Attorney-General David Parker said the review of the operation of the COVID-19 specific law would be reported back to the House by July 27, in time for the House to consider whether to renew the Act in line with the 90-day review specified in the law.

“That will allow the House to take into account the advice of the committee before it makes the decision whether to continue with the law for another 90 days – or longer if the House decides,” David Parker said.

The Police can only use their enforcement powers under the Act if the Government has authorised a COVID-19 Alert Level notice.

The post-enactment review, which has been recommended by legal experts and academics, will be conducted by the Finance and Expenditure Committee, which will have MPs from all parties in Parliament on it.

David Parker reiterated that the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act ensures controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable. The new Act narrows the Police powers compared with those which applied under Level 3 and Level 4.

This is better than no review, but the Government should have made time for proper process before dumping the bill on Parliament under urgency last week.

Public Health Response Bill passes 3rd reading

The Public Health Response Bill passed it’s third and final reading in Parliament yesterday by 63 votes to 57. Labour, NZ First and Greens voted in favour, National, Act and Jami-Lee Ross voted against.

David Parker summarised the bill:

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill will create a bespoke and fit for purpose legal framework to support the Government’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 for a maximum of two years, less if COVID-19 is bought under control sooner.

This bill includes the necessary powers to enforce the alert 2 measures, and I thank the House for working together to pass this bill under urgency. We have adopted further protections suggested by the Opposition.

Passing this bill now is prudent as we move to level 2 on Thursday and into the next phase of our response to COVID-19. The Government’s strategy for COVID-19 and the efforts of all New Zealanders have so far curbed the spread of the virus and the potential devastation it causes.

The bill is necessary to continue our response to the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19. It will allow the Minister of Health to issue orders to give effect to public health measures, for example, to require the maintenance of social distancing, prohibiting gatherings of a specified kind, and requiring people to be isolated or quarantined in specified ways. The bill creates a framework for COVID-19 orders, not the orders themselves.

The Minister of Health must have regard to the advice of the Director-General of Health. The Minister of Health may have regard to decisions by Government on the level of public health measures appropriate, which may have taken into account social, economic, and other factors. The Minister of Health is required to consult with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, who will both be concerned with the correct balance of any order, including civil liberties.

In opposition:

SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki): I’d like to torpedo that boat. I want to bookend this speech with words from someone else who’s far more eloquent than myself.

He says, “… when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not necessarily because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And … That’s what I fear we are seeing now.”

That’s been said by Lord Sumption, the English supreme court justice and judge, discussing COVID-19 only a few days ago. I agree with Lord Sumption that this is the most anti-democratic piece of legislation being put before this Parliament.

I repeat it again: it is anti-democratic. It is against the values of this democracy, this Parliament, our constitutional sovereignty. It is against the principles of law, and ethics.

Parker on one of the most contentious parts of the bill:

In terms of warrantless powers of entry under the bill…I observe that broader warrantless powers already exist under section 71 of the Health Act. I don’t have time to read the full suite of those powers, but they are listed at section 71A(1) and are broad. Section 71A(2) of the Health Act makes it clear a constable can enter a building—any building, which includes a private dwellinghouse—for any of those full suite of powers.

Clause 20 of this bill is narrower. A warrantless power of entry into a private dwellinghouse under COVID-19 is now limited to situations where the constable has reasonable grounds to believe the limits to gatherings have been breached. This power is, in effect, limited to breaking up parties flouting the rules on gathering size. The enforcement power is intended to limit contagion risks and to enable effective track and tracing if there’s an outbreak we need to get under control.

So don’t have rowdy attention seeking parties that appear to be crowded.

The bill was also criticised for being rushed under urgency through Parliament in two days when a primary aim was to curb individual freedoms. Greens were criticised for rubber stamping the Bill, with suggestions that if National was putting a similar bill through Parliament Greens would have protested loudly.

Marama Davidson:

 I will start by acknowledging where my colleague the Hon Peeni Henare just left off, which is that we have an understanding that the broad powers that have got us through alert levels 4 and 3, and now as we move into level 2, have been there because of the public health and wellbeing approach that we have put first in our Government response to COVID-19. Yes, this has absolutely restricted our movements and our freedoms, and that is because of the collective decision we have made to ensure that all people’s lives are cared for as much as we possibly could. We wanted to make sure that we had clear restrictions and guidelines on those broad powers as we move into level 2 so that we could understand how those powers are going to be applied, when and where, and how long they will last for.

What I want to acknowledge in my closing time is that—and my colleague Mr Henare also raised it—we understand that Te Tiriti is also at the forefront of the debates that are being had in our communities at the moment regarding this COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill.

A specific reference to marae was removed from the bill after protests on singling out Maori.

I want, as I did before the break, to assure people that, yes, we in this House do need to be accountable to monitor and review whose homes and communities and dwellings are entered into with warrantless entry; that we are keeping the data and record and reporting on those entries; that we review that reporting and that data at the newly agreed shorter review times, which I absolutely think are fantastic; and that we make it clear to the public that if the public health agenda of these broad powers are not being adhered to that there is power in this House to renege on those high orders that are being sought in this House; and that we absolutely must keep a check that the powers are being used for what they are set up to be used for, otherwise we will execute and exploit that power in this House to renege on that order that can be made.

It’s hard to work out what she is trying to get across there.

That is an extra step of accountability that was put into this bill as an example of trying to give better clarity and framework around applying these bills.

So I’m very pleased that we have been able to tighten up some of that stuff. It does not address all the valid fears and concerns. Yes, we are listening and we do need to take those on board and consider that in our ongoing monitoring and review and application of this legislation.

