02 March 2021

Briefly is an occasional publication tracking political and regulatory developments.

Complex process for RMA reform

The Government has adopted the broad structure recommended by the Randerson Panel to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA) but anticipates departing from the Panel’s advice in some areas and is proposing a complex two-phase, two-stream reform process.

As signalled, three Acts will be developed:

  • a National and Built Environments Act (RBEA) which Environment Minister David Parker sees as “the core piece of legislation replacing the RMA”
  • a Strategic Planning Act (SPA), and
  • a Climate Change Adaptation Act to address issues relating to managed retreat from at-risk areas and the financing of adaptation strategies (both of which will fall predominantly on councils).

The Government will develop an exposure draft for the NBEA which will be subject to a select committee inquiry and public input ahead of the actual bill being introduced into the House. While that is underway, and through the subsequent passage of the Bill, a specially created and heavy duty Ministerial Oversight Group will be conducting its own consultations and deliberations on the Bill – the decisions from which the Minister will take to the Cabinet for sign-off.

Given that the NBEA will be a foundation statute which will reach across the whole economy and contain a lot of technical content which will need to be carefully drafted, Chapman Tripp considers that a cautious approach is justified.

But the fact that there will be two workstreams going on in parallel – the select committee’s work largely in public and the Ministerial Group’s work largely in private – creates scope for difficulties, including around consistency and efficiency. The challenge for the Government will be to minimise these risks by ensuring that decision-making is as transparent as possible.

For more information, read our commentary.

London tower bridge

Several hoops to jump before UK can join CPTPP

The UK has formally applied to become the first non-founding country to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) Agreement. 

But there is a significant process to be followed before a final decision is made, in particular, a requirement on the UK to make “mutually satisfactory market access offers” to those countries that have ratified the CPTPP – Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Viet Nam.

To learn more, read our commentary.

Holidays Act rewrite

The Government has accepted all of the recommendations of the Holidays Act Taskforce and plans to have legislation in the House early next year. The Taskforce was set up last term at the joint request of Business NZ and the Council of Trade Unions after large numbers of employers, including the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the New Zealand Police, had to make good on holiday pay miscalculations caused by confusion over the provisions in the current law.

Recommended changes include:

  • making bereavement and family violence leave available from the first day of employment
  • giving employees access to one sick day in their first month on the job with an additional day provided each subsequent month until the minimum entitlement is reached (this will be 10 days rather than five, see item below)
  • extending bereavement to more family members, including cultural family groups and more modern family structures
  • removing the parental leave override so that employees returning to work will be paid at their full rate for annual holidays, and
  • requiring payslips so that employees know what their used and remaining entitlements are and how they were calculated.

View the Minister’s statement.

Budget policy statement

The Budget Policy Statement (BPS), released on 9 February, tracks New Zealand’s remarkably resilient wellbeing outlook through COVID-19 last year. It shows that the life satisfaction metric, collated with the Household Labour Force Survey, showed an average score of 7.8 out of 10 in the September quarter.

Outliers on the downside were those out of work due to injury, sickness or disability (6.2), the unemployed (7.0) and sole parents (7.2). Outliers on the upside were persons aged 65-74 (8.2), persons aged 75+ (8.1), and mothers in two-parent families (8.0).

The strength of New Zealand’s social capital is considered “a major contributor to the success of our COVID-19 response” and the relative health of our fiscal position going into the crisis has enabled us to maintain debt levels considerably lower than our peers despite running:

one of the largest fiscal stimulus packages globally as a proportion of GDP.

This sunniness infused Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s now traditional BNZ Breakfast BPS speech. However he was also mindful that the galloping property market will rain on the Government’s parade if allowed to continue to run unchecked. So he’s promising that Budget 2021 will have “a clear focus on housing” – including demand side measures to discourage speculation. 

Budget themes identified in the BPS are: supporting the transition to a sustainable and low emissions economy; promoting innovation to lift productivity and wages to and support those most affected by COVID-19 into employment; lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities; reducing child poverty, and improving mental health outcomes for all New Zealanders.

Read the Budget Policy Statement and Robertson's speech.

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