There were no new statements on the Beehive website when we checked today, which means ministers have nothing fresh to announce – or rather, nothing they want to boast about or let us know about.
Matters such as changes to the Covid laws which determine who can mount road blocks to stop people going where they might want to go.
The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Act (No 2) 2021 was enacted on 20 November 2021.
According to the Ministry of Health website, this legislation mainly continues to enable the Minister for COVID-19 Response to issue Orders to respond to COVID-19 in a flexible and agile way.
Many of the changes made by this Amendment Act are technical in nature. These include clarifying some terms in the Act and improving transparency around decision making.
Most of the changes in this Amendment Act will not immediately have direct impacts on the general public. However, future Orders made under the Act using these changes may impose obligations or requirements on individuals to ensure the Government can supress and minimise the impact of COVID-19 and reconnect New Zealand.
The one change that will have a more immediate direct impact on all New Zealanders is the increase of infringement penalties for people who breach orders under the Act. The Government believes these higher penalties will more accurately reflect the risks associated with breaching an Order.
But look at these amendments to Section 22 of the original legislation which dealt with the power to close roads and public places and stop vehicles.
In one section the word
“authority” has made way for
Then there’s this ..
After section 22(3), insert:
For the purpose of enforcing or monitoring compliance with a COVID-19 order that restricts movement by persons with or without vehicles, a constable may stop
a vehicle at any road block or checkpoint established for that purpose.
And there’s this insertion after section 22(4) …
An enforcement officer may also stop
a vehicle for the purpose stated in subsection (3A) if acting under the supervision of a constable.
And who might this enforcement officer be?
For the purpose of subsection (5) only, enforcement officer means a person authorised in accordance with section 18 who is—
(a) a member of the Armed Forces (as defined in section 2(1) of the Defence Act 1990):
(b) any person whom the Commissioner recognises as being—
(i) a Māori warden; or
(ii) a nominated representative of an iwi organisation; or
(iii) a Pasifika warden; or
(iv) a community patroller.
On 29 September, when Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the government was strengthening New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, he didn’t mention those changes.
The Government was making a number of legislative changes to further strengthen New Zealand’s response to COVID-19, he said.
The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2) measures he specified were
- Strengthening the infringement regime for COVID-19 breaches:
- Increase fees and fines to provide for a greater deterrent to breaches of the Order and better reflect the grave risk to the community when people do the wrong thing
- Establish separate fees and fines for individuals and businesses
- Expanding the purpose for which Orders under the Act can be made to keep people safe from COVID-19
- Providing for more efficient management of COVID-19 testing infrastructure. This will improve quality control and create minimum standards for all testing providers
- The ability for the Chief Executive of MBIE to make rules about the day-to-day operation of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities to ensure that they can continue to operate effectively
- Changing the default liability for MIQ charges so that everyone will be liable for charges unless exempted in regulations
- People who enter MIQ will be required to provide accurate contact information for invoicing purpose
On 29 November the PM announced the levels at which different parts of New Zealand would move forward into the COVID-19 Protection Framework. She said:
“The certainty and stability of the traffic lights replaces the sudden lo+ckdowns and restrictions of Alert Levels. Our schools will stay open at every colour and businesses will have protection through My Vaccine Passes to keep operating.
“Other than the existing Auckland boundary, which lifts on January 17, there will be no new restrictions on travel between regions.”
We were a tad surprised, therefore, when we learned Police were defending their decision to work alongside Northland tribes to maintain border checkpoints over summer.
By then they had announced they will keep Northland’s checkpoints in place, with support from iwi, after Auckland’s border reopens on December 15.
Point of Order learned of the legality of Maori tribes up north stopping cars from Newstalk ZB broadcaster Health du-Plessis-Allan. She told us:
Two weeks ago, on November 20 — a Saturday — they inserted a new bit into the Covid-19 Health Response Act granting the power to “close roads and public places and stop vehicles” to members of iwi organisations.
It’s there in black and white.
This means you don’t have a choice anymore to ignore what you might consider a vigilante roadblock.
If you pull up to one of those iwi checkpoints up north, or anywhere really and Constable Hone Harawira pulls you over, leans in your window and demands to check your vaccination status, you don’t get to choose whether you comply or not.
You have to because it’s the law now.
Du-Plessis-Allan anticipated the government would spin this by telling us it’s still technically a police checkpoint because there must be a police officer there.
She was sceptical:
But I’m sorry, having an officer in your window asking you for your test results is very different to having Constable Harawira making demands while a single copper sits next to their trailer 20 metres away playing on their cellphone.
What I find particularly objectionable about this is that we’ve been talking about this for days and asking the Government for clarity on what’s going to happen and at no point did anyone in Government tell us they’d changed this law.
Not when the Prime Minister was asked on Tuesday.
And not when Chris Hipkins was asked on Wednesday.
And not in any other interview since last Saturday when this topic came up.
If you don’t volunteer it and it’s relevant you’re hiding it.
So much for the most transparent government, huh?
This is shady as all hell.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told Mike Hosking earlier in the day it’s better to maintain legal checkpoints, than have iwi groups operate their own illegal checkpoints instead.
“Sitting alongside iwi, I’m confident we can avoid illegal activity, which could have realistically turned State Highway One into a carpark. This is about avoiding unlawfullness.”
We wondered if Chris Hipkins was surprised by this because earlier in the week he had said there shouldn’t be any iwi roadblocks set up over the holiday period.
“The only people who should be putting any roadblocks in place if they are justified by law are the New Zealand Police, so no there should not be any iwi roadblocks being set up,” he said.
ACT leader David Seymour today is saying Police Commissioner Coster have given into demands of Harawira’s tribe rather than upholding the law.
Seymour called on Coster to tell us if this is the new modus operandi of Police.
“If someone threatens to break the law, instead of stopping them, the Police work with them to make their actions legal.
“What happens if you happen upon a checkpoint that has no Police staff there, but only iwi? Do you call the police, and when they arrive is the checkpoint suddenly legal?”
But Seymour should not make Harawira and the Police the only target for his indignation. He should be just as condemnatory – perhaps more so – of the legislative processes practised by the Ardern government.