The full closing speech:


Hon DAVID PARKER (Attorney-General): I do want to put some important points down in my speech in a formal way, which is important at a stage 3 reading in respect of the future interpretation of this legislation. But before that, I do want to respond to Erica Stanford’s suggestion that we could have closed the border earlier. As the Minister of Justice interjected at the time, until less than a week before we closed the border there were about 5,000 New Zealanders—citizens, and permanent residents—returning every day, and it was not possible to put them in quarantine because you quickly run out of hotel beds.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill will create a bespoke and fit for purpose legal framework to support the Government’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 for a maximum of two years, less if COVID-19 is bought under control sooner. This bill includes the necessary powers to enforce the alert 2 measures, and I thank the House for working together to pass this bill under urgency. We have adopted further protections suggested by the Opposition. Passing this bill now is prudent as we move to level 2 on Thursday and into the next phase of our response to COVID-19. The Government’s strategy for COVID-19 and the efforts of all New Zealanders have so far curbed the spread of the virus and the potential devastation it causes.

It remains a precarious journey, but we have broken the chain of community transmission and reduced daily cases dramatically. There is as yet no vaccine and no cure for the virus, and our country must continue to act cautiously so that we maximise our prospect of avoiding or controlling its re-emergence to avoid the loss of life seen overseas, minimise economic damage, and prevent our health system being overwhelmed.

Unlike many other countries around the world, New Zealand is now in a position where it can restore many civil and economic freedoms—and we are. However, the current legal framework is not best suited for enforcing the necessary medium-term public health measures at level 2, where there is increased freedom of movement and more nuanced restrictions: for example, many more businesses can open, provided they take certain safety measures; and gatherings of people can be held, also providing certain precautions—limits on numbers and social distancing rules—are followed.

On this side of the House, we also believe more parliamentary oversight of level 2 and future COVID-19 measures is appropriate, which this bill introduces. We consider it necessary to pass this bill under urgency to help New Zealand to alert level 2 on Thursday, as every additional day is costing New Zealanders greatly, with economic costs and current limits to liberties prolonged. Delay, in our view, also puts at risk the social consensus which underpins the voluntary compliance which epidemic prevention measures rely upon. Enforceable rules to require the minority who flout rules are still needed.

The bill is necessary to continue our response to the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19. It will allow the Minister of Health to issue orders to give effect to public health measures, for example, to require the maintenance of social distancing, prohibiting gatherings of a specified kind, and requiring people to be isolated or quarantined in specified ways. The bill creates a framework for COVID-19 orders, not the orders themselves.

The Minister of Health must have regard to the advice of the Director-General of Health. The Minister of Health may have regard to decisions by Government on the level of public health measures appropriate, which may have taken into account social, economic, and other factors. The Minister of Health is required to consult with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, who will both be concerned with the correct balance of any order, including civil liberties.

Clause 9(2) of the bill makes it clear that the Minister must be satisfied that a proposed section 11 order is appropriate to achieve the purposes of the Act. That links back to the purpose clause 4, which provides the purposes of the Act: “The purpose of [the] Act is to support a public health response to COVID-19”. Subclause (c) says, amongst other things, that the response is to be proportionate. As David Seymour said in earlier stages of the debate, the structure of the decision-making is better and creates more accountability, not less. He is correct, as were the legal experts who also called for ministerial responsibility for these important decisions.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officials powers to enforce the orders and create a new enforcement regime for breaches of the orders. Those infringement notices don’t warrant—sorry—those breaches don’t always warrant criminal prosecution. The police will still exercise their discretion. They will rely mainly on education. But we will have a remedy short of prosecution, which has more serious consequences.

We’ve received feedback from other political parties and legal academics who had the admittedly time-limited opportunity to review an exposure draft of the bill overnight. At the committee stage important changes were made to the bill, some of which were in response to that feedback, so I thank them. The most significant change during committee stage was for the automatic repeal of the bill every 90 days or another period agreed by the House. Essentially, it needs to be refreshed every 90 days with the ability for that period to be longer—for instance, if it was just prior to the election. This is in addition to requiring every section 11 order, the equivalent of the former orders under section 70 of the Health Act, to be approved by parliamentary motion normally within 10 sitting days. The existing Health Act, which currently applies, has neither of these two protections.

Other important changes include clarifying that orders made allowing for premises to open only if specified measures are complied with, or orders prohibiting gatherings of a certain kind—that those don’t apply to Parliament or the courts. We’re clarifying that orders made under the Health Act will continue in force as if made under the bill and can be enforced as if an order was made under this bill. We’re clarifying, in terms of the matters the Minister may have regard to, any decision of the Government on the level of public health measures appropriate to—those are new words—respond to those risks of COVID-19. We’re clarifying that for the purposes of the bill, the range of people who can be enforcement officers will only include those employed or engaged by the Crown.

We’re removing any different treatment for marae in relation to powers of entry under the bill, noting, however, that we’ve added a requirement for the enforcement officer to report to the relevant marae committee if a power of entry was used. I note that marae were originally included to add greater protections, not take them away. However, we’ve listened to concerns from the Māori Council and others following our consultation with them and, accordingly, remove that reference to marae.

In terms of warrantless powers of entry under the bill, the last speaker was again wrong. I observe that broader warrantless powers already exist under section 71 of the Health Act. I don’t have time to read the full suite of those powers, but they are listed at section 71A(1) and are broad. Section 71A(2) of the Health Act makes it clear a constable can enter a building—any building, which includes a private dwellinghouse—for any of those full suite of powers. Clause 20 of this bill is narrower. A warrantless power of entry into a private dwellinghouse under COVID-19 is now limited to situations where the constable has reasonable grounds to believe the limits to gatherings have been breached. This power is, in effect, limited to breaking up parties flouting the rules on gathering size. The enforcement power is intended to limit contagion risks and to enable effective track and tracing if there’s an outbreak we need to get under control.

I note that the Human Rights Commissioner was mistaken in asserting there was no New Zealand Bill of Rights Act vet. There was and it was published. It concluded the power is proportionate. I normally have conducted New Zealand Bill of Rights Act vets, but because I thought myself conflicted by my role here in having can conduct of this bill, we requested the Governor-General to make the Minister of Justice the acting Attorney-General for this limited purpose of that New Zealand Bill of Rights Act vet.

