New Zealand Law Society - 32 pieces of legislation await Order in Council

32 pieces of legislation await Order in Council

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Information from the Parliamentary Counsel Office tabled in Parliament shows that at 1 July 2016 there were 32 pieces of legislation waiting to be brought into force by Order in Council.

Some of this included whole Acts - such as the Antarctica (Environmental Protection: Liability Annex) Amendment Act 2012 - or single provisions of an Act.

The provisions which have been around the longest without being brought into force - for 28 years and 24 days at 23 August 2016 - are sections 14 and 29 of the Finance Act (No 2) 1988. Until 1 December 2015 there were three provisions of that Act awaiting Order in Council, but the Finance Act (No 2) 1988 Commencement Order 2015 activated section 23.

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Notes from the Parliamentary Counsel Office state that section 14 (which would amend the now repealed Real Estates Agents Act 1976) and section 29 (which permits insertion of references in a now-repealed schedule in the SOE Act 1986) no longer have a purpose. The PCO says the two sections will be proposed for repeal in a statutes repeal bill.

A reasonable amount of the legislation dates from the 1990s, with eight pieces of legislation (25% of total) having been enacted during that decade. 

Some of the legislation is awaiting ratification of international agreements and treaties. The Nuclear-Test-Ban Act 1999 received the Royal Assent on 9 March 1999 and sounds like a useful piece of law. However, it seeks to implement New Zealand's obligations under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which is not in force and is awaiting all 44 Annex 2 countries to ratify the treaty. This was signed by New Zealand on 27 September 1996. The last state to sign was Niue on 9 April 2012, and 36 Annex 2 countries have ratified it so far. "At this point it is difficult to predict when the CTBT will enter into force," the PCO helpfully states.

The often-discussed Sentencing Council lingers on in the Parole Amendment Act 2007, with four complete sections and part of another awaiting Order in Council. These relate to changes to parole eligibility and parole guidelines to be prepared by the Sentencing Council.

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"The Government has indicated it will not proceed with the establishment of the Sentencing Council and the Amendment Act is to be repealed in the Statutes Repeal Bill," the PCO says.

It's uncertain what the 17-year impact of section 3 of the State-Owned Enterprises (Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited and Vehicle Testing New Zealand Limited) Amendment Act 1999 has been on weather forecasters. The PCO says section 3 relates to a situation where Meteorological Service of New Zealand Ltd ceases to be a State enterprise.

Sections 87 and 88 of the Human Tissue Act 2008 have also been awaiting an Order in Council since the Act received the Royal Assent on 18 April 2008. These two sections reflect Parliament's intention to provide for the possibility of a stand-alone organ donor register to be established in the future - a matter which has been in the news recently. The PCO says the Ministry of Health recommends that sections 87 and 88 be retained.