Parker doubles up on his response to court ruling but the PM has yet to post news of jobs for Simpson and Roche

Latest from the Beehive

It’s there now,  up on the Beehive website – the official pronouncement that the Government is increasing the number of defence force personnel supporting the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border.

The statement sits alongside –

  • A typical spending statement from Shane Jones (the Government will invest $14.6 million in upgrades to Route 52 between Central Hawke’s Bay and Tararua District);
  • News from Damien O’Connor that the Government is investing $6.8 million to help upgrade the main road through Motueka;  and
  • News from Winston Peters and Ron Mark (New Zealand will deploy additional personnel to the Republic of Korea, increasing the size of the New Zealand Defence Force deployment there from six to nine personnel).

Around 500 more defence personnel are being deployed closer to home as the government hastens to buttress the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and more firmly secure the maritime border. This lifts the total to about 990 defence personnel at managed isolation facilities and will bring the total Defence Force personnel supporting the Covid-19 response to around 1200 (the largest military contingent since Timor-Leste, the government wants us to know).

But we can find no official written record of something else announced yesterday:  Helen Clark’s former top adviser, Heather Simpson, is being brought in to lead a new group that will support the Ministry of Health as it ramps up testing at the border.

According to the account of this appointment at interest.co.nz,

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the formation of the group as it has come to light testing rates of staff at managed isolation/quarantine facilities, airports and ports were much lower than government ministers said they thought they were.

Simpson recently led a major review of the country’s health system.

She will be supported by Brian Roche, who has done a review of contact tracing. The other members of the group will be confirmed on Friday. It will include public sector and health expertise.

While the Beehive website provides no written account of the appointments of Simpson and Roche, it does have a record of the Attorney-General’s response to the High Court judgement in Borrowdale v Director-General of Health and the Attorney-General.  This case dealt with the legality of the Covid-19 lockdown orders.

It is a measure of David Parker’s sense of triumph that the statement (when Point of Order checked) had been posted twice.

He described the decision as

“ … a significant judgment in which all the Health Orders issued under the Health Act Alert Level 3 and 4 lockdown that started in March were lawful.

“The challenges that the orders made to close premises New Zealand wide, except for essential services, to prohibit congregating in outdoor places and to require people to self-isolate and stay at home have all failed,” David Parker said.

The current lockdown orders made under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 are not affected by this judgment.

In contrast, RNZ’s report was headed High Court rules some of Covid-19 level 4 lockdown was unlawful

The RNZ report says:

The judges have concluded that from 26 March to 3 April, the requirement for people to stay at home and in their bubbles was justified, but unlawful.

“Those announcements had the effect of limiting certain rights and freedoms affirmed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 including, in particular, the rights to freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and association,” the judges said.

“While there is no question that the requirement was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the Covid-19 crisis at the time, the requirement was not prescribed by law and was therefore contrary to s 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.”

Parker’s statement notes:

  • The court found the March 25 order closing premises providing non-essential services and prohibiting outdoor congregating was lawful.
  • It also found the Alert Level 4 Order on April 3 to stay at home and in our bubbles, and the Alert Level 3 order on April 24 were lawful.
  • The court dismissed the argument that the list of essential services was unlawfully delegated to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It found that MBIE and other agencies were not defining essential businesses, but were assessing whether businesses met the criteria defined by the Order.

“It is very satisfying that these orders have been upheld. We can be confident in the Orders made and enforced,” David Parker said.

Is there a “but” coming?

Certainly, there is.  Parker eventually acknowledged:

“However the court did find that there was a breach of the Bill of Rights Act in the first 9 days of the Alert Level 4 lockdown, because the original oral request for people to stay home and in their bubbles was not put in a formal order until 3 April.

But Parker was looking on the bright side:

 “Importantly, though, the court found that the requirement to stay home and in their bubbles was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the COVID-19 crisis at that time.”

The court said the question was finely balanced. While it found an unlawful limitation on rights and freedoms for nine days it said “that must be seen in the context of the rapidly developing public health emergency the nation was facing”.

“It found the imperfection from 25 March to 3 April was cured by the 3 April order,” David Parker said.

The Court also made the point that its findings have to be kept in perspective: the situation lasted for just 9 days and occurred when NZ was in a state of national emergency fighting a global pandemic.

The Court also rejected the challenge that the Prime Minister had attempted to suspend the law, saying that the power to require all New Zealanders to stay at home was a power that could have been (and was, from 3 April) exercised by a health officer under the Health Act.

And so on …

20 AUGUST 2020

NZ to increase Defence Force deployment to the Republic of Korea

New Zealand will deploy additional personnel to the Republic of Korea (ROK), increasing the size of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployment there from six to nine

19 AUGUST 2020

Attorney-General responds to Court judgment on legality of Health Orders

The High Court has today released its judgment in Borrowdale v Director-General of Health and the Attorney-General.

Attorney-General responds to Court judgment on legality of Health Orders

The High Court has today released its judgment in Borrowdale v Director-General of Health and the Attorney-General.

Government funds Route 52 upgrade

The Government will invest $14.6 million in long-awaited upgrades to Route 52 between Central Hawke’s Bay and Tararua District, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced.

Boosting security support at Managed Isolation Facilities and maritime border

The Government is increasing the number of defence force personnel supporting the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border, further bolstering protections against community COVID-19 spread,

 

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