I also repeat the powers in this bill a narrower than under the existing Health Act, and that the orders which trigger those powers will now be subject to more oversight mechanisms by this House, as I have already covered. I commend this bill to the House.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill be now read a third time.

Ayes 63

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.

Noes 57

New Zealand National 55; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.

Bill read a third time.

Handard of closing speechs 

Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill ‘appears to be consistent’ with Bill of Rights Act – MoJ

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency.

The Ministry of Health advice is that the Bill ‘appears to be consistent’ with the Bill of Rights Act.

We have considered whether the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill (‘the Bill’) is consistent with the rights and freedoms affirmed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (‘the Bill of Rights Act’).

We have not yet received a final version of the Bill. This advice has been prepared in relation to the latest version of the Bill (PCO 22923/4.2). We will provide you with further advice if the final version includes amendments that affect the conclusions in this advice.

We have concluded that the Bill appears to be consistent with the rights and freedoms affirmed in the Bill of Rights Act.

It seems that Andrew Little is Acting Attorney General because the Attorney General, David Parker, introduced the Bill and someone else had to advise him on it.

Click to access COVID-19-Public-Health-Response-Bill.pdf

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill under urgency in Parliament

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency. So far just the National Party has opposed the Bill.

The Bill gives the Police the legal ability to walk into anyone’s home without a warrant, so there are risks to civil rights and liberty.

It is being rushed under urgency to try to make the move to Level 2 tonight legal, but it leaves open the question about whether the first move to Level 2 in March may have been illegal.

David Parker:

“This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.”

Michael Woodhouse:

“I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.”

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.”


Attorney General David Parker introduced the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill yesterday:

This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. This is designed to last for a maximum of two years although can be brought to an end earlier if the threat passes.

New Zealanders have been on a precarious journey combatting this virus. We’re not at our final destination yet, but together we’ve made extraordinary progress through the largely voluntary efforts of our people, who accepted the need for unprecedented actions to isolate ourselves in bubbles to cut off the chains of infection.

We went hard and we went early to fight a virus for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. We know it can hide and spread through those with no symptoms, and around the world we’ve seen the devastation and loss of life it can cause, especially in aged care and in dementia units. We’ve negotiated difficult terrain and have broken the chain of community transmission.

In the meantime, we’ve improved our stocks and supply lines for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and reagents as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and distribution. We’ve ramped up testing and the quality and capacity of track and tracing. We’ve minimised the damage the virus would have otherwise done to our people and to our economy.

To date, restrictions at alert levels 3 and 4 were given legal effect by notices under section 70 of the Health Act, in conjunction with the state of emergency under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and the Economic Preparedness Act. To support alert levels 3 and 4, the Director-General has issued notices to close premises, except those providing essential services, prohibiting congregation in outdoor places, and require people to remain at home in their bubble except to access essentials and to exercise. These orders are lawful under the Health Act, and the restrictions proportionate to the scale of the COVID-19 threat.

I think there’s doubt about that, as pointed out here: New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

That said, some aspects of the Health Act do need to be modernised and adapted, and this is particularly true for the detailed level 2 measures, which are not well suited to the existing Health Act and Civil Defence Emergency Management regime. This bill provides new enforceable measures that don’t depend on a state of emergency being in force.

We went into Level 2 and Level 3 before the State of Emergency was announced in March.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.

We acknowledge that it is unusual—though not unprecedented—for a constable to have warrantless power of entry into a private dwelling house. This is due—the fact that it is unusual—to the high expectation of privacy that citizens have in these places.

The extraordinary risk posed by COVID-19—I will cover instances in later speeches; I haven’t got time to detail that now—and the fact that it can be spread readily in large social gatherings, whether in public or in private, justifies the power in these circumstances and the limits it places on rights.

There are safeguards in the bill so that a constable must report every time a warrantless entry power is exercised, summarising the circumstances and the reason why the power needed to be exercised.

This bill will create a new infringement offence regime. Some breaches will be dealt with as an infringement offence, and an intentional breach will be a criminal offence which may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction. An infringement offence regime gives police another graduated step in their enforcement options where the breach is not serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

The bill also amends the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 to ensure a nationally consistent approach to the response and to management of risks arising from COVID-19, and to better deal with concurrent emergencies that are not COVID-19 but which might arise during the period of the COVID-19 response.

We believe this legislation is needed to appropriately continue our response to the unique and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Simon Bridges in reply:

… it’s with regret that I say we have on this side of the House in the National Party, real concerns with this bill. You’ll hear from other members of National about, I am sure, civil liberty concerns—concerns with our freedoms as a people that have been long fought for—in the speeches and contributions. I want to simply place on record my concerns in two areas, really, but four for completeness: funerals, tangi; churches or places of worship; enforcement; and the length of time that this bill—or law, as it will, I think, become—applies for.

…this bill, in coming here, has had very limited scrutiny. There will be, as it becomes law, no select committee. It’s a case of, on this side of the House—I don’t know about the support parties in Government—us having it for less than 24 hours. I think it was Geoffrey Palmer who lamented this Parliament being the fastest lawmaker in the West. Dare I say it, to the members opposite, in recent times we have got it wrong; passing things that we didn’t even know we were passing. So the room for error in this bill, I suggest, is incredibly high, given the legal complexities.

Michael Woodhouse:

I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.

I’m old enough to remember carless days, wage and price freezes, reducing the road speed limit from 100 kilometres to 80 kilometres per hour — that’s right: SMPs — by an executive that road roughshod over this parliamentary process. Even they pale into comparison with the influence and executive fiat that is being exerted on this country by this bill.

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.

