Woods scores a double – quarantine will become costly (for some) but the cost of motoring should be lowered (if her competition law works)

When they weren’t distributing money to an array of projects and programmes that met with their approval, our ministers were busy braying about the new laws they have promoted to improve – we hope – our wellbeing.

Megan Woods was chuffed about two news laws passed into law on her watch, one of them dealing with her quarantine responsibilities, the other with her energy work.

 The passage of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill allows the Government to recover some costs for managed isolation and quarantine. Charges come into force as soon as regulations are finalised.

New Zealanders who come home temporarily (for less than 90 days) and those who go overseas after regulations come into force and return at a later date will be charged for managed isolation and quarantine, unless they are exempt or are granted a waiver from payment.

The proposed charges will be for less than half of the average total costs for managed isolation and quarantine. For a single person in a room, the proposed charge is $3,100. Additional adults or children sharing that room will be charged $950 and $475 respectively. These charges include GST.

You can find out more on the COVID website.

Only some of us will be hit by the quarantine impost but – hurrah! – many of us can look forward to cheaper fuel for our cars.

As Energy and Resources Minister, Woods said the  enactment of the Fuel Industry Bill  will deliver lower prices to motorists by making the sector more competitive.

The Act establishes:

  • a terminal gate pricing regime to improve competition in the wholesale market by making it easier for a fuel reseller to access fuel more cheaply and in more locations
  • rules to ensure contracts between wholesale fuel suppliers and their wholesale customers are fair and support competition
  • a dispute resolution scheme for the new regime
  • improvements to the monitoring of the fuel market by requiring fuel companies to collect and disclose certain information
  • requirements for retail fuel sites to display premium fuel prices on forecourt price boards

“The combined impact of the suite of provisions is expected to boost competition, allowing smaller players better access to fuel to apply downward pressure on prices, and to better inform motorists before they pull into a forecourt,” said Megan Woods.

Fresh water

New rules to protect and restore New Zealand’s freshwater have taken effect with the gazetting of the new national direction on freshwater management.

Significant policies that now have legal backing include:

  • Requiring councils to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai by prioritising the health and wellbeing of our waterways
  • Halting further loss of natural wetlands and streams
  • Setting higher health standards at swimming spots
  • Putting controls on high-risk farm practices such as winter grazing and feedlots
  • Setting stricter controls on nitrogen pollution and new bottom lines on other measures of waterway health
  • Requiring urban waterways to be cleaned up and new protections for urban streams
  • Preserving and restoring the connectivity of New Zealand fish species’ habitats
  • Requiring mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans
  • Making real-time measuring and reporting of data on water use mandatory.
    Some of the new rules will take immediate effect (from 3 September), while there is a longer timeframe for others. Supporting the changes is the faster planning process for regional councils to speed up implementation of the NPS-FM, made law in June through the Resource Management Amendment Act.

The new national direction complements the Government’s $1.1 billion Jobs for Nature package in the 2020 Budget. Last month, the Prime Minister announced 23 projects to be funded from this programme.

Tenancy law

Kris Faafoi, Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing), Kris Faafoi has issued two statements on the matter of house rentals and tenancies.

The more recent of these dealt with the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment (RTA) Bill 2020, which aims to modernise the country’s rental laws and align them with present-day realities for the around 600,000 households which rent in New Zealand.

The new law focuses on helping tenants who meet their obligations to be able to stay in their homes by removing “no cause” 90-day termination notices, and replacing them with a comprehensive list of specified, justified reasons that a landlord can use to end a tenancy.

Other changes include:

  • Making rental properties safer and more liveable by enabling tenants to make minor changes to the property, such as installing child-proofing, hanging pictures, or earthquake-proofing.
  • Improving compliance by introducing a range of tools for the Regulator (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) to respond to people who are not meeting their obligations.
  • Banning landlords from seeking rental bids and limiting rent increases to once every 12 months.

The bulk of the reforms will come into effect in six months, to give tenants and landlords time to prepare for the new rules.

The 12-monthly limit on rent increases will come into effect earlier to help tenants who are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19. Rent increase notices given from the day after Royal assent need to comply with the 12-month rule. Rent increases can take effect from 26 September 2020, at the end of the rent increase freeze which was brought in as part of the COVID-19 response.

An earlier statement was focused on family violence.  In this, Faafoi said reform of tenancy laws was progressing and  further improvements to protect victims of family violence had been added to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2020.

