New Zealand

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Have any emergency powers been enacted in response to the covid-19 pandemic in your country? How long do they last, what are the provisions for extension/prolongation, what are the provisions for review?

The NZ government declared a state of emergencyon 25 March, and issued a COVID-19 epidemic notice.

State of emergency (under the Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002) was for an initial 7 days, and has been twice extended (last time on 07.04.20).

Powers allow authorities to do all sorts of things, eg: close or restrict access to roads or public places; remove or secure dangerous structures or materials; provide rescue, first aid, food, shelter; conserveessential supplies; regulate traffic; dispose of human/animal fatalities; enter premises to rescue people or save lives; evacuate premises or places; remove vehicles and vessels; requisition property, equipment, materials, assistance; direct and coordinate workers; direct people to stop doing anything that might contribute to the emergency.

In NZ, there is a Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) group that incorporates central/local govt, emergency services, police, defence force, among others. This group can be mobilised in other emergencies (eg earthquakes) and are part of the picture with the pandemic. CDEM Director, plus PM, plus ‘Minister of Civil Defence’ declared the state of emergency and are involved in review.

So far, powers have been activated for requisitions (eg of carparks to be used as community assessment centres) and by the police to prevent people from doing ‘non-essential activities’.

Epidemic notice (under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006) will lasts 3 months, with ongoing review. These power allow the executive branch to amend legislation ‘to enable the effective management of serious outbreaks of disease’(ie usual lawmaking processes are bypassed for law under urgency).

Also, many powers exist under established legislation:

EG Health Act 1956 allows the Government to require people to be isolated, quarantined or disinfected, force people to remain where they are, and requisition equipment, vehicles and buildings.

EG Immigration Act 2009 allows Minister to issue instructions on entry to NZ, including in relation to health matters. This meant that the Minister quickly imposed a requirement on individuals to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival, and to stop issue of visas for visitors.

Other laws passed under urgency – to deal with economic impacts, eg enactment of a 6 month freeze directed to any rent increases.

Health Notice issued (05.04.20) -- People cannot leave home to hunt, tramp, swim, take part in other water-based activities, such as surfing and boating, or do anything that may put them in danger or require help from rescue services.

Have any restrictions on public gatherings been imposed?How are they enforced?

The NZ response has been guided by a new Alert system.

At time of writing, NZ is on Level 4 (highest level) of the alert system.

We are now on a 4 week lockdown – focused on ‘eliminating’ Covid-19 from New Zealand. This has meant that all schools and workplaces (except essential services – eg supermarkets, doctors, hospitals) are closed. Everyone has been instructed to stay at home and only associate with those in their ‘bubble’ (their house). We can go out for local ‘individual’ walks, with instruction to keep at least 2m apart from any other people). 

Have restrictions on leaving home been imposed? How are they enforced?

Police Commissioner Mike Bush has made comments that any "serious breaches and prolific breaches" could see rulebreakers facing up to six months in prison. 

07.04.20 – reported that 300 people had been ‘caught’ breaking lockdown rules – most got warning, but 16 people were facing prosecution

There has been some discussion about the lack of transparency about police powers to enforce lockdowns.

28 March – NZ Police issued Operational Policing Guidelines during Alert Level 4 (these were not initially made public, but placed on NZ Police site in April)

29 March: Police also launched online form for public to report Level 4 restriction breaches (the site crashed on 30th!):

Have any other new powers been granted to law enforcement authorities? (e.g. in the UK, to detain potentially infectious persons)

At 09.04.20 – PM announced that from 10.04.20, all people arriving into NZ will go into compulsory quarantine for 14 days. Would be met at the airport and taken to a ‘quarantine facility’ (not clear what any of this entails at the moment). Also detailed that surveillance equipment/phone apps being considered to ensure people stay where they are supposed to be. (nb this will apply to returning residents and citizens, as foreign arrivals are barred).

Are the authorities making new use of telecommunications or other data?

Not yet, but definitely under consideration

Are there instances of law enforcement authorities exceeding powers? Can you provide a summary/summaries?

Reporting on this has been v limited. Any reporting in relation to police has focused on citizen’s misbehavours (eg spitting at an officer)

Have any restrictions been placed on the media, or instructions handed down to media organisations, regarding reporting on the pandemic?

No instructions, but information giving is contained (with a 1pm media briefing each day).

When the state of emergency was imposed, ever mobile phone was sent a message (accompanied with a loud noise) spelling out what had occurred, and the implications.

What (if any) role has been given to the military?

See above note on special powers

Information on this contribution

Date: April 2020

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