Let’s be very clear. If there was a question about whether the level 4 and level 3 lockdown was legally allowed under section 70 of the Health Act—and that is a question yet to be answered—then there’s no doubt that the sort of influence that the Government wants to have in level 2 is not. So if the Government wants to act in this way, it does need to pass legislation. But, as I said in my previous intervention, that is the very time when this place matters most, when the rule of law matters most, and where changes to that law need to be carefully thought through, well-considered, consulted on, robustly debated, and definitely not rushed through.

Now, the Minister of Health, very clearly says there is haste—understandable. But this Government has had three months. I think this Government did get legal advice that said that there was a question mark over their ability to act at level 3 and 4, and, clearly, they wanted to continue to impose themselves on New Zealanders’ lives under level 2 in a way that was entirely inconsistent given what we heard about what level 2 would look like. And so they’re going to pass that bill.

But not even the Minister of Health knows his own legislation, because he said in his speech that he will have to consult with the Director-General of Health. Actually, the bill doesn’t say that; it says quite the opposite. At subclause (2) of clause 9, on page 5, when making a section 11 order, “Nothing in this section requires the Minister to receive specific advice from the Director-General about the content of a proposed order or proposal to amend, extend, or revoke an order.” So he doesn’t need to consult the director-general, and not even Dr Clark knew that.

 I’m sad that at this stage in the process the National Party cannot support this bill, because we want this to be a team of 5 million, but it’s the Government that is racing off in a direction that we cannot support, curtailing the freedom of New Zealanders without their right to have their say. Unless there are material changes to it, which will be signalled, it will be difficult to support this subsequently.

Ron Mark spoke for NZ First but his speech was mainly an attack on National with little altention given to the Bill.

Julie Ann Genter for the Green Party:

I rise in support of this bill.

This bill, I think, is absolutely necessary to ensure that all New Zealanders will benefit from the period of lockdown that we’ve already been in, and will benefit from being assured that that the rules will be able to be enforced. Because even if the vast majority of New Zealanders embrace these rules and want to stop the spread of COVID-19, it would only take a small number who ignore the rules to cause an outbreak that could quite quickly become very serious and cause us to have to move back to a stricter level.

So, of course, the vast majority of New Zealanders support the actions that have been taken thus far. I think they will absolutely respect the rules in level 2, which are not at all arbitrary, but absolutely informed by what is going to prevent the spread of the illness.

Many people were pushing boundaries if not overstepping them under Level 3 over the last two weeks.

Of course, the Green Party would always prefer that there would be a select committee, even a very short one, and we would’ve liked to have seen that. But we also understand the need for urgency right now, given the move to level 2 at—was it at midnight on Thursday morning or 11:59 Wednesday? So recognising that this is a very, very short period of time and that there was a desire to move back to level 2 sooner rather than later, then we can understand this.

But the Bill didn’t have to be only introduced to Parliament the day before the we go back down to Level 2.

David Seymour (ACT):

I rise on behalf of ACT in support of this bill to its first reading. The reason ACT supports the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill is very simple. It’s about the rule of law, and the rule of law matters because if it means anything to be a New Zealander, it is to live freely under democracy and the rule of law: to be able to send representatives to this House to make laws that are clear, that we can read for ourselves and understand what the law is. Having the rule of law protects the weakest people in our society because they can see it written down and it applies equally to every person.

But, unfortunately, I can only support this bill to the first reading, through this urgent process, because it has some real problems. I can understand the Government going through urgency. I won’t relitigate the issues that got us here, except to say that it has been four months–actually, nearly four and a half months–since it became clear to countries such as Taiwan that there might be an issue.

The idea that this has all suddenly happened and the Government has to rush Parliament through urgency now is a poor reflection on the preparedness of the Government. But, no matter, we’re here, and we have to rush this through urgency so we can get to level 2 lawfully and quickly. Understood.

There was a lot of debate over the severe restrictions on funerals still.

The Bill looks certain to pass, probably today, with the support of Labour, NZ First and the Green Party and possibly ACT.

First and second reading votes were the same:

  • Ayes 64 New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1.
  • Noes 56 New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Hansard (Tuesday): https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20200512_20200512_34

Hansard (Wednesday: Tuesday, 12 May 2020 (continued on Wednesday, 13 May 2020) – Volume 745

 

 

New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

While the Government claims that restrictions under Alert Level 4 and 3 were legal they are still introducing a bill into Parliament today aimed at providing a new law “providing a legal framework for Covid-19 Alert Level 2”.

They say they don’t want to rely on a National State of Emergency for the lower level, but they didn’t back in March when we first went into lockdown in Marchh. See Prime Minister’s statement on State of National Emergency and Epidemic Notice

Having considered the advice of the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management, the Minister of Civil Defence declared a State of National Emergency for the whole of New Zealand under section 66 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 on March the 25th 2020 at 12.21pm.

Also, under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, yesterday I issued an Epidemic Notice, nationwide, to help ensure the continuity of essential Government business due to the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic, COVID-19, which is likely to significantly disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand.

This Epidemic Notice came into effect today, the 25th of March 2020, just after midnight and it will remain for three months with ongoing review, and from which, now further Epidemic Management Notices and Epidemic Modification Orders can be given…

We went to Alert Level 2 before that, on 21 March, and then to Alert Level 3 on 23 March, before the state of emergency was announced and before the Epidemic Notice was issued.

Things had to be done urgently, but they also should have been done legally.

From the Beehive: Covid-19 response: New legal framework to be debated tomorrow ahead of Alert Level 2

The Government intends to pass the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill through all stages on Tuesday 12 May so that it can be enacted by Wednesday 13 May.

“As I announced on Friday, the changes will ensure controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable,” Attorney-General David Parker said today.

Enforceability to date has relied on the Epidemic Notice, the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

As shown above, apparently not under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act for the first level 2 and 3, and also not under the Epidemic Notice.

“There will be fewer restrictions under Alert Level 2 but those remaining still need to be enforceable. We don’t want these narrower controls to rely on a National State of Emergency. “

This suggests that the first restrictions under Alert Level 2 and 3 were not legally enforceable.