At the Select Committee people expressed concern about the lack of protection for tenants who are victims of family violence.

“We have listened to submitters and added a provision which enables victims of family violence to end a tenancy with two days’ notice. This means that tenants who are experiencing family violence will be better able to leave tenancies quickly and seek safety,” Kris Faafoi said.

To use this provision, tenants will need to provide supporting evidence of family violence with their notice. This might include a signed declaration by a women’s refuge worker or a Protection Order from the Family Court.

When a tenant assaults a landlord, family member or agent and the Police lay a charge in respect of the assault, the landlord can give 14 days’ notice to terminate the tenancy. If tenants think they were given notice unfairly, they can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to challenge the notice.

At the time this press statement was issued, the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill was to go to the Committee of the Whole House.

Vaping

 Thousands of lives will be saved and we will have a smoke-free generation sooner rather than later (according to Associate Health Minister, Jenny Salesa) thanks to the passage of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill which regulates vaping products and heated tobacco devices.

Under this law, generic retailers such as dairies, service stations and supermarkets are limited to selling only tobacco, mint and menthol flavoured vaping products, but specialist vape retailers will be able to sell any flavours from their shops and websites.

Caring for the disabled

Part 4A of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill (No 2), introduced under urgency in 2013 by a National Government, has been repealed.  It allowed for some resident family members to be paid to provide personal care and support to eligible adult family members, but it also allowed the exclusion of other resident family members from being paid.  It also prohibited people from making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission or taking legal proceedings in any court or tribunal on the basis of discrimination to their human rights.

Along with the repeal, there have been changes for Funded Family Care policies administered by the Ministry of Health and district health boards.

Carer and client eligibility have been expanded, pay rates have been lifted and disabled people have a choice of ways to pay their family carer.

These and other matters handled by ministers in the past 24 hours or so are recorded here –

6 AUGUST 2020

Govt keeps projects on road to completion

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced today transport projects currently in construction will continue at pace due to extra Government support for transport projects to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

First project utilising $50 million ‘shovel ready’ fund for rural broadband announced

$50 million for further rural broadband digital connectivity has been allocated from the $3 billion infrastructure fund in the COVID Response and Recovery Fund has been announced by Shane Jones, Minister for Infrastructure and Kris Faafoi, Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media.

Ultra-fast Broadband programme hits major milestone with more than one million connections

The Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media has congratulated the Ultra-fast Broadband (UFB) programme on its major milestone of connecting more than 1 million New Zealand households and businesses to UFB.

 5 AUGUST 2020

Vaping legislation passes

Landmark legislation passed today puts New Zealand on track to saving thousands of lives and having a smokefree generation sooner rather than later, Associate Health Minister, Jenny Salesa says.

Government repeals discriminatory law

A discriminatory law that has been a symbol of frustration for many people needing and providing care and support, has been scrapped by the Government.

More competitive fuel market on the way

Kiwi motorists are set to reap the benefits of a more competitive fuel market following the passing of the Fuel Industry Bill tonight, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods says.

Government delivers on rental reforms promise

The Government has delivered on its promise to New Zealanders to modernise tenancy laws with the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment (RTA) Bill 2020 today, says Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing), Kris Faafoi.

New rules in place to restore healthy rivers

New rules to protect and restore New Zealand’s freshwater passed into law today.

Foreign Minister announces new Consul-General in Los Angeles

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced the appointment of Jeremy Clarke-Watson as New Zealand’s new Consul-General in Los Angeles.

Rental reforms provide greater support for victims of family violence

Reform of New Zealand’s out of date tenancy laws is progressing with further improvements included to protect victims of family violence being added to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2020.

Apprenticeships support kicks off today

Two employment schemes – one new and one expanded – going live today will help tens of thousands of people continue training on the job and support thousands more into work, the Government has announced.

Infrastructure to transform Omokoroa

The Government is funding a significant infrastructure package at Omokoroa which will create 150 new jobs and help transform the Western Bay of Plenty peninsula, Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford announced today.

Bill passes for managed isolation charges

The Bill allowing the Government to recover some costs for managed isolation and quarantine passed its third reading today, with charges coming into force as soon as regulations are finalised.

Unemployment drop shows Govt plan to protect jobs and support businesses is working

Today’s unemployment data shows the Government’s plan to protect jobs and cushion the blow for businesses and households against the economic impact of COVID-19 was the right decision, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

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