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Controversial COVID-19 Act referred to select committee

21 May 2020

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

Last week the bill was passed under urgency.

There was concern at aspects of the bill by the Human Rights Commissioner – who said he was “deeply concerned about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process” and the NZ Council for Civil Liberties while neither the National party nor the ACT party supported it.

Attorney-General David Parker says the review would be reported back to the House by 27 July, 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,” Mr Parker says.

He says 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.

Mr 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.

Last updated on the 21st May 2020