“However, the regulatory backup provided by the new law allows us to address behaviour at Alert Level 2 that is particularly harmful to the public health objective, and to demonstrate to those who are complying voluntarily that non-compliance will not be tolerated,” he said.

“We need the legislation in place before Level 2 starts.

“The Government has assessed there is not time for the usual select committee process but we do want a necessarily brief opportunity for comment on the bill. Therefore we have released a disclosure draft of the Bill to the Opposition and experts, and have invited comment on it by 10am, Tuesday 12 May.

Parliament re-opened last week, and they should have foreseen the need before the last minute (last day). Perhaps the judicial review filed in the High Court last week has prompted an attempt to make the lower alert levels legal.

“I reiterate there has been no gap in the legal underpinning or in the enforcement powers under the notices that have been issued under Level 3 and Level 4. This bill does not retrospectively change them.”

The dates above suggest otherwise, and it also puts into further question the legal underpinning of the enforcement powers for Alert Level 2 (and 3) back in March.

It’s good to see them getting the legal side of the lockdowns tidied up, but Parker shouldn’t have claimed it was fine from the start.

Leaked documents “not considered advice of Crown Law” but new law proposed anyway

Claims continue that leaked Crown Law documents suggested that level 4 lockdown restrictions were not legally enforceable (at least before a new health notice was issued in early April) but in response Attorney-General David Parker has said the document was a draft – and “not the considered advice of Crown Law” and “there was no gap in enforcement powers.”

However Parker is going to introduce new law next week to “ensure that controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable”. That may be an aimed at preempting a judicial review that is pending in the High Court that seeks to challenge the legality of the lockdown restrictions – see A better looking challenge of Covid lockdown legality.

NZ Herald:  Leaked Crown Law documents question legal force of alert level 4 rules

The Crown Law documents seen by Newstalk ZB say the police powers were severely limited under the first directive of director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

That was amended anyway in early May.

However Parker insisted in a statement that the documents were not the “considered advice” of Crown Law:

“Recent speculation that the Government’s legal advice had thrown doubt on the police enforcement powers under Level 4 is wrong,” he said.

“That speculation is based on draft views provided to agencies for feedback. That was not the considered advice of Crown Law, which was that there was no gap in enforcement powers.”

Shown the Crown Law documents, University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the restrictions wouldn’t allow the police to stop people from moving about and doing virtually anything, like surfing, if they weren’t congregating.

But Andrew Geddis:

Shown the Crown Law documents, University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the restrictions wouldn’t allow the police to stop people from moving about and doing virtually anything, like surfing, if they weren’t congregating.

So this meant the full range of level 4 announced restrictions actually couldn’t be enforced by the police.

“The police powers under other legislation (especially the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act) is really limited – basically, they can only be used against people who have/are suspected of having COVID-19,” Professor Geddis said.

But the Police:

In a statement released tonight a police spokesman said officers did act lawfully.

“We sought legal advice, which also took into account advice from Crown Law, in relation to the initial Health Notice (25 March). On the basis of this advice, we were able to issue appropriate operational guidance to enable our people to act lawfully in circumstances.”

Ten days after the level 4 lockdown started Bloomfield issued a second directive, again under the Health Act. It effectively told everyone to stay in their houses, unless they were on essential business.

The police then issued their own guidelines on how they could enforce it.

“The key point being, between March 24 and April 3 much of the “Lockdown rules” actually had no enforceability in law – which is what Crown Law is saying, and which is why the new notice had to be issued,” Professor Geddis said.

So the problem was then rectified, maybe, (subject to the judicial review).

Graeme Edgler also seems to have had doubts about legality but thought the actions sensible.

Despite Police and Attorney-General claims that restrictions were legal the law is going to be changed anyway. From the Beehive:


Covid-19 response: New legal framework as move to Alert Level 2 considered

A new law providing a legal framework for Covid-19 Alert Level 2 will be introduced and debated next week.

“The changes will ensure that controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable,” Attorney-General David Parker said.

Enforceability to date has relied on the Epidemic Notice, the Health Act and the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

There will be fewer restrictions under Alert Level 2 but those remaining still need to be enforceable. We don’t want these narrower controls to rely on a National State of Emergency.

“I would reiterate what the Prime Minister has said: There has been no gap in the legal underpinning or in the enforcement powers under the notices that have been issued under Level 3 and Level 4. This change is not retrospective and does not need to be.

“All notices that have been issued are in the public domain, as is the legislation upon which they are based.”

Recent speculation that the Government’s legal advice had thrown doubt on the police enforcement powers under Level 4 is wrong. That speculation is based on draft views provided to agencies for feedback. That was not the considered advice of Crown Law, which was that there was no gap in enforcement powers.

The new law will also:

  • Recognise the centrality of health factors in the measures we need to take;
  • Provide that the Minister of Health become the decision maker on the advice of the Director-General of Health;
  • Provide a transparent basis for how the rules will work and how they can be enforced;
  • Also provide for economic and social factors to be taken into account in determining appropriate measures.

“The country has achieved considerable success in addressing the Covid-19 threat. We have all given up some our liberties as we have worked together to save thousands of lives. As we reduce strictures and restore freedoms, we expect the vast majority of New Zealanders will continue to comply voluntarily with the necessary measures at all Alert Levels, but as we have consistently said, we will enforce the rules where there is serious non-compliance.”

Government fast-tracking RMA procedures, green concerns

The Government is changing the law to enable the fast-tracking of Resource Management Act procedures

Beehive:  Fast-track consenting to get shovel-ready projects moving

The Government has announced a major element of its COVID-19 rebuild plan with a law change that will fast track eligible development and infrastructure projects under the Resource Management Act to help get New Zealand moving again.

Environment Minister David Parker said the sorts of projects that would benefit from quicker consenting included roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal from silted rivers and estuaries, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent landfill erosion.

