New Zealand Law Society - COVID response and immigration bills introduced

COVID response and immigration bills introduced

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The Government has introduced two bills to Parliament in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill is an omnibus bill which introduces amendments that will assist New Zealand to respond to the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19, including changes to enable businesses, local government, and others to manage and mitigate the impacts of the response to COVID-19, and to make minor changes to mitigate issues relating to COVID-19.

The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Bill aims to ensure that the Government can respond appropriately and efficiently to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing additional flexibility in the immigration system.

“The Government is ensuring businesses affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19 can access the assistance they need to stay afloat as we get New Zealand moving again,” Minister of Finance Grant Robertson says on the Response bill.

The bill makes changes to the Companies Act to help businesses facing insolvency due to COVID-19 to remain viable by:

  • placing existing debt into hibernation until they can start trading normally again,
  • giving directors of companies facing significant liquidity problems due to COVID-19 confidence they can keep trading by providing a ‘safe harbour’ for their insolvency-related duties under the Companies Act, and
  • providing temporary relief for companies and other entities – including Māori governance entities – facing difficulties in complying with their statutory obligations, or obligations under their constitutions or rules, because of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Immigration bill will enable the government to amend visa conditions for groups of people, extend visas for groups of people for varying periods of time (enabling processing to be staggered), stop people overseas from making visa applications while it is not possible to travel to New Zealand due to border restrictions, and provide the ability to refuse entry to people who are deemed to hold a visa.

“The bill presents a pragmatic solution to practical challenges arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic for migrants in New Zealand and the New Zealand Government”, says Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway.

Both bills passed their first reading and are now at the select committee stage.

Meanwhile, the State of National Emergency to support the COVID-19 response will be extended a sixth time, for a further seven days.