Feedback obtained by the Law Commission on its work over 2018 and 2019 was very positive, the Commission says in its annual report for the year to 30 June 2019.
In an introduction to the report, Deputy President Helen McQueen says the Commission obtained formal third-party feedback on its final reports in the Second Review of the Evidence Act 2006 and the Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.
"That feedback was very positive. While formal feedback was not sought on the ministerial briefing paper on Alternative Approaches to Abortion Law, informal feedback was equally positive. On reviewing all feedback and other information about its performance, the Board of the Commission concluded that: 'the Commission's performance was more than satisfactory and that it has made a significant contribution to maintaining confidence that New Zealand has laws supporting a modern democracy, a just society and an efficient economy'."
The Commission appointed former Commission President and Court of Appeal Judge Sir Bruce Robertson as an independent peer reviewer to review its performance over the year.
Ms McQueen says Sir Bruce considered that the performance measures against which the Commission's work is to be measured have been satisfied.
Sir Bruce's report was provided to the Minister responsible for the Law Commission. Ms McQueen says the Commission was very pleased with the Minister's advice that "I am happy to express positive feedback on the timeliness and quality of reports by the Commission, in particular the briefing paper on a health approach to abortion which I specifically commissioned. The Law Commission's work continues to provide a firm foundation on which to develop legislative reform."
Financial situation and challenges
Ms McQueen says the Commission made bids for increases in its appropriations in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but was unsuccessful each time. Its annual income figure of $3,993,000 has therefore remained unchanged.
"The Commission has endeavoured to manage its operating budget in a prudent manner. The year under review has resulted in an annual operating surplus of $70,280 against a forecast operating deficit of $484,816," she says.
However, she notes that the operating surplus reflects decreasing staffing levels which must be addressed if the Commission is to function efficiently and effectively.
"Without additional funding, the Commission will reach its minimum level of reserves in late 2021."
She says the combination of reduced numbers of legal and policy advisers and having non-permanent corporate staff, together with the general uncertainty about the Commission's financial position, has affected the Commission's ability to deliver its law reform programme in an efficient and effective manner.