The changes were approved by Cabinet last week and new legislation is expected to be passed in June.

“We are acting quickly to get the economy moving again and our people working. Part 2 of the RMA will still be applied. Projects are being advanced in time, but environmental safeguards remain,” David Parker said.

If the process can be sped up like this without compromising on environmental safeguards why couldn’t something like this have been done years ago?

“The consenting and approval processes that are used in normal circumstances don’t provide the speed and certainty we need now in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19. The new processes will get projects started sooner and people into jobs faster.

“Investment in infrastructure is central to the Government’s economic plan to keep New Zealanders in jobs. We have already signalled major projects as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade project.

“Ideas from district and regional councils as well as NGOs and the private sector will be considered.

“Job-rich projects like core infrastructure, housing, and environmental restoration are crucial to the Government’s plan to stimulate the economy and help us recover from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some large-scale government-led projects, including those in the NZTA’s Land Transport Programme, will be named in the legislation to go through the fast-track consent process. Some works by government agencies will be able to start “as of right”.

“Projects that help alleviate housing challenges, encourage active transport and enhance the environment are prioritised under the proposal,” David Parker said.

I wonder if this will be a temporary fast tracking or a permanent reform.

RNZ: Government looks to fast-track infrastructure projects after lockdown

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said it was important that those projects get back under way as soon as possible because of the wider impact on the nation.

“You’ve got 300,000 Kiwis approaching a level of joblessness that no one of my generation ever saw – and I was a child of Rogernomics.

“We have got to be prepared to follow basically the old saying of Machiavelli … which is never squander a good crisis to address issues that ordinarily you wouldn’t do.

“As I’ve said in the past, needs must where the devil drives.”

Mark Binns is the chair of the infrastructure industry reference group leading the project, and said creating jobs was one of the key focuses of the group.

“What we’re looking to do is obviously support New Zealanders in jobs and support key strategic disciplines in horizontal and vertical building around the country, so we’re looking right around the country in all the regions as to where we can help and we will have a list with the ministers sometime in early May.”

Construction businesses endorsed the move, with Fulton Hogan managing director Cos Bruyn saying the announcement gave him confidence – but it was still a case of wait and see.

While Greens have been suggesting that projects that help the climate and the environment should be given priority they are wary of speeding up processes.

RNZ:  Greens raise concerns about planned law to fast-track resource consents

The new legislation, due to be passed in June, would take away the ability of the public and councils to have input into whether projects proceed and instead hand this power to a small panels of experts, chaired by an Environment Court judge.

Decisions would be issued within 25 working days and, while existing Treaty of Waitangi settlements would be upheld, appeal rights would be limited to points of law and judicial review.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said her party objected to removing public consultation, even for a limited time.

“This is why I want to hear from the public, and iwi and hapū, with concerns to the select committee process … we will be listening and taking on those concerns to get further improvements to this bill.”

That sounds like it could take a lot longer than the Government would like, but the the Greens may be impotent on this.

Labour, New Zealand First, National and ACT are all agreed on something – the RMA is not doing its job.

National’s spokesperson for RMA reform, Judith Collins, said it was about time changes were made and her party would likely consider the changes “favourably” once it had a chance to see the details.

“It does seem to me to be a recognition the RMA is not fit for purpose for doing almost anything.”

Mike Smith from the National Iwi Chairs Forum is leading their work on the matter – he will be meeting with ministers about it later today.

He said they’re glad to see environmental initiatives are now more front and centre and that land returned via treaty settlements will be protected from development.

The legislation risks poor decision making, Jen Miller of Forest and Bird told Morning Report.

There is a lack of clarity and communication about what the legislation will mean for the environment, she said.

She isn’t confident that the decision-making process will factor in a large project’s long term environmental effects.

Under the RMA there’s been ongoing destruction of the environment, she said.

“Climate disruption will cause huge impacts on people and our environment.

“In our view, projects need to provide help genuinely provide opportunities for recovery for people and the planet.”

That has conflicted with growth and ‘progress’, and is now going to come up against the rush to reinvigorate business and the economy after the Covid shock.

 

Emissions and Freshwater reports from the Beehive this week

One topic continues to dominate our lives, the news and Government at the moment, but what else has come out of the Beehive this week? Not much. Just two other media releases, one on carbon emissions which is a bit out of date (2017-2018), and another on a the Freshwater 2020 report just released.

Emissions report shows progress, and the work ahead

New Zealand is making limited progress to reduce its emissions, but not nearly quickly enough, the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said today in response to the release of the latest annual inventory of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases.

“The report gives us the most up to date picture of how much we still have to do to solve climate change. Narrowing the gap between where we are now, and where we need to be, is the difference between handing our children a better world, or more crises in the future.

Net emissions fell by 3 percent in 2018 compared to 2017 levels. Gross emissions in 2018 decreased by 1 percent on 2017 levels. However, between 1990 and 2018, gross emissions increased by 24 percent.

Over the same period economic growth increased by 3.2% so it is possible to do more and pollute less.

But this isn’t very up to date, it doesn’t include last year and of course there’s major disruption this year so it’s hard to know what will happen.

Measures introduced by this Government to help drive down emissions include the Zero Carbon Act; the creation of the Climate Change Commission; reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme; the first set of emissions budgets; billions of dollars invested in rail, light rail, buses, walking and cycling infrastructure; a Joint Action Plan for Primary Sector Emissions; the Billion Trees programme; and the end of new offshore fossil fuel exploration.

In 2018, New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions comprised of 44 percent carbon dioxide, 43 per cent methane, 10 per cent nitrous oxide and 2 per cent fluorinated gases. The agriculture and energy sectors were the two largest contributors to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions at 48 percent and 41 percent respectively. Increases in emissions from dairy cattle and road transport remain the largest contributors to the growth in emissions since 1990.

The full inventory report and a snapshot here.

Freshwater report highlights need for continued efforts to protect and restore healthy waterways

Our Freshwater 2020, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, underlines the importance of government efforts to ensure healthy freshwater, protect native freshwater biodiversity, make land use more sustainable and combat climate change.

Environment Minister David Parker said the report will help inform the work already underway, to protect and restore waterways and the life in them.

The report highlights the inherent connection between people and the environment: our activities on land are having a negative effect on our freshwater ecosystems and the plants and animals that live in them.

Each catchment is different, so it is challenging to present a national picture of the state of our freshwater, but some conclusions are clear; our native freshwater species and ecosystems are under threat; water is polluted in urban, farming, and forestry areas; and the way we change water flows can have a range of impacts on freshwater ecosystems.

These issues combined, and with the impact of climate change, add up to significant pressure on our freshwater species and habitats.

David Parker said the Government has work underway to address the issues presented in the report.

He  noted that the Resource Management Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament, which will also benefit freshwater health and help mitigate climate change impacts.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said all the issues in the report are made worse by climate change and that is why this government is so determined to take strong action.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said the report highlighted the importance of law changes last year to protect native fish, and the work the Department of Conservation was leading to develop a new national biodiversity strategy.

“The freshwater report outlines well the pressures on native fish such as īnanga/whitebait and the importance of reducing sediment and nitrogen pollution and barriers to fish migration to ensure healthy fish populations,” said Eugenie Sage.

The Our Freshwater 2020 report is available here.

 

Ardern says Jones was loose and wrong, but Jones unrepentant

Shane Jones made controversial comments on Newshub in the weekend that have been labeled racist – see Shane Jones accused of stoking racism and embarrassing Peters.

Both his leader Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were out of the country then. Yesterday back in New Zealand Ardern said that Jones was loose with his words and wrong.

RNZ: PM Jacinda Ardern publicly reprimands Shane Jones over Indian immigrant remarks:

Over the weekend, Jones told the Newshub Nation he wanted a “maximum population”, and New Zealand needed to think about the kind of country we wanted.

“If you want another million, two million, three million people, we should debate it and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi.

“I don’t like that idea at all. I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he told Newshub Nation.

Ardern said…

…Jones was not in the Cabinet meeting today, but she planned to have a strong word with him.

“On many occasions I’ve witnessed Minister Jones be both loose with his language and also be wrong, and on this occasion he was both”.

“I take that very seriously, which is why I’m very, very clear I totally disagree with Shane Jones, I will be telling him that, and I will also be asking him to reconsider the way he talks about these issues in the future because I do not believe it is good for New Zealand”.

Ardern said while she had been advised the comments did not have any impact on the trip or New Zealand’s relationship with India, it went beyond that, because it affected our local community.

Advised by Peters? Or by David Parker, who really fudged around questioning on RNZ.

Jones’ outburst came as Trade Minister David Parker and Foreign Minister Winston Peters – Jones’ boss – were in India discussing ways to strengthen ties.

This morning Parker dodged questions from Morning Report’s Susie Fergusson about whether Jones’ comments were unhelpful.

“I’d make the point that when you’re having a debate about population you’ve got to be careful about language,” he said.

Parker refused to say whether the comments were racist or dog-whistle politics.

“I actually get on with Shane Jones well and when I think he’s gone too far I tell him privately,” he said.

However, he would not say if this was such an occasion.

Simon Bridges criticisms are likely to be largely lost in a long list of whinges.

Waitakere Indian Association President Sunil Kaushal said Jones’ comments were racist and Ardern needed to ensure this sentiment didn’t keep being repeated.

“This is a three-strikes-out kind of a thing, you know, she needs to really have a chat with her Cabinet and the leader of Shane Jones’ party that his behaviour is unacceptable in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, diversity inclusive New Zealand. This is not who we are,” he said.

Jones acts like an unrestrained loose cannon. In January: Demands Shane Jones apologise over ‘sexist’ Pania Newton comments. I don’t remember seeing any retraction or apology after that.

Stuff reports that Jones is unrepentant, suggesting that he was mandated by NZ First to “continually” speak about a “maximum population policy” the party intends to bring to the public in the election year – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Shane Jones was ‘loose’ and ‘wrong’.

But Jones… quickly turned the reprimand into an opportunity to electioneer.

When the Prime Minister speaks, on behalf of the Government, she is never wrong. But my remarks need to be seen through the prism of an MP on an election year,” he told Stuff.

“I’ll take it on the chin.”

Jones said the NZ First caucus had mandated him to “continually” speak about a “maximum population policy” the party intends to bring to the public in the election year.

The details of such any such policy were left vague. Jones said the public needed to discuss what the right mix of character, skills or talent migrants should bring to New Zealand, and how many should come.

He said claims his stance on immigration was racist, or that he was inelegantly discussing the matter was “a perception that I now have to manage”.

It seems to be a perception he has deliberately put out in the public.

And it appears that once again Jones couldn’t give a stuff about ‘stern’ reprimands from the Prime Minister. Being a responsible minister this term seems less important to him than trying to return to Parliament next term.

Another headline this morning to the same article on Jones attack on Indians: ‘This is not who we are’ – PM repudiates Jones’ remarks – but blatantly sexist and racist seems very much who Jones is.

It looks like he, and presumably Peters, are hoping there are enough racists and sexists who don’t feel betrayed by NZ First support of a Labour-led government will vote for NZ First to rescue them from political oblivion.

The problem with alienating various groups is it reduces the pool of voters who may vote for you.

Wellbeing budget – transformative, or just ‘variation on a them’

Peter Dunne has said that most budgets he has seen (34 while an MP)  are just variations on a theme – and he includes this year’s ‘wellbeing budget’ in that description.

@honpeterdunne:

I saw 34 Budgets in my time – twice as many as Parker.

The biggest changes were Douglas’s reforms in 1984; Richardson’s Fiscal Responsibility Act in 1994, and English’s social investment reforms after 2015.

The rest, including this year’s, are just variations on a theme.

Others (I have heard a number of people promote this theme) have said that the this year’s budget is not transformational on it’s own, but sets a framework for transformation in the future.

Glen Bennett (New Plymouth Labour Committee Spokesperson):  Wellbeing budget transformational framework for New Zealanders

This week the Hon Grant Robertson delivered the Coalition Government’s second Budget. This Wellbeing Budget 2019 is different from any we’ve seen in New Zealand.

In the past budgets have had one measure, Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Simply put, GDP measures the value of economic activity within a country, what we earn and what we spend those earnings on.

In Addition to GDP, Wellbeing Budget 2019 is measured across five other key priorities, aimed at improving the wellbeing of all New Zealanders and broadening the Budget’s focus beyond economic and fiscal policy.

The priorities are; taking mental health seriously, improving child wellbeing, supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations, building a productive nation and transforming the economy.

In the lead up to the Wellbeing Budget, in his Budget Policy Statement, the Hon Grant Robertson said:

“Faced with complex issues such as child poverty, inequality, and climate change, we cannot hope to make the best choices for current and future generations if we do not look beyond economic growth and consider social, environmental, and economic implications together.

“While economic growth is important for creating opportunities, our recent history shows that focusing on it alone can be counterproductive and associated with poor outcomes such as greater inequality and pollution.”

Recently several people have asked me what I see as being transformational about this Government, questioning if it’s just business as usual with nothing innovative or new.

The introduction of a Wellbeing Budget is something that I see as being transformational for New Zealand over a long period of time.

The Wellbeing Budget has challenged those sitting around the Cabinet table to look differently at the funding  they lobby for, to look across all Ministries in a holistic way, measuring their long term goals and aspirations against the five priorities of the Wellbeing Budget.

This can only be good for New Zealand and our wellbeing. I can’t see a quick fix to inequality, environmental challenges, child poverty or our mental health crisis, but this is a start.

It’s a moment in time when our Government is laying out a framework that will be transformational for all New Zealanders, not only in 2019, but for years to come.

Mental Health Foundation: Wellbeing Budget 2019 a good start towards transformation

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) are pleased the Government are taking mental health seriously by creating a $1.9 billion mental health package, announced in today’s Wellbeing Budget.

“The funding and initiatives set out in today’s budget are a fantastic start, but it’s crucial Government keep up the momentum into the future if we are to create a New Zealand where all people can experience positive mental health.”

But…

Rod Oram: Budget long on rhetoric, short on transformative funding

… the Government chose six priorities for its first Wellbeing Budget, and devised some innovative ways to bring multiple agencies of Government together to work on each.

This approach has brought about the biggest changes in the three priorities focused on people – mental health, child wellbeing and Maori and Pasifika aspirations. The investment will be substantial, particularly on mental health, and applied in some novel ways.

However, the Government has made far less progress in applying the wellbeing methodology to its other three priorities  – the productive economy, the environment and infrastructure investment.

All three are largely business-as-usual with only a few gestures to new and co-ordinated approaches; they don’t get to grips with the massive transformation all three need; and, worse, there are some serious disconnects between them.

…but it has none of the innovation in programmes or serious commitment of money that the other three capitals have. Yet it is this transition to the low carbon economy which will drive our transformation to a highly productive economy, wealth generating and strongly sustainable nation.

So, while this is a good start on the Wellbeing Budget in social areas, the Government has a Herculean task ahead in economic and environmental ones. One simple search of the Budget document illustrates this: The four new capitals used – financial and physical, natural, social and human had just 17 references in the 149 pages of the Budget document.

David Hall (senior researcher in politics at the Auckland University of Technology): Ardern more transitional than transformational:

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saddled herself with the word “transformational”. She used it heavily in the heady days of the 2017 election campaign, although less so in the compromised reality of a coalition government. Still, it is the aspiration she is held to. The 2019 wellbeing Budget is held to it by association.

But how do we know transformation when we see it?

Obviously, transformation must go beyond the status quo. But to be transformative, it must also go beyond mere reform.

A reform agenda recognises that trouble is brewing, that social, economic and environmental trends are on the wrong track. It accepts that major changes to policy and lifestyle may be required. As sustainable development research shows, it does “not locate the root of the problem in the nature of present society, but in imbalances and a lack of knowledge and information”.

It tends to reach for existing policy levers, and to hang its hopes on technical solutions. It reacts to the toughest choices by devising new frameworks for analysing them.

The wellbeing Budget easily goes this far. Finance minister Grant Robertson is entitled to say, as he did in his Budget speech, that this is a government “not satisfied with the status quo”.

A transformative agenda goes further. It sees problems as rooted in the present structure of society. It isn’t only about managing the flaws and oversights of the dominant system, but overturning the system itself. This involves an order of ambition that the wellbeing Budget lacks.

There is another word for change that the Prime Minister sides with: not “transformation” but just transition. This is the idea that socioeconomic change should be guided by principles of justice, such as equity and inclusivity, to minimise the disruption change can bring. The aim of a just transition is to achieve revolution without revolt.

Ardern obviously sees the idea of a just transition as more broadly relevant, contrasting it with the “rapid, uncaring change” of structural reforms in 1980s New Zealand. To my mind, this better captures the temper of this Government – not transformational, but potentially transitional.

But transformation and transition are just simple labels.

Labour ministers and MPs have kept saying that they can’t change ‘9 years of neglect’ (I think an unfair label) with a single budget, but this was their second budget.

Transformation or revolutionary change takes longer than a three year term in an MMP Parliament.

The Government’s third budget will be trying to balance a carefully nurtured image of financial prudence with further signs of transformational intent – as long as they are re-elected.

Much my depend on whether voters chose to keep the transformation-resistant NZ First party in the mix to moderate changes, or dump them and take a risk with a Labour-Green Government. (Returning National to power looks a long shot at this stage but is an option for those preferring more incremental change than Labour/